Día de Los Perros

by Nikki Mark

Earlier this week, I celebrated Día de Los Muertos with 10 women at my home, and it was so special for so many reasons – but I just have to share one of them.

Late in the evening, my friends and I all took a minute to talk about our families and share stories of loved ones we were honoring and remembering. I don’t typically like to take pictures or video footage during these kinds of moments because I want to hear and feel everything my friends are saying and not get distracted by the art of photography.

At one point, however, I just had to take a quick photo of my dog Ginger.  Since Tommy passed away, she has always integrated herself into every ceremony I have ever hosted – sitting among us like one of the ladies, watching, listening and grounding us with her presence. 

For example, four years ago when my family sold our home and conducted a ceremony to honor all the memories it had given our family and friends, Ginger sat in a circle with a group of us – sitting in front of each one of us when it was our turn to share and not asking for any attention in return. 

A year later, when my family’s community came together to build a flower altar in a soccer goal net honoring the 2nd anniversary of Tommy’s passing (during COVID), she sat outside guarding it all day long as friends drove up to add a flower and make a prayer or wish. She never laid down. She never moved. She simply sat there making it clear that something special was happening and she wanted everyone to know it.

When my family’s TM23 Foundation hosted a community youth soccer tournament last year on what would have been Tommy’s 18th birthday (and also Mother’s Day), she once again took part in the festivities, sitting at the check-in booth, ears back, body calm and her soulful eyes lovingly gazing through everyone who checked in and crossed her path.

Well, earlier this week on the first night of Día de Los Muertos, Ginger was at it again.

When our ten minute ceremony began at an altar that we all co-created in my dining room, Ginger suddenly walked in, sat down and calmly watched as each speaker made a small offering and shared stories of their family.  Between speakers, Ginger quietly moved, sitting right in front of a different woman as if to say,  “I’m here for you too.”

I know she looks like a dog. A Pit Bull in fact. The kind people run from.  But, as a mover from 1-800 Junk once told me upon entering my family’s old home to help us move, “That’s no dog. She’s like Yoda.  Look in her eyes.  She’s got a soul full of wisdom.”

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think my dog is just a dog.  I’m starting to believe that when I host these special events honoring Tommy (and the boy she used to sleep with every night), she knows it and shows up to add some divine magic to it. 

Día de Los Muertos is all about remembering and celebrating ancestors and those we have loved and lost, but in the middle of doing so this week, I became so grateful for everyone I love who is still here with me – my husband and younger son, my parents and brother, my friends and colleagues – AND my beautiful Ginger. 

The Mexican tradition of Día de Los Muertos says that dogs have the unique ability to communicate and go back and forth between worlds. Can your dog do this?

I’m pretty convinced Ginger can, and I know she’s not the only one.  

If you are grieving some form of loss and seeking ways to heal your heart, consider rescuing a dog or some other animal of your choice. Serving is healing. Animals are healing. And when we save an animal in need, they offer a level of companionship that many human beings can’t sustain, and in the process, without saying a word, they help save us too. Why?

8 thoughts on “Día de Los Perros”

  1. My animals have meant the world to me but especially since my beloved 18 year old son Bodhi died in 2020. Nothing in my 48 years of deep healing work, shadow integration and overall intense life had prepared me for this tsunami of heart break, trauma and loss. Every day was a battle in my own soul to stay here for my other 2 children. My medicine dogs Ash & Soaria as well as my cats all would lay with me for hours and hours a day, I believe helping to anchor my soul here one day at a time. My dream is to create a Healing Sanctuary in honor of my son where grieving families can come and be with healing animals and especially horses, dogs & cats. Turning this pain into purpose is one of the ways I have begun to thrive again. Bless you Nikki for your beautiful work in sharing your journey with others!

    • Have you heard of the animal sanctuary in Arizona with horses and other animals specifically designed to help people who have lost and are grieving? I have not been but if you haven’t heard of it I can try and look it up for you. I hear it is great and it may further inspire your own healing sanctuary. I am so sorry to hear about Bodhi. Serving is the best healing modality I have found…keep going. The world needs more healing centers in nature like this!

  2. My youngest son committed suicide the 9th of October, 2023. He was 46. I have been so sad but the tears did not come. My chest has been hurting with all the saved tears but I couldn’t cry. So, Beau, our dog, keeps looking at me with the saddest eyes. I asked him if he knew my baby was gone and he made a sound with his throat like a yes.
    Today, finally, I started to cry. The sobs were so loud I couldn’t believe they were coming from me. So, again, Beau came to my side and stayed there. I asked my husband to take him outside but he kept coming to the door looking for me.
    If I don’t feel well he keeps his eyes on me. I know he worries. Thank you for reading.

    • I am so sorry, Margarita. There are no words for this kind of loss. I am glad you have Beau taking care of you the way Ginger has taken care of my family. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us.

  3. Hi Nikki, My name is Marlene. I read what you and your family have experienced and I am so sorry for your loss. Pets can be so helpful and soothing. I have 2 dogs and they know me like a book.They are right there for me. I am a therapist and have recently experienced a death in my family. I try all kinds of distractions to keep my mind busy and prevent my tears from falling. The loss of your son is more intense, but I don’t know you, but I feel so deeply for you. I wish you and your family well healing is a process. Travel the road that works best for you. Look for things that make you smile and friends that bring you enjoyment. Best wishes, Marlene


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