If you haven’t read it already the story begins here.
And the most miraculous part of the story…? Well, this is how I know that what happened on night of my birthday was Divine Intervention. The Universe was getting me ready for someone very special to come into my life.
As mentioned earlier, the little dog my friend and I found that night was a golden cocker spaniel. After returning him to his family I deliberated for days about getting a dog for myself. Would it really be feasible to have a dog in my apartment and would I be able to look after it with my erratic work schedule. Sometimes I could be away from Mumbai for days on a shoot. I lived alone and didn’t think it was feasible. But Swami ji, whom I’d never even heard of then, I know now, was already looking out for me and made it happen.
One day, out of the blue, a friend decided to give me a gift; just like that. He had no idea about the dog I’d found on my birthday, but one day, there she was at my door: a 6 week old, teeny-tiny, golden cocker spaniel, who looked exactly like the one I’d found and fallen in love with! How was it even possible?! The Universe had absolutely conspired 🙂 I knew her name even before I met her. I already had it in my heart. Her name was Seva, this means selfless service, and she was the epitome of it.
This highly evolved soul had chosen to come to me at a time when I was lonely and needed to feel loved. She simply came to love me. Little did I know, she would start out as my baby but go on to become my mother. And not only that, she would later go on be a mother to many, many others — people and animals alike — and be known all over.
Seva brought life into my otherwise empty home, she was so quick to learn and seemed to understand my every word. She was always gentle and patient with me, she managed to communicate to me exactly what she needed with a gentle tap of a paw and a look. She was a tiny little thing, but she cared for me and loved me just as a mother would.
The other miracle Swami ji brought into my life was the Indian Dog Whisperer, Manoor Sachdev.
Manoor started out as Seva’s trainer (I highly recommend, if you get your first dog that you work with a professional trainer. They will help you both flawlessly integrate into each other’s lives without misses and mishaps). Seva never needed a leash, she walked by my side safely until I gave her the signal to go and run around in the park. When I had to travel for work, I was able to leave Seva with Manoor, and her lodgings were not a cold, damp kennel, but his own home, surrounded by loving people and other dogs and cats. He loved her like his own.
When the time came that I knew I would be moving to the ashram and going into solitude for months at a time, I knew it was time to say goodbye to Seva, for she was never mine; I was hers, and she had done her job, readying me to be handed over to Swami ji to continue His motherly care.
And the Universe gave Seva the most perfect forever home one could ever imagine, a heaven on earth for animals – Phoebe’s farm.
By the time Seva went to live with Manoor, he had realised his dream farm. Acres of land in Maharashtra, full of dogs, cats, cows, chicks, ducks, donkeys, horses and more, most are either abandoned or in need of temporary care. A place where pet owners can holiday with their entire family, even the four legged ones, and animal lovers who can’t keep a pet at home for any reason can spend time in nature and meet and play with all the animals.
They even have a swimming pool in the shape of a bone for pups to show off their best doggy paddle.
Manoor’s own beloved dog, Phoebe, had passed over to the doggy heaven in the sky shortly before, and Seva then became his own. This was her forever home. She was never going to be bred, or sent away for adoption anywhere else. Seva has full run of the farm and is loved by all the other animals and visitors.
Had it not have been for this most perfect animal heaven on Earth for her, I don’t think I could have said goodbye to her so easily when I came to the ashram. I needed to know she was in the best place possible, and Swami ji had already taken care of it.
Seva’s motherly instinct never left her and she continues to spread her love and care to all.
I went to visit her once a couple of years ago and she proudly showed me all around her farm. Manoor told me that she is so loving and so motherly that they have given her a nickname. I was dumbfounded when I heard it. At the farm they all call her Jaganmata (one of the names of the Mother Goddess whom I pray to).
This name has brought us full circle and I know the little dog I found on my birthday, and Seva coming into my life, plus becoming a vegetarian and understanding the love of animals was all a part of the Divine Mother’s plan for me. It was Her way of teaching me the Special Secret.
I am ever grateful to Jaganmata both the Mother of the Universe and my little, golden one with the big floppy ears. Incidentally Seva went on to inspire even more people becoming the second dog in the world, and the first dog in India to feature on a TED stage.
I am so, so proud of Manoor for the immense kindness and love he overflows with, for following his childhood passion, and for all the wonderful work he and Seva do together, helping so many animals and people to heal and feel loved.
Did I ever eat non-vegetarian food again?
After about a year of solitude, meditation and living at the ashram, I was in Thailand for a few days and I ordered a plate of scallops at a hotel to test myself. I’d loved scallops before, they’d always been my go-to starter. I did eat some, but I hated the way I felt afterwards and I knew for sure, I was finally done. I was officially a vegetarian for life now. It’s said that when one walks the spiritual path certain tendencies fall away. I did try to be a strict vegan for a while but I found it very difficult, especially in India where varied sources of high protein vegan foods are hard to come by. I also saw that good quality, raw ghee, recommended in ayurveda, was essential to my diet and health. So today, I am not rigid, I make adjustments when I’m traveling and I follow my heart. If I want a bite of cheese, I won’t beat myself up about it but it’s not as regular on my menu as it used to be and my health is all the better for it too.
The other important point to note is that Swami ji talks about the history of animal sacrifice in Indian cultures. Historically, the cold mountainous regions are where God in the form of the the Mother Goddess is revered more. The tradition of offering the best of what they had to her, naturally led to animal sacrifices because that was the best of what they had, vegetables were much harder to come by. Swami ji, a strict vegetarian, does however also say animal sacrifices are completely unnecessary for any kind of spiritual attainment.
There is no rule either that only a vegetarian could reach enlightenment. Historically, there have been those who lived in the mountains and ate meat, or by the shores with access to plenty of fish, whose hearts still overflowed with love and compassion. It would be foolish of us to think that Lord Rama, Ma Sita and Lakshman, equipped with bows and arrows survived on berries and roots alone during their exile in the forest. And that golden deer, did Ma Sita really want Her husband to capture it for Her so She could simply marvel at its beauty?… I’ll let you decide.
In summary, although I choose to be a vegetarian now it’s important for me to remember:
- I must never judge others for their choices in what they choose to eat.
- Too many rules make us rigid, no one likes a fanatic.
- To take it easy and enjoy life, or a four cheese tortellini, once in a while (or whatever floats your boat).
- To be kind, be gentle, and be loving to all creatures great and small — human and animal alike.
The next time you feel anything other than love in your heart for a stray dog for example, please remember, that animal you beat with a stick or throw stones at is a being of Love, no less than Jaganmata, the Divine Mother Herself. Nobody is saying you have to become best friends, but perhaps think twice before lashing out at them.
Thank You, Swami Mā for sending Seva into my life and teaching me so much about Pure Love! 🌺🙇🏻♀️🙏🏻