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I am experiencing what I call my own Dark Night of the Soul.

Last week I was carried away by unimaginable joy as I re-connected with my teacher through one of her Swamis, a monk who called me, as they say “out of the blue” (a metaphor for heaven, have you noticed?) to say my beloved Guru was saying “hello.”  This contact, by email and telephone, was completely unexpected and so serendipitous as to leave me barely breathing and ecstatic for the entire day.

The very same night, the night of the full moon last week, my beloved cat, Boots, was killed by a coyote right in front of me.  The last and powerful image I have of my 14 year old cat is his limp body being taken down my driveway in the coyote’s strong jaws.  It is a horrendous image, etched forever on my retina.

The sustaining force of having a teacher through the many years since my powerful awakening in 1989 has guided and fed me; kept me going, and I am stunned at the power of my emotional response to this event and to my mind in the last week.  Boots’ tragic death followed closely on the heels of my little dog’s almost certain demise in the jaws of a neighbor’s dog three weeks ago. 

For the past three weeks I have felt as if I have barely survived as I have nursed my small dog back to health, reasonably certain I would be euthanizing my small and wonderful “baby.”  But Lucky Girl, blind and deaf and 16 years of age, has made it, while Boots is gone.

I sometimes wonder why I put one foot in front of another day in and day out.  Of what use are we to one another in this strange and marvelous and horrible sojourn we call “life?”  Certainly I get to complain – who is there for me as I take care of client after client, patient after patient, day in and day out, suffering the outrageous projections of men and women who blame and curse, blame and curse, then return to praise and idealize, day in and day out, day in and day out?  Sometimes I am so tired and ill I do not want to carry on.  Sometimes I want to scream:  why do I have to be the healer? Why me?  What about me?  Why me?  What about me?

As I cried and cried and hurt and my head felt like it would explode again, I noticed I still  managed to see my clients and patients, make dog food, take care of my animals, do my paperwork, write chapters in my book, and take care of the daily business we call “living.”

St. John of the Cross did not pray for his enlightenment.  Christ exploded in his mind when the pain of his imprisonment became unendurable.  Julian of Norwich apparently had a slower awakening, the gift of everyday awareness becoming stabilized in Christ-vision and awareness. 

Turn the same face to praise and to blame, said my teacher.  Learn to cultivate equanimity, that amazing quality of spiritually advanced adepts who manage to treat all life experiences the same.

So, as I attempted to berate myself for my irritability today – tired and sad and filled with a huge grief, I saw equally how I had been successful in my therapy and healing practice, how my animals had been cared for, how I had reached out to my daughter and to my brother, how I had performed my daily chores with a decent attitude; acting better than I felt, always acting better than I felt.

We continue on, I think, because something in us does it for us.  The dream dreams us.  We see our original face, and it is so astonishingly beautiful we search out another mirror, then another, then another.  We call these mirrors the “other.”  And somehow, along the way, as the kindness of the God of our understanding sinks deeper into our brains and bloodstream, many of us are finally struck with the profound realization that we are simply not the doer, we are the done.  We are not the thinker, we are the thought.  We get out of the way and finally begin to understand that even grief is part of the entire plan.  When I lay this tired mind down tonight, I will be with Boots, with every animal and person I have loved, whether actually “here” or not.

This Dark Night of the Soul….it is painful.  It is agonizing.  It is exquisite. 

I miss my Boots.  I miss my kitty cat who was such a love bunny – who let Julie, Chrissy and Lisa dress him up and carry him around in a doll carriage without moving a muscle.  Who equally would go out on the back fence in South Pasadena on every full moon and beat the shit out of the other guy so fully that Thomas and I would have to take him to the emergency vet each time he acted out in those years of his masculine mayhem.  It was so ridiculous that we began to keep antiseptics like Betadine in our bathroom to clean him up each month on his nightly fight- jaunts.

I miss my Boots.  I miss the guy who I let in each night after calling him; his enormous weight causing a bloop – bloop – bloop as he ran to the front door, the pink bell around his neck jingling; my Boots totally unaware and uncaring of the metro sexual collar around his neck, so assured was he of his identity as a cat – only a cat – not a male or female – just a good, good cat.  My cat.  My Boots.  My loving, sweet, sweet cat.

