May 17, 2014

My Dog, The Bodhisattva.


I will not, cannot speculate on how the universe came to send me such a creature at exactly the time I required her help, but I can be grateful.

If I believed in reincarnation (which I may) I would know that my dog has been a wise and compassionate person in her past lives, and that she will, in the next cycle, be released from terrestrial bonds.

I get that this isn’t how it works—a successful reincarnation leads to a return “up” to a higher level of existence. People don’t come back as dogs (although coming back as our dog is a pretty fine gig).

Returning as an animal after having been human might tend to indicate that some pretty serious karmic mistakes were made.

But still,

As I grieve, this dog has a kind of presence, gravity and love that makes me believe that she actually feels my suffering and offers compassion. I am only moderately crazy, and able to discern the difference between the kind of dog love associated with longing for the cracker in my hand and the kind of love that is…love.

Her name is Guinevere. She is a mix of Boxery genes, Pitbullish genes and probably something Greyhound or Whippety. After our beloved Maisy died two years ago, we went to the pound looking for a companion for the bereaved Charlie (a mentally unstable beagle-terrier mix). We told each other we wanted another smallish dog. We had seen a dog on Facebook who was available for adoption, a dog who fit our size requirements and was advertised as “good with other dogs, cats and children.”

These things mattered, every one.

Somehow, though, we came home with this great, white horse of a dog with a massive head and a tangle of slender legs. She had been trained, she had been loved, and I will admit that before the end of the first week she was sleeping with us, her head on my pillow. We knew she was a treasure, and I had the vague sense that it was not coincidence that we had ended up with her, and she with us. She was meant to live in this house, buoying Charlie’s sagging heart and delighting us with dog charm and loyalty.

The day my mother died was crazy; I left the hospital and fought my way home through the crowds and roadblocks of the university’s Homecoming parade. The contrast between glittery baton twirlers, disco music and my own terrible darkness was stunning.

When I finally fought my way up my own street and into the driveway, Guinevere was waiting.

I lay on the couch and watched a recording of “The Vampire Diaries,” my husband stayed close in a nearby chair and Guinnie slid delicately onto the couch with me. The length of her, warm and silky, was like a barrier against too much pain. She did not leave me, and she did not leave me because she was doing her work.

I will not, cannot speculate on how the universe came to send me such a creature at exactly the time I required her help, but I can be grateful.

And these days, as I live through the fresh grief of losing my father, she continues to serve. Like a Bodhisattva, she seems, often, to radiate compassion.

She is still a dog. She wants to kill squirrels. She herds the other dog because he is old and doesn’t move fast enough to suit her. When a member of our small family returns to the house she runs to fetch either her elk antler chew or her stuffed fox. It’s a celebration for her, and her joy is contagious—the routine 5:30 return of my husband is far more festive when what appears to be a miniature pony is attacking a squeaky fox.

There are other times, though, when I connect with a sympathy that can’t be explained by anything but a heart. When I go to sort and pack at my parents’ house, she comes with me. When I fall to my knees sobbing, which happens more often than you might think, she is there, leaning against me, licking at the tears. I talk to her, not because I have no one to talk to but because she is such a very good listener.

She cocks her head. She looks concerned. She licks me some more. When I subside into calm again, she waits near me with her beautiful, intelligent eyes alert for predators (like the mailman) and emotional outbursts alike.

I will tell you again that I am not crazy. I am very sad, and a little overwhelmed, but I am not crazy in a way that would lead to imagining shit about my dog.

It is possible that everything is random in this universe, that it’s pure coincidence that three months before my mother died we happened to adopt a dog, and that the dog appears to be a Bodhisattva among dogs. There are likely 645 scientific explanations for what appears to be love, devotion, and understanding.

I know what I know. I know what I see, and what I feel. I have been given the gracious, loving presence of this creature at exactly the time that I needed it.

She and I will not be together forever, but the point is not to hang on. The point is to accept this abundant love and offer gratitude, and to know that as I ride out the worst storms of grief I have not only a supportive family and good friends, but this elegant spirit who knows when I need a warm, silky place to hide my face and sob.

And if reincarnation is real, my beautiful girl should find a soft landing next time around. Maybe, next time, I’ll be her dog.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own


Read 4 Comments and Reply

Read 4 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Ann Nichols  |  Contribution: 11,600