September 30, 2009

Can our pets help us along on the path?

We have a new addition to the Tricycle office—of the hairy persuasion. One of our editors started bringing her 13-year old Spaniel and Collie mix, Scout, to work. I’ve noticed the shift in the mood of the office since this pooch began parading around. Is it my imagination or is everyone more relaxed, friendlier, and even happier? Scout makes his rounds when he arrives each morning to scope out the scene. He is low-key but inquisitive and his visits to individual staff produce smiles and increase the general well-being of those he comes in contact with.

Do you have an animal in your life that brings you happiness or keeps you in the present moment—or disturbs your meditation every day?

Find the answer to the age-old question if dogs can have Buddha-nature in "Dharma Dogs" from the spring 1999 issue of Tricycle.

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marc's picture

Mary Ann Whitehurst's picture

I have had numerous pets all my life and am thankful for each one who has touched my heart in such a special way. I currently have a rescue dog, Sunny, who has shared my home for about four years now. When I adopted him he had severe mange which had been left untreated for a very long time and which resulted in the loss of almost all his fur and he was also significantly underweight. The agency I adopted him from could not even tell me what breed he might be or whether his fur would ever grow back. It took many months but eventually beautiful shiny fur grew in and he turned into the most gorgeous Golden Retriever. We are very close and he rarely leaves my side. About two years ago I was very ill with the flu and Sunny was right there next to me on the bed. Suddenly he got up and returned in a few seconds with his newest, favorite toy in his mouth. Instead of bringing it to me to have me tug on it as we usually did, he came up on the bed and dropped it at my shoulder. He understood that I was not well and was trying to make me feel better by giving me what he valued most. Sunny taught me about compassion that day, that loving kindness sometimes means giving up something you really like, and that material things mean nothing when you can lessen the suffering of another. And for this, as well as for his loyalty and many other things, I will always be grateful to Sunny, my four legged Dharma teacher.

Barbara Cary's picture

Having had many pets all through my life, learning from each. I totally agree. Many have been Siamese cats--each smarter than the next. My current Siamese, Amelie, is the most learned yet. She seems to anticipate where I'm going or what I'm going to do before I do. She is a wonderful companion and teacher.

Rebecca's picture

I am fortunate enough to be able to bring my English Springer Spaniel, Minni, to work with me each day. As a teacher of unconditional love, there is none better. Her joy at seeing our clients is contagious. Yes, she chases squirrels and barks at other dogs and at things that startle her, but she mostly teaches us how to love.

Marc's picture

I considered my dog to be one of my greatest teachers. When she died a couple of years ago, I wrote this for her. I do not think I could express it any better:

I am not sure what lineage my teacher was from – she was a mutt. But in her short time here on earth and in my life, I learned a great deal from her. I have read that animals can be great teachers to us as humans, but I never imagined just how true that was. First, she taught me unconditional love, how important and beautiful it can be to both give and receive. No matter how cranky, how shitty my mood, she was always so delighted when I walked into a room, and no matter how bad I felt, she could always bring a smile to my face. She not only taught me that I deserved to be loved unconditionally, but that I was capable of giving it back as well, and that is a real gift. Don’t get me wrong, my wife is the most important being in my life, and her loss would be absolutely devastating. And, as I stated before, I am not a parent yet. But the purity that exists with an animal, it is an unconditional love that in my experience does not exist between humans. Perhaps that is another, greater lesson that I have yet to learn. Next, she taught me impermanence. No matter how much we want a being to be in our lives forever, this can never be. Granted, at 5 years, she died way before her time, but that is only my perception. Everything dies eventually. It may seem so wrong, the grief, for all the pain it brings, for the suffering of those left behind, but it is what it is. And it represents a necessary part of our lives, something we will all have to face, and ultimately a potential source of growth for us all. Finally, she is continuing to teach me the lesson of how attachment leads to suffering. This is a lesson that I think I will be learning in one form or another for the rest of my life. Attachment is such an inherent part of our culture, that once we start to become aware of it, we realize what a motherf@*#$r it is to overcome. She was a ray of light, and light shines, but can never be held onto.

BlindRob's picture

In my experience, all urban dogs are Bodhisattva-like creatures... until they see a squirrel.