My cat would look up at me as he came in the front door each evening and make a soundless meow.   I would hoist him over my shoulder and carry him around until we could settle for our “scritch-scratch” time.  He liked it hard.  He liked to be combed within an inch of his life, and if I stopped brushing and combing him too soon, I got a little reminder bite on my ankle or hand to let me know there was more grooming work to do.  And this was every night.  Then he got into my bed, and into my arms.  His head fell back and his mouth opened, his pink tongue hanging out, as he slept, content in my arms, each and every night of his life. 

I miss my Boots.  I miss my Boots. I miss my hairy bedfellow.  I miss hot tuna breath in the morning.

Homer snores next to me as I write this.  Lucky Girl’s nose is horrid-sounding, having been broken by the dog next door who bit her within an inch of her life three weeks ago.  They know.  They comfort me as I miss the third musketeer in bed.

I miss my Boots.

This Dark Night of the Soul will pass.  Everything passes away.  I have no idea where it goes, if it goes anywhere at all.  And I have no idea what I just said because I have no idea what all that means.

I miss my Boots.  Wherever he is, whoever he is with, my sweet sweet boy, my darling cat, my wonderful flop cat, my Sunday morning heartbanger.

And the Dark Night becomes the Light Day, and the Light Day becomes the Dark Night, and the Light Night becomes the Dark Day, and the desire for the day is faithfulness to the night.

Everything passes, and nothing moves.  Everything moves and nothing passes.  And the eventual desire for another cat will become a tribute to the memory of my beautiful Boots. 

May 31, 2013

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  The Yellow Dog is older now. 

His gait is unsteady; his head hangs a little lower, swings a little more slowly than it did before.  The doctor says there are signs of a neurological disorder. 

The yellow dog was “sent” to me as a sign, I said, being whelped the day the retriever died. 

I was so lonely, craving a dog again, the companionship of the disciple and master rolled into one.

 So Homer came to me.  They said he had been hurt.  His body was crippled, and they told me he should sleep with me.  

We put the futon on the floor of my office, and the gangly, bony, yellow dog slept on top of my body to heal his own. 

The bone doctor said the yellow dog should not have healed the terrible problem that the other vets said should have killed him.  But this doctor said he was “different.”  “He has an indomitable spirit.  I will operate on him,” the doctor said.  

So Homer Hanuman Ram Dog walked out of a 7 hour operation on his legs and hips and never looked back.  He was 9 months old. 

And as the old dog snores softly next to me on a different bed, in a different place now, I weep with gratitude that this companion has seen me through these times.  I weep with gratitude that I have the honor to see him through his time, now. 

His long, sad face looks back at me, as if to say that he, too, remembers the time our eyes met and we became lovers so long ago.  I think he is thanking me.  I think he is remembering all down the length of his bent body how he is grateful for the walks in the mountains, the swims in the oceans, the fights with his “sisters,” the loving care he took of the children when that was his job, the daily baths he gave to Boots, the cat, who welcomed his slurps joyfully, and especially for the naps by the fire, his belly full with the food I cooked for him, the food which has helped heal that sad and sick body of his. Now I am given the opportunity to care for him again, to see my Homer move toward the end of his devoted life. 

I have “put down” six animals now.  Each time I wondered if I could handle it, or if the time would be right, or what if they suffered?  What if I didn’t make it in time?  Each time serendipity and grace took care of details and it happened perfectly, in God’s time. 

Homer is telling me not to worry.  He will signal me, as he has told me again and again how to do things, to relax, that all will be well. 

So, if we have two days, two weeks, two months or two years together, this yellow dog and me, well, we have had the very best of all of it, the very worst of all of it, and I sing praises to my belovedHomer Hanuman Ram Dog, my second yellow dog, my sweetest yellow dog.  

