He was “just a dog.” It was, some would say, an uneven love. He demanded nothing of me, it was easy. He was my dog and he loved me and he was content. And he was able to extend that unconditional love to our family, he was our dog and he loved us and he was content.
I am “just a human.” And I didn’t come close to his pure, undistracted uncomplicated love. I was his human and I loved him but my signal, unlike his, was distorted by noise. I have spent countless hours in meditation seeking to get to where he was; where the verbal chattering of my mind ceased and I was able to experience the fundamentals of the present moment. I’m getting better, but he left before I learned what I needed to from him. As hard as it will be, I think, when his sister (from their mother’s womb) has passed on I may need take on new teachers.
And in the final balance, when weighed against the Feather of Ma’at, whose hearts will be found more worthy in their support of the holiness and unity of the universe? The humans, so absorbed in their wordy disputations and struggles for power, wealth, resources and status or our beloved friends, our dogs? Wouldn’t things be in much better shape if we were more like them? Making our one purpose in life to be good humans filled with love?
Constantly - through all the cycles of betrayal and validation, gain and loss, pain and joy in my life – he never stopped loving me. Not for an instant, no moody grumpy harsh words, no cold shoulder, nothing held it back. Not to say he never did anything bad. He could be a very bad dog: like when he chewed up my fancy, hand-made paper journal, or my key card for the security gate, or his territorial ownership of the bathroom where I peed and no other males should really have a right to pee. But these were done because he loved me; he didn’t get all the human distinctions about possessions and proper behavior.
I get absorbed in the intricacies and issues of mature human relationships – those suckers are really, really hard to get right because we’re so goddam sophisticated, we have “needs” and we must “communicate” in healthy ways. There are so many complexities to this big-brained verbal way of relating that it takes a lifetime to attain even an adequate level of mutual non-suffering. Many never get there and die sad and lonely. We seem to be a particularly unhappy species compared to our canine friends.
He ate his food without ever thinking about where it came from and how the money to buy it was obtained. His food was simply evidence of my love for him. As it was. And the trips to the vet, baths, scratching, hugs, walks. He rested secure in my love for him, whether I deserved this or not. His security in my love made it very easy to take for granted and I made a constant effort not to do that. I needed no rhetorical flourishes, no flowers on valentines day – he would have been confused by this, what the hell was this inedible plant I was giving him?
And, goddammit, he had the nerve to refuse to live forever. He had the nerve to get cancer in his twelfth year. And now he’s left me. We live longer than they do, it’s a fact. If it hadn’t been cancer, it would have been something else in the next few years. His sister will surely not live much longer than a few more years. It will be something. It’s always something… death comes to us all. No exceptions.
He takes a big chunk of my heart with him. The emptiness will be there; I won’t turn and see him looking back at me, laying there contentedly. Calling his name won’t result in a happy scuffling of paws hurrying to find out what’s happening. I can’t look down right now, this very instant, and see him resting contentedly by my side. (He was a great napper. He was my guru of naps – Napananda. My teacher in the art of doing nothing.)
It was worth it, though. The pain is worth it. I am grateful for his presence in my life and will always be so. This pain and these tears will fade over time. I worry about his sister and how she will handle his absence, but we can deal with that together. It’s foolish to never love just because one’s beloved will depart from you. This is a fact of life. There is no protection. Even a refusal to love will not protect one from pain and suffering.
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Goodbye Tobe. My beloved friend.