Lessons From My Dogs


Buds grace the ends of bare branches as I stand in the first light sipping the morning’s cup of tea, and watching birds find seeds. It’s a routine I perform each day, the scattering of seed, and often accompanied by my tea. It is the basic nature of the act, providing for others, which gives it the sacredness, and for me a form of meditation; all else stops and I stare silently as the birds peck and flutter, mates sometimes feeding each other or flapping off intruders.

Sacredness can befall us in the lightest of moments. Nietzsche spoke of how little was necessary for happiness: “The least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance—little maketh up the best happiness. Be still.”

Be still.

I stand still and wonder what will happen to all the awakening buds—sacred every one of them—appearing at the ends of January’s branches when they would in past come out in March. But nature sees the bigger show, feeding stars and seas, watching over us, yet oblivious to small human needs. I want the purpled spill and sugared smell of the wisteria in spring. Or my favourite scent of all, the spicy sweetness of April’s viburnum...but that, is budding now.

Yet I know that nature’s ways are sacrosanct and have proved the test of time, reaching far beyond my little life. I stand amidst her, humbled and learn look beyond what meets the eye. Behind the anger and the fear lies a universal desire for goodness, a sharing of compassion. Behind the hatred and the violence lie millions of lives brushing up against one another simply trying to connect—for the doorway to our sacredness is our human heart, and sometimes we find that touch love in the oddest places.

I have held my animals as they died in my arms, surrounded for those few untouchable moments by a sacredness so vast it pushed away all fear, all grief and what was left was grace. Until the mind regained the heart’s upper hand at which point grief and pain returned. Sri Nisargadatta said it beautifully: “The mind creates the abyss; the heart crosses it.”

“What is sacred?”

Pondering the question in our small home, I see life covering my windowpanes. Maligned by most, these bugs who buzz about my house are sacred in themselves. There is sacredness in the tiniest ant, or the most unwanted body of the stink bugs, just as there is in the majestic trees of shade we love. There is sacredness in the spider who hangs out in my shower. It is the same sanctity found in all life.

“What is sacred?” I turn and ask again aloud. Three pairs of eyes looked back at me in answer.

“Of course! You are.” As time rushes forward—scientist proving the earth’s velocity truly has increased, it’s not just our crazy lives—my dogs, lead sacred lives each day.

For them each day is new. A joy to stretch, to sniff, to savour. A day in which to rejoice. The quiet brown eyes still regard me, speaking silently their wishes. We walk up into the woods and I stand still at the confluence of two streams. I watch the clean water spilling over earth and rock, and as it catches and holds the sun’s light, I know that it is sacred. The lacy ferns and soft moss that from their sidelines wave the water on are assacred in their stationary lives as the water is in flowing. The rocks worn and wise over which the water runs are sacred. The forest around us is sacred and the beings it holds in outstretched arms are sacred. Our four lives are sacred, defined, but not limited, by death on one end. A tree has fallen that once stood by the banks of the stream. I am saddened by its death, but it leaves a space where light shines through.

Perhaps it’s up to us to lead sacred lives—to think and speak and act with sacredness, for sacredness is not only “out there” but also it is in us, every moment of every day.

Back home I take off harnesses and again three pairs of eyes regard me. It’s time for cookies. Yes, sometimes we find love in the oddest places. And that is sacred.