It was my first yellow dog who taught me about God, so many years ago, by the fireplace.  His name was Shiva.  His brown eyes were gazing up at me as he lay at my feet.  His golden coat looked silken and translucent in the light of the fire.  It became surreally clear to me that he seemed only to want one thing in life:  to serve me and obey my every command.  His devotion, like the monkey god, Hanuman, in the epic poem of India, the Mahabharata, was his modus operandi, his way and his life and his means.  He wanted only to do what Hanuman did for his beloved Sita – retrieving her ring again and again in the underworld as she threw it down, timeless in the action of surrender and devotion – happy only to retrieve the ring, never asking why the idiotic Sita threw it away again and again and again.  Hanuman’s task embodied only his fierce love and capacity to obey.  He loved his mistress, and indeed, would have been happy to die into this love for her as he went down to the underworld, again and again and again, never asking why, just doing what he was born to do. 

Shiva waited for me to tell him what to do.  He cowered if I was angry, upset when I was upset, at my side if and when I became ill, refusing food himself, so tuned in to me that he was becoming adept at anticipating my next command.  He would get up and go to the kitchen several beats before my thoughts to do so had registered.  He waited by my office door if I could not invite him in with my next client.  He lay under my healing table in the courtyard, and “told” me when a session had finished.  He would always align himself north to south, as if to say, “All is well; there is completion here.”

So, I was struck silent and filled with awe the night I understood, for the first time, the relationship between the Master and the Disciple.

God is just like me, I thought, and I am just like Shiva.  I am the Disciple, and Shiva is the Master.  Or I am the Master, and Shiva is my Disciple.  As a disciple, I found the only peace I had ever known when I knew I was performing my life’s purpose:  that of obeying the Will of God.  It was always so effortless, this understanding of my purpose.  Any resistance to What Was caused enormous conflict and pain in my being.  But when I simply stopped, waited, and refused to act until I knew the next action, I was in the flow of my life’s purpose, the purported Will of God.  I knew it as surely as Shiva knew it.  I had been living this purpose for years, twisting in agony when I went against what I knew.

 Looking into my dog’s eyes that night, I could not help but laugh when I thought of the childish mumblings “dog is god spelled backwards.” 

The Native Americans call our dogs our “familiars.”  It is as if they come to us knowing who we are better than we could ever know ourselves.  And they lead us away from danger, they protect us, they sleep with us, and they forgive us.  There is no psychological nonsense in a dog’s personality structure.  They just are.  They just forgive.  They continue to move forward, apparently harboring no resentment for whatever happened in the apparent past.   

Shiva died in 2003, to be replaced by Homer Hanuman Ram Dog.  Homer is the same way, a true incarnation of Shiva.  He is a yellow lab, and he is now lying next to me, curled up and happy, pressing his spine into my leg from time to time, letting me know he is there. 

I want to be like Shiva and Homer.  I want only to lie at my Master’s feet, to wait for the next command, to be happy to die for my Beloved.  I am absolutely still in the perfection of the ancient scripture’s sutra:  “only one who obeys can command.” 

The Yellow Dog rouses now, yawns, circles, and then slams down against me as if he is sure he can be absorbed into my body.  He hits my side so hard with his bony spine I am wondering if either of us is injured.  I remember how he slept with me as a pup in order to heal this bone condition which so cripples him again now.  

He opens one eye and looks at me.  That look is what I never want to forget.  It is the look of such profound love and devotion it causes my heart to ache and hurt and swell, and I am once again brought to my knees in humility and gratitude for the grace I am given in being allowed to care for my dog in his advancing years. 

Only one who obeys can command.  We go to sleep, our spines pressed against one another’s, hopefully to wake together again and praise away another day.  The Yellow Dogs have taught me about God.   I want to serve the old Yellow Dog until he is no more, and then serve until I am no more. 

OMNAMAH SHIVAYA

Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This little story (a true one) is composed by Homer’s Mom, who will be referred to in the third person mostly as “ HM.”

When HM first saw Homer (obviously, an unnamed yellow lab in a cage), she ‘fell in love.”  He had the most beautiful head and face she had ever seen.  She was missing her golden retriever who had died three months previous, and, though she had promised herself she could never replace the mighty Shiva, her retriever, there was something about this little doggie with the sad eyes and  beautiful nose….Something made her return to the breeder again and again….

