treat ’em like a dog…

happydog.5.31 (1)

 

About five years ago, I needed a dog. We’d just lost our beloved golden retriever, Abby, to cancer and I was lonely. My wife was out of town, so I stopped by the local pet rescue place to check out any puppies they might have. As karma would have it, they only had one puppy left, a seriously shy black pup who was hiding at the back of the puppy pen, trying very hard to avoid any eye contact with humans. I asked the woman at the front desk what the story was with this guy, and she said that he and two litter mates had been rescued from a “kill shelter” downstate a couple of days earlier (they’d been 12 hrs. from the gas chamber at the time.) His brother and sister had already been adopted and this little guy was left behind, mainly, she thought, because he was so shy.

 

I got down on the floor and picked him up. He wasn’t crazy about the idea and looked away from me the whole time as I tried to give him a scratch. Not exactly the golden retriever “lean”  I’d come to expect from a dog after 30 yrs. of goldens. I was bothered by this, but like I said, I needed a dog, so I told the woman at the counter that I’d take him. He wasn’t a golden, I’d never had a black dog, and I hadn’t had a male dog since high school. What could go wrong?

 

They thought he was about eight weeks old, a Labrador-border collie mix (wrong- he’s lab for sure, but also pitbull and pointer and…) Like I said, my wife was out of town, so it was just the two of us for several days. He was scared and I was sleepless, having forgotten how often a puppy needs to go “out.” Many was the time we looked at each other and asked- who’s bright idea was this?

 

I could have returned him- the rescue folks would take him back anytime up to three days post-adoption. But for some reason, I decided we’d hang on and see what we might work out. Picking up on his readiness to play and hike anytime night or day, I named him Jackson after the cartoon character from my childhood- “Action Jackson.”

 

Well, as I said, we’ve been together for over five years now. I can say without reservation that he’s the finest dog I’ve ever known. He’s smart, gentle, athletic and, in his own individual way, very affectionate. In the days, weeks and months after he came to live with us, Jack set about training us in how he wants to be loved. He still isn’t big on “cuddling,” or on direct eye contact, and please don’t reach toward his face to scratch his head. But if you’ll let him hold a ball while you’re petting him, he loves the “carwash” (scratching both sides as he slides between your legs), loves a belly rub on a sunny afternoon, and would absolutely accept an invitation onto the bed at night, though he always jumps off when its time to sleep.

 

In short, we couldn’t make him something he isn’t. He’ll never be a golden retriever. But he’s been patient with us, and over time, we’ve come to understand who he is and how to respect that. I was thinking about this history over Christmas this year as my kids, friends and family gathered in our home to celebrate the holiday. Inevitably, a human behavior laboratory like this can create frictions and irritations. No one, it seems, behaves as we’d like them to. Especially for family members and children, if they’d just listen and maybe take a hint, things would go so much better, no?    No

 

Why can’t I treat my sons, for example, as I’ve come to treat Jack? Why can’t I tune into how they want to be loved and do my best to give them that? Why, in other words, can’t I just treat my kids as well as my dog? I remember stories of students meeting with the late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala. They say that CTR always spoke directly the basic goodness in everyone, not to their superficial neuroses. Maybe this “like a dog” thing is similar. My projections for Jack didn’t fit, and he shook them off, well, like a dog shakes off water. So I dropped the projection and began to see the real black dog in front of me. Suffering was reduced; love grew.

 

So that’s my New Year’s resolution – I’m going to try to treat everyone close to me like a dog. Try genuinely to see them as they are in themselves. Try to slap down my projections for them when they arise. Let them show me how they want to be loved, and try my best to give them that. My wife is always telling me that I give Jack too many treats — I tell her that one day, Jack is going to die (as dogs do,) and when that happens, she’s going to wish she’d given him more treats. So that’s on the New Years list too- more treats, fewer “corrections.”

 

We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I have a dog. A beautiful one who I love to distraction, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. By the way, Jack and I have talked at some length about this business of dogs dying. He’s promised me that he’ll never die, that he’ll stay with me forever.

 

I plan to hold him to that.

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© 2018 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com/jfinkimages.com

wet dogs

foot

 

maybe mornings like this

are the price we pay

for all those years of compromise

of being barely close enough

to each other. We’ve survived,

at least we share that, such a thin

blanket to cover the cold spots

on cold mornings such as this.

Yet I do like grey winter days

when the wind rattles the leafless trees

and the world turns without shadows.

heading out, my dog looks daggers

up at the clouds — he doesn’t understand

the rain, why he should have to endure

these cold tears falling from a sheet metal sky.

Neither of us has ever been very good

with cause and effect, or the subtle attributes

of time. What choice is there but to carry on,

as we always have, sniffing at the rotten snow

heads down, shaking ourselves dry, nose

to tail as we go – just cold, wet dogs

searching for a place

that’s safe and warm and dry.

 

© 2016 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

 

 

Five Dogs In

On a somewhat friendlier note (than Suicidal manikins…)

A Bodhisattva is an awakened being who chooses to return to this suffering world again and again, until all of the numberless sentient beings have awakened. This can take many forms, from reincarnation in the Hell Realm (as Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, attempted causing his head to explode into a thousand pieces) to great teachers in this human realm, to the sweetness of a truly good dog.

 

 

black dog, brown eyes

action jackson, yes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Dogs In

each of my dogs has taught me

how to be better to the next

 

five dogs in – finally gentled

 

 

 

sleeping dog, early morning

abby, early morning 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes

sometimes

 

in the evening after the heat

has broken and the dishes are done

the air in the house goes silver –

late day light filtering in

my dog and I like to sit in that light

and listen to the world as it cools

 

sometimes

 

he looks up and catches me

watching him sleep

 

sometimes

 

we hold each other’s stare

as if either of us looking away

just might shatter

 

everything

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

stones

stones-2

I’m old enough now to see

how I’ve lived my life in dogs,

each a sun-warmed stone

in this stream of loneliness.

by these have I kept my feet dry,

have I so far made it across.

I look into the brown eyes

of my young black dog,

and can’t help but do the math.

My heart breaks in the knowing

of that distant day when he tells me —

it is time. When do we begin

to die? not at birth, surely,

there’s such a rush to life

for so long, but it slows somewhere,

somehow deep inside of itself

it starts to slow, until one day

as we sit together talking,

this slowing shows itself

in our faces, in our eyes, in our first

clear diminishing, and then we know,

yes we know. We’ve had a week now

of cold nights and windy mornings

the clouds dropping down, scraping

the tops of the aspens, stripping them

of leaves. Snow will come soon

to these mountains, but for today,

I still have this chair by the stream,

still the sounds of the stream over stones,

still a black dog warming his bones

in the late day sun. for today,

this is sufficient. for today this

is wealth enough for a life.

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com