By Geetha Murthy, India

Animals Are Souls Too!, by Sri Harold Klemp, slowly opened a new outlook toward animals and completely changed my views. I do not have a pet dog or cat, but the stories in this book amazed me by showing how animals react and behave. I realized the ECK, Spirit, is everywhere and present in animals too. I learned that a pet receives and gives complete attention and devotion to a person and teaches how to love.

Unlike pets, though, street dogs are a common sight in India. They are also called stray dogs because no one owns or takes care of them. They generally roam in a particular area with other dogs, looking for food. The dogs eat whatever they can find or whenever people give them something. In some households, most leftover food goes to the neighborhood’s street dogs.

Since childhood, I have feared dogs. When I was eighteen years old, a street dog bit my little brother, who was thirteen at the time. In those days, if a street dog bit someone, the person had to take fourteen injections administered around the navel to protect against rabies. I was the one in my family who took my brother to the government hospital to get his injections administered. It was painful for me to watch him suffer. My aversion to dogs began then and continued for years.

I came into this beautiful path of Eckankar thirty years ago and learned that animals are Souls too. Like human beings, animals have feelings of love, happiness, and sadness. Over the years, my aversion to animals diminished, but I still kept them at a distance because of the fear that remained from the experience of my brother being bitten.

However, recently I was at my friend’s farmhouse, and their dog seemed like a wolf to me. She had a white right eye and a brown left eye. Initially I forbade the dog to come near, but later I spoke to her. She was very nice and liked to stay around me. I felt glad and surprised that I no longer feared the dog at all. This was a great change in me.

A Loving Gift

One day I looked out from my kitchen window and noticed a street dog lying near the large, white gate in front of our house’s little front yard, which is dotted with plants. When I opened the gate, this adult, healthy-looking, tan-and-white dog glanced at me and moved away. Every day from that point on he slept for a while in front of our gate.

One day, I decided to give the dog some cookies. I brought them out to the yard and threw the treats in front of him. He stared at me but did not immediately touch the cookies. I was taken aback. Usually stray dogs want to eat whatever rice, buns, bread, or cookies come their way. This dog was different. Why had he refused my food?

I thought about the dog’s strange behavior and wondered if I had thrown the cookies to him but not given them with love. I went back inside and watched the dog from my kitchen window for about five minutes. Then I saw him take only one cookie and run away. In a few minutes he came back to the gate and picked up the other cookie.

Since the dog hadn’t immediately accepted my gift, I got curious and started watching him more closely for the next few days. He was very selective and ate only certain kinds of food, like Indian rotis and cookies. He refused leftover buns. It was my observation that this was not a greedy dog.

Spiritual Lessons

I went away on vacation—a twenty-day tour to Europe with my sisters, who also are ECKists. After my return home, I did not see the dog anymore. I really felt sad about it. But the silent relationship I’d had with him stirred something in me. Watching this street dog live life with so much dignity had taught me two important spiritual lessons: First, never be greedy; and, second, always be graceful and dignified in dealings with others.

But for the teachings of Eckankar, I would never have gotten over my fear of dogs or learned that animals are Soul too. This wonderful path has taught me to love my family, friends, and other human beings. It has also instilled in me a great respect and love for animals. I am very grateful to the Mahanta, my spiritual teacher, for his love, compassion, and guidance.

—Photos by Geetha Murthy