Turtles and Dragonflies and a Rat, Oh My!

June 22, 2012

And butterflies, ducks, pigeons, snakes, squirrels, dogs and a hedgehog. What do they all have in common? In the past two years they have visited me in my dreams and in my daily life in so many ways that I couldn’t possibly deny their significance. What were they trying to tell me? I knew a bit about animal spirit guides and how they show up to help us along our path. Synchronistically, I found myself in a class studying spirit guides with my energy medicine teacher, Deborah King. Fortunately, there was a segment devoted to animal guides so I was able to gain clarity around all of my visitors. Turtles and Dragonflies and a Rat, Oh My!

According to Deborah, “Never ever discount when you’re out walking and you see an animal. We don’t choose them, they choose us. The animal chooses to come to us with its medicine to remedy a problem, heal, and to help us see the world with more understanding. Animal guides are our teachers, friends and part of the circle of life,” excerpted from Deborah King’s Spirit Guide Course as well as the guide below.

The four types of animal guides that will visit us during our lifetime

Messenger Guide–This animal comes in quickly and leaves once you’ve got the message. It could be a spiritual message, a warning or a wake-up call. It delivers a single message and then departs.

Shadow Guide–This animal spirit comes to teach you a lesson that you’ve not yet absorbed, like pride, greed, anger, etc. It will keep coming over and over, bringing feelings of fear to you until you make the change you need to make. A shadow guide really brings truth and should never be ignored.

Journey Guide–Shows up when you’re at a fork in the road and can’t decide which path to take. It’s like a friendly traveling companion. They can lead you back if you’re lost and they stay at your side until that cycle changes and you are no longer at a fork.

Life Animal Guide–A spirit guide that stays with you your whole life and reflects your inner spiritual self. It serves as a constant reminder of your oneness with nature and your inner power. Communicate with them daily. The more importance you give to them, the more they will do for you.

I have always had a special relationship with turtles, so it was easy for me to recognize turtle as my life animal guide. As a young child I would row across a lake and watch them with fascination sunning themselves on a log. They often showed up in my dreams and once, after doing a shamanic journeying workshop in which I had connected with my turtle guide, I kayaked out onto a lake and came face to face with a turtle sitting on a lily pad. I sat and talked to that turtle for half an hour before he finally slid into the water. Turtle teaches me to slow down, that life is not a race, and that I can retreat into my shell when life overwhelms me and I need inner protection.

A couple of days ago, while pondering this article, I turned on my Netflix to find a recommendation for me. It was “Turtle: The Incredible Journey”. Seriously–you can’t make this stuff up. I watched with bated breath as the baby loggerhead clawed her way out of the sand and made her perilous journey from the beach to the water’s edge. It seemed sacred to me, watching this documentary and learning about these magnificent creatures who have taught me so many lessons. Today, a friend kindly reminded me how strong turtles are and that they carry their homes along with them – something I might want to embrace as I make my transition from NYC to Asheville. To the Native Americans the turtle symbolized Mother Earth and how she provides all that we need. I believe that my deep love of nature has been instilled in me by my life animal guide.

About two years ago, I started seeing dragonflies around me. Once one landed on the oar of my boat and stared at me for what seemed like an eternity (probably more like a minute or two, but it definitely caught my attention). Another time a huge dragonfly flew around me inside a hotel conference room. I started seeing images of them. Eventually, I looked up the meaning in Ted Andrew’s book “Animal Speak”. “If a dragonfly has shown up in your life, you may need some fresh air in regard to something emotional. You may need to gain a new perspective or make a change. It may even indicate that you are neglecting your emotions. It may reflect that you are coming into a two-year period of transformation. Dragonflies remind us that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we choose to do so. “Let there be light” is the divine prompting to use the creative imagination as a force within your life.” All true.

Barbara Sinclair Turtles and Dragonflies and a Rat, Oh My! A duck visits my bike!

The day after Deborah’s lesson on animal guides, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and emotional. I went for a bike ride down by the Hudson River and  stopped at my favorite tree. No sooner had I sat down than two ducks, one male and one female came waddling over and just hung out by me until I had to leave. Duck medicine, according to Ted Andrews, is all about emotional comfort and protection. Ducks remind us to drink of the waters of life as well as to nurture our own emotional natures. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Mallard!

Remember, we can’t choose them, the animals choose us.

And then there was the rat. The day after my duck visit I went for another bike ride and sat on a bench by my favorite secluded spot along the river. It was still afternoon–broad daylight, and all of a sudden a rat darted in front of me. Yikes! I went into full-on Lucy Ricardo mode. Yes, I stood on the bench, I’m ashamed to say. The tourists were quite amused. As a New Yorker, I’m used to seeing rats, but not usually during the day.

My uneasiness led me to leave sooner than planned but the next day I found myself there again at the same time. Not long after I had settled on the bench, again, a rat darted in front of me, looking suspiciously like the one I had seen the day before. This time however, I notice that he is peering out from under a boulder and staring directly at me! Okay, time to consult Ted Andrews again. “Although not well liked, rats are tremendously adaptable and have the ability to survive in most environments.” I decided to try to alter my perception of this least-liked creature of God and give him a name –Hudson. I know, not too original, but it was my first thought. My friend suggested I leave an offering of food to thank Hudson for his message and my first reaction was “Are you crazy??? You can get arrested in NYC for feeding the rats!” But the next day I went back and covertly left a couple of bites from my lunch, some goji berries and sunflower seeds. No comments from my NY friends, please!

