Oprah has been a dog lover since she was a small child. "The dogs feed my soul…I think there's no other feeling in the world like that," she says.
Are you a pet lover? Do you ever wonder what your pet is thinking? In her continuing Soul Series, Oprah talks to author Susan Chernak McElroy about the rich bond that humans have with their animal companions. Oprah also shares that her beloved cocker spaniel, Sophie, is in her last days, and Susan offers her support in the form of what she calls a "soul bundle."
Susan is an authority on the special bond that people share with their pets and the many lessons we can learn from our furry friends. She has written multiple books on the subject, including Why Buffalo Dance: Animal and Wilderness Meditations Through the Seasons, and has compiled a database of life-changing experiences from thousands of animal lovers who are eager to share their stories. Susan herself is a cancer survivor who credits much of her triumph over terminal illness to the love of animals in her life. "People have to meditate for years to learn how to live in the moment and animals just do that so naturally," she says.
In a very emotional admission, Oprah shares that her beloved cocker spaniel Sophie is in her last days. She says Sophie is one of her nearest and dearest friends, and she talks about how difficult it is for her to fathom ever losing this family member. To help Oprah cope during this painful time and to honor the bond that she has with Sophie, Susan suggests she partake in a very heartfelt ritual of creating a "soul bundle." Susan shares the story of the "soul bundle" she helped gather when her friend's dog, Latte, passed on.
Susan says that in a lot of ancient traditions, there is a notion that the spirit of the deceased really stays close to the loved one for that first year. After Latte passed away, Susan says she and her friend collected some of Latte's hair, the last food that he ate, a collar and a scrap from his bed and put them into a little bundle. "Then that bundle stays on her dresser, and there are prayers … praying for Latte, remembering Latte and still caring for Latte," Susan says. "At the end of that year, they'll take that bundle, they'll burn it in a fire and they'll release the ashes to moving water, and that sets the spirit off."
Susan says this act will allow them to "let go of Latte in a healthy way, fully absorb what his life meant to them and is still meaning to them, so that even though he will have been gone for a year, the truth that he is not gone at all, and that his life is still working in their life becomes really, really evident—and that's a beautiful process."