What the Buddha (dog) Taught...

By the time I arrived home last night, he was gone. No note. Nothing. He had taken his bed and all of his food, and the only remnants that let me know he had ever been there were the fur clumps that clustered in each corner of the room and his food and water bowl by the fridge. 

I should preface this by saying I wasn’t left by a man; a male, yes, but a man no. I was left by a dog. A 140 pound beast that entered my life in November and after only a few months of being together, has left a whole in my heart with his departure. Part of the problem lies in the fact that for the past few months I referred to him as “my” dog, when in reality, he was and still is my old tennant Adam’s dog, named Babaji. I agreed to look after Babaji until Adam found a new place that would take dogs, which originally was supposed to take place in June. However, the plan changes (as they usually do), and Adam ended up finding a new pad earlier. Good news for him. Devastating news for me. 

I feel like I’m a bit of a bullshitting Buddhist. Who knew you could get so attached to an animal in only a few months? I now get why all those people bawled during Old Yeller. Growing up, we never really had a dog, at least for an extended period of time. We had Sandy—a sweet little mutt whose paws were the size of a bear, thus steering my parents towards giving her away to someone who had more space. She was way too big for our house, and so they gave her to a family friend who had a huge farm. He renamed her “Dolly” and we’d go and visit her every so often. We got pretty attached to her over a few months and I remember it took a while to get over her leaving. I try to practice non-attachment on a regular basis, and do pretty well when it comes to “stuff”. I lost my fave pink gloves last week at the ski hill and was over it a few hours later. Babaji left a week ago and I’m still crying when I find stray hairs in the living room. Not so over it. 

When I enter the cabin, his huge bed that took up 1/4 of the living room is now gone, leaving an empty space that seems larger than it really is. I guess I can set up my microphone and loop pedals, but to be honest, I’d rather be tripping over that big ole’ bed. I keep thinking I hear his scratching at the door or at the window beside the woodstove. And yet, there is nothing. 

Adam told me last week he’d found a place and would be around to collect Baba in a few days, which actually turned into him picking him up the next day. I knew our time together was short, so when I didn’t get a call to teach last week on Wednesday, instead of packing up and heading for the ski hill (as I usually do), I devoted the day to Baba. We had breakfast together, him slurping his kibble and I eating my oatmeal. I gave him a Milk Bone for dessert and I had a piece of chocolate. It was a special day after all. When I sat at the piano and worked on a piece I was writing, he sat right on my feet and gazed up periodically as if he knew this would be one of the last times we’d spend together. We then went out on an excursion around my land; which in actuality is more his land than mine. He knows it far better than I; he’s lived there since he was born. We walked up the creek together, him leading the way then waiting until I’d catch up. Always the chivalrous gentleman (with the exception of post-getting-into-garbage-flatulence), he always protected me and had my back. We traversed across snow-covered logs to get to the other side of the creek and I watched him frolic in the water, and eat snow joyously as though it was medium rare sirloin. We sat under a cedar by the water’s edge and I meditated, using him as a backrest and pseudo chaise lounge. My eyes closed, I listened to the water rush over the rocks, mixed with the sound of Baba’s rhythmic breath. 

Back at the cabin, he sat right beside me in front of the fire in a moment of pure pooch Zen. He kind of was the epitome of Zen and I learned much more from him in a few months than in a lot of my Buddhist studies over the years. He taught me how to breathe deeply, relax fully and be in the moment. As an addict to “doing”, he was a great mentor and example of how to “not do”. Often, on days when I wouldn’t be teaching, I’d have some anxiety about what I was going to “do” with my day. The ski hill didn’t have a lot of snow and I didn’t feel like schlepping it up there anyway. My energy is still low with some adrenal stuff and low iron stuff going on. I'm supposed to be resting more. I’d look at him on his bed and ask him, “What should we do today Baba?” to which he would keep still, not move his head, and just look at me with those soulful brown eyes and raise his little tan-coloured eyebrows as if to say, “Really? You gotta ask? This.” Then he'd exhale a contented sigh and close his eyes again. Those days were filled with a lot of nothing, but a lot of rest and presence. I’d take him for walks, stoke the fire, read, play music and then just sit with him and cuddle. I relish those moments and took time last week to grieve his absence. 

I didn’t need to travel to India or Peru this time for life lessons, instead, I just had to be present, in my own home and receive the wisdom of that furry guru, appropriately named, “Babji”. For this I am truly grateful. When I start to get anxious about what I’m going to “do” in the day, I look over to where his bed once lay, imagine him sprawled out and do what he’d do. Just breathe. Just be.


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