Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Nature of Dog

Gibby. Is he a D-O-G... or a G-O-D?
It occurred to me on my walk yesterday morning that I may have it all wrong. 

By "it," I mean, what if what I *think* is real... isn't? 

Like, what if my dog -- seen here in his usual stance and mood, a happy yellow lab with his tongue hangin' out, waiting for a walk or a crumb to drop -- isn't really the pet I think he is, but instead is... (gulp)... 


Hang with me here; I know I sound more than a little nuts. But just as I sometimes forget that everyone else in the world - every one of the billion-some people across the globe - is a tiny piece of stardust (or "God," or the Universe, whatever works for you), I often take my dog's true nature for granted. And when I thought about the very nature of our relationship, I saw the connection between my dog and God; or, rather, my relationship with God.

Things like:

* I hate getting up to walk the dog every morning. I hate it. Sometimes I want to wake up late, or drink a second cup of coffee, or mindlessly pin pretty pix on Pinterest, but my dog is ever-present, waiting for me, a large dog-like shadow panting with anticipation until I get off my butt and get the leash and get out into the sunshine of the morning. It's like how they say "God is all around." And so I reluctantly get him outside. But once I'm out...

* I love walking my dog. I'm reminded of the present moment, of the birds singing, of the changing of seasons, of the incredible greatness of the world we live in. I see my neighbors and I feel the blood coursing through my veins and celebrate the movement in my body and the very fact that I'm alive. I'm ALIVE! What a freakin' accomplishment!!

* My dog never hates me. Ever. I've snapped at him and pulled his leash tightly when he's threatening to bark at a horse (a definite no-no in my horse community), I've made him wait to "do his biz" until we're in a better location, I've been a total grump on our walks, etc., etc. But he's a total lover. He just wants to love me and everyone else. That's all. 

* He lives in the present moment. He's not concerned with what happened yesterday and can't even think about tomorrow (literally), so he just makes the damn most of every single moment.

* My dog doesn't expect anything in return. He just likes to be happy and wants everyone else to be tail-waggingly happy, too. Sure, he'd love to get a big fat juicy marrow bone and cuddle up with someone on the couch, but just being alive is enough for him. In fact, he makes it look like it RULES!

* Sometimes I have to walk around with a big pile of shit in my hands that I didn't make. Okay, so it's in a bag, but who likes to hold another creature's steaming poop? I don't, not at all. But it has to be done. I love Gibby and I don't want him to be uncomfortable, which means I have to take him on a walk so he can poop, which means I have to pick up said poop and transport it to a garbage can. It is my least-favorite part of pet ownership, for sure. But if I think about it, I hate cleaning up other people's messes in all aspects of my life; it's only now that I know it's an act of sheer love to just bend down and pick it up, even if you didn't make it yourself. This applies to dog shit as well as not going ape on another driver or saying mean things to someone who's hurt you. Pick up the poop and drop it in the garbage can and wash your hands. Then move on.

* Sometimes I mistake his barks for anger, when he's really just excited or happy. The other day, a neighbor was walking her husky and German shepherd and Gibby went nuts, as he always does with these particular dogs. "I'm sorry!" my neighbor called, and I found myself saying, "Oh no, that's okay. He just gets energized when he sees your dogs!" Where the heck did that come from? The sentiment rang true for me in so many ways: often I've mistaken excitement for nervousness or fear.

* As the morning dog walker, I hold the leash; as such, I hold "God" back from his true nature. He wants to experience the world by sniffing every plant and closing his eyes to feel the sun on his face and eating a little horse poop and saying hi to every passerby. I'm the one who yanks on the chain and says, "No, Gib, we don't have time. Not today. I have too much to do." Like what? What could be more important than living my life in the only moment I have: the present?

I don't expect to convert anyone to this dogma (what?! tell me that word isn't a coincidence!), but it's certainly something to chew on. I still consider myself a new dog owner, even after three years, but even that is good metaphor. After all, even at 42, I'm still learning about "God."

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