An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
It is with great sadness that I announce the loss of my dog, Ruki (or Ruki Dog Kozak as his last prescription medicine said) on the 2nd of April 2011. After 9.5 years of faithful companionship he developed a painful and paralyzing condition in his lower spine. His decline was quick. In January he was still running up mountains. He was running trails nearly daily until the past few weeks of his life.
Everyone thinks their dog is special and they all are. Everyone who met Ruki knew him to be special too. He had a graceful presence for such a large creature and a gentle quiet that friends, patients, and the meditation community alike found comforting, grounding, and eerily human.
As many of you have reminded he lived a great life for his almost eleven years.
There is something special to the grief that arises when losing a canine friend. It’s a pure experience of our humanity in the clarity and intensity of this emotion as it is uncomplicated by a history of struggles and hurt as human-to-human relationships are. Our dogs have not hurt us, have not let us down, have not criticized us. At the same time, they are inextricably woven into almost every moment of life, in their dependence and their ability to accompany us out in the world.
Dogs are also great mindfulness teachers: paying attention to their surroundings with keenness, living in a world of scent, movement, and adventure. My dog, as yours, could feel frustration, fear, anger, disappointment, hunger, pain, discomfort. Yet, I’m fairly confident that he didn’t generate stories about them. He suffered, but only as much as the circumstance provided, not adding anything of his own. We could learn something from that.
My Rhodesian Ridgeback, Ruki, is a member of the Exquisite Mind Sangha. He attends all the meditation sessions, usually sprawled out snoring on the rug as we sit around meditating. He’s a dharma dog and a great teacher.
Dogs remind us how mindfulness offers us a respite from our complicated human existence.