Spirit Stories: In Your Own Words
My Spiritual Master
When the dog, who looked like Annubis, first came upon the scene, I was mourning the death of my mother, my lover, my two best friends, my career, my drug of choice and my dog of thirteen years. I certainly wasn't ready for another dog. Nor was I ready to pursue life. However, a six month old bronze combination Pharaoh and Ibizan hound was abandoned at the Precinct across the street. A neighbor rescued him and offered him to me. I would help find him a home, not give him one. But the universe had other plans.
A couple who owned a liquor store wanted him as a guard dog. That was all it took. While minding a friend's cocker spaniel, I welcomed the tall, gangly puppy into my home. The cocker, a five year old male who had bonded, would not let the puppy come near me. I gave each a milk bone. The cocker took the puppy's away from him, but couldn't get his teeth through it and waddled up to me to complain. Spell-bound, I watched the pup, take the large milk bone, break it in half, break one half into little chunks for the cocker and take the other half into the next room. As far as I was concerned, Dylan dog was here to stay. I didn't know then whether he was just being politic and very wise or had a generous heart. Later, when a deli owner gave me a hot dog for him, I gave it to him outside the store. He ate half and brought the other half in to Esmerelda, the deli cat. I realized then that he was not merely politic. That was not all I came to realize.
When I walked him to Union Square the next morning, he stopped dead at a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and just stared as though mesmerized. I was puzzled till I realized that he must have been responding to the fact that the statue had been sculpted in motion and probably carried the energy of loving hands. I laughed out loud and said "Dylan, tomorrow, we begin your training." Whereupon, he got up on his hind legs, which made him as tall as my 5 foot, seven inches, and slapped his paws on a poster attached to the light post. He turned his head and grinned at me.
I looked at where his paws had landed and it read: HIGHER EDUCATION. "I amend my statement," I said, "tomorrow, we begin OUR education." He got down, a smile still on his face. I soon realized I had a most unusual companion and a very gentle, loving one.
However, since he was so prepossessing, many dogs wanted to challenge him. He didn't run away, he didn't submit, he didn't back down, he just didn't engage. I was relieved. I didn't want a dog who would fight and get hurt or hurt other dogs. However, very secretly, I thought fondly of him as "my big wimp. This went on for the first five years I had him. Then one day, while having a coffee session with some of the people in the park and their dogs, a huge Doberman came over and began to hassle a puppy. He didn't hurt him, but he scared him a lot. All of a sudden, Dylan dog leaped to his feet, went over and put his head across the Doberman's neck and just went....grrrr. Only once, no more than that and the Doberman left. Whereupon, Dylan dog, shook himself all over, came and flopped back down. Dylan had challenged Henry? Was he mad? As for the puppy, from then on he followed Dylan like Sancho Panza. I didn't get it. I couldn't figure out what got into my "wimp."
Two weeks later, same group, another coffee session and a huge black dog came along and decided to mount a 17 year old Chow who had arthritis. The Chow went flat out like a rug. Dylan leaped up, knocked the black dog on his back, put his paw on the dog's chest and without a sound, just stared at him for the longest time. Then, he released his paw, the big dog took off, Dylan shook himself all over, came and flopped down again. And suddenly, I understood the lesson he had been trying to teach me. "Choose your battles and do no more than necessary to take care of the problem."
Anything I ever had to teach him, he mastered in a matter of days. It took me five years to get this lesson of his and I realized that I was the dumber one of this twosome. Given my sometime radicalism, overdeveloped sense of justice and quick temper, it was a lesson I sorely needed. Dylan considered the other dogs who were with us as being part of his pack. As leader of the pack, he defended them but he never got into overkill and as soon as he accomplished what he was after, he shook himself bodily as if to shake off the energy of that engagement. He took action and let go of the rest. It's a humbling experience to have your dog teach you what is important in life.
Throughout our fourteen years together, he taught many spiritual lessons. He became a Service Dog and accompanied me everywhere. He also became quite a favorite with the opposite sex, several of whom were in the park on his last day when he collapsed. I knew then, I should not ask more of him. I got Dylan onto a dolly; explained where we were going and why. He listened, stood up and insisted upon walking out of the park under his own steam. He walked the ten blocks to the Vet's having never sacrificed his dignity. Releasing him was one of the hardest things I've ever done. He will always live in my memory as my Spiritual Master.