When she found out from the breeder that this little pup had been whelped the same day Shiva had died, well, it was too great a coincidence, and she made the arrangements, and one day, carried the little ten week old pup into her backyard to meet her family.

Within six months it became clear to everyone that Homer, now called Homer Hanuman Ram Dog, was very sick.  He had already been hospitalized for severe digestive problems for over two weeks of his short life, but now, his back legs looked like they were…disappearing.  He was in severe pain.  He was listless.  He barely ate.

It was soon revealed that he was a “puppy mill” dog.  He was the result of a greedy breeder, keeping a bitch pregnant again and again, running the dogs down, having very sick pups, knowing that most people would just allow their puppies to die rather than spend money on getting them well.  Homer’s hips were non-existent.  He had literally no hip sockets.  Bone was rubbing on bone.  Three vets all agreed that the little nine-month old puppy, who had stolen HM’s heart, and the hearts of her family, would have to be put down.

HM was desolate.  One day HM was meditating on the floor, trying to accept the inevitable, when Homer’s big nose rested suddenly on her shoulder.  He made a “hhhhmmmmmm…” sound.  This sound was the sound HM had heard somewhere before, deep in meditation.  She was led to get up from meditation and go to instantly to her computer, where she was led to a site for an orthopedic vet who could perform a tricky operation for dogs such as Homer.

Very soon Homer was to receive an operation called a “Femoral Osteoechtomy”, which pretty much cut off the rest of his leg and hip bones, stuffed gluteal muscle into his hips and was used to make legs out of what had been shoddy bone, and HM and her family were told that he had a very slim chance of recovery.  This operation, seven hours in procedure, was only performed on very small dogs.  But the vet had taken a look at Homer and said that he had an “amazing spirit.”

Homer pranced out of a 7- hour surgery and yanked off his morphine patch, never to look back.  He needed virtually no rehabilitation.  He has been a marvelous, indomitable, spirited dog ever since.  He is alive and well, seven years later.  He was given a 50-50 chance of living to the age of 3.  At this writing he is 8 years old.

Now, you may wonder why this little story has so far been about a dog named Homer, but has not mentioned a boy named Sean.

That is because, it was not until Homer was well into his second year of recovery (or maybe it was his third year) that he met Sean.  It was this meeting that would provide Homer with his purpose in life.  To the boy named Sean, who was perhaps only 7 or 8 years old at the first real meeting, Homer was simply another friend, a litter- mate, so to speak.  But Homer had found his raison d-etre, his reason and purpose and meaning in life.  There was no turning back for Homer.

Sean was quite an exceptional boy.  He was “all boy.”  He loved to tustle and roughhouse and play and play hard!  This suited Homer very well.  Anything Sean did suited Homer very well.  Sean was just one of those boys.  Everyone loved him.  He was adorable, freckled, funny, had a wonderful family, and a very charmed life.  He was someone who was to develop intense focus on what he loved.  He had not quite developed this trait at his younger age, but this trait was to suit Homer very well.  Because, you see, bonding is about identifying with your loved one.  Homer was to bond so completely with Sean that he was to become his guardian angel, his protector.  It was why Homer lived through his trials and tribulations, it seemed.  And Sean was certainly an exceptional and special person.  He was well worth it.
The intense focus on Sean began for Homer when Sean, Homer, Sean’s Mom, and HM went to the Huntington Dog Beach when Sean was 8 and Homer was 3.  Homer had been to the beach only once or twice before, and he had been totally smashed down by waves, but he had shown enormous bravery and gone back into deep and salty waters again and again.  HM’s husband, Homer’s Daddy, and his entire family had marveled at Homer’s bravery.  What a trouper this little doggie was!

But nothing was to prepare us for what Homer was to do with Sean at the beach.  Imagine peanut butter!   Imagine crazy glue!  Imagine Velcro!   Homer and Sean, Sean and Homer.  And that was that.  Homer was never going to let go of the boy named Sean.   In the waves Sean splashed