I will leave my pigeon surgery dream for another time. Suffice it to say that I now look at pigeons in a whole different light!

What animals have shown up in your dreams or when you’re awake? Do you know their significance? I would love to hear some of your stories and how your animal guides have impacted your life.


  1. Barbara, you are so funny, and so loveable, and so REAL. Your rat had me thinking of river rats, or rats on ships, who always seem to find enough to eat (though it isn’t usually goji berries!). If I had this totem I’d take comfort in knowing I am a survivor, and will thrive wherever I live. I had a dream of a black bear not too long ago, and when I climbed a tree to get away, thinking he was going to eat me, he turned into a wild-looking man who smelled kind of sweaty, like he lived in the woods, who still scared me. Your pigeon surgery dream reminds me of my partner dreaming of me assisting a doctor to operate on a chicken, which I hoped was about making me less fearful. Maybe you were transplanting the pigeon’s NYC heart to a countryside environment! Anyway, take care — this is a wonderful post,

  2. Thank you, Nancy! Takes one to know one. 🙂 I don’t know what’s funnier, the chicken dream itself or the fact that Henry dreamed it. As for my pigeon dream, well, I didn’t want to frighten my readers away with the details. Maybe someday I’ll share it with them. Remember, you were in it, my friend! xoxo

  3. Oh, without a doubt, the spider is my shadow animal. They’re always present in my dreams when there are dark, repressed, difficult emotions to be dealt with. And then of course, they show up in real life to remind me of this as well. I literally can’t think of any other animal I fear, or have reacted to in the same way that I react to spiders – just goes to show how much power they must have!

    I also had an interesting experience yesterday, one that brought me back in contact with a childhood spirit animal. What happened was, earlier in the day, I had a random, passing thought about unicorns. I hadn’t thought about them in forever, but I didn’t really think that had any significance at the time. Later in the day, I received an e-mail from someone who was purchasing something from me on eBay. Guess what word was part of their e-mail address? Of course, “unicorn.” I now knew that the unicorn was trying to tell me something. I used to love unicorns – so much so that I had them painted on my childhood bedroom wall. It was wonderful – until my friends started making fun of me for it (I had it painted when I was 8, the teasing started not long after). So I eventually cut my connection to unicorns, the final ‘break’ being when I covered up the wall painting with “acceptable” pictures from magazines. I was ashamed that I would be THAT disgustingly sensitive, naive, childish, weird, etc. to love them in the first place. Yeah, I grew up in a town full of really nice people lol. Anyway, I read up on unicorns as power/spirit animals yesterday and began to re-establish my connection. And I must say, it feels pretty good 🙂

  4. Barbara, what a great story. I was laughing as I was reading about your animal totems. I have always known that turtles are one of my totems…and I have had a collection of them for years. When I needed to make a move able clay toy in my college pottery class , it was a turtle. My grandfather when he was alive put back together this turtle that came into the shop broken…yes they are both still with me!! As a kid, I would play with turtles until we found out that they were “dis-ease” ridden…:(.
    Eagles have been another of my totems, I see them everywhere. All about seeing the bigger picture. Snakes have occurred over the last two years, as well as butterflies simply surrounding me…and speaking to me about transformation.
    Then when reading Dominique’s story…well spiders are my least favorite of all creatures…so it must be my shadow animal. And let me tell you they have big frickin spiders in Asheville!!! OMG they are huge!!!!
    Well my friend, I look forward to seeing you when you get here…and we do carry our homes on our backs!! many hugs with much love to you…

  5. Hi Randi! Figures we both have turtles as totems. 🙂 Aren’t they the gatekeepers to the fairy realm??? Like you, I have had a lot of butterflies around me lately. And thanks for the heads-up on the spiders! See you soon, my dear! xoxo

  6. Hi Barbara,

    I look up animals and insects in Dr. Steven Farmers book, “Animal Spirit Guides.” I become aware of him and his work when he was on Hayhouse radio years ago. I found out through him that animals and insects come to us with a message. But only if they are actling in a strange way to get our attention. If they are acting normal they might not be giving us a message.
    In this book it is divided into 3 sections. The first is If ____ shows up it means: The second is: Call on _____ when: And the last is: If _____ is your Power Animal. I know how to muscle test so I check to see which category it is. And then I go down the five explanations, muscle testing each one, to see what the message is. I keep a journal and log down all messages. I started this journal in January 2012. At the end of the entry, I thank the animals or insect. I send them love. I say, I See You! Sometimes I say, I Hear you! Sometimes I say, I love you I write all of this down in my journal. If the insects or birds are not in this book, I look them up online. And follow the same procedures.

    Dr. Steven Farmer is coming out with a pocket size book soon. I can’t wait because I can look for the message wherever I am and don’t have to wait until I get home.

    • I love this, Rita! Thanks for the great information. I have Ted Andrews Animal-Speak Pocket Guide, but I’m going to check out Steven Farmer’s as well. Keeping a journal of the sightings is a great idea. Mine are scattered all over the place..in other journals, in my “not so good” memory and on bits of paper here and there. I need to organize them and give them the importance they deserve! 🙂

  7. $Ronald L. Grant June 24, 2012 at 4:11 am Reply

    When I Play my Flute, I can get the little “Critters” to respond … just like the People do, sometimes. I was playing one day, at the local Zoo, when a Mamma Duck waddled by, withg 4 little Babies following behind. I got in line behind the 4th Duckling, & followed along, making “Quacking Sounds” … Mamma Duck turned & looked at me, like “What kind of DUCK are You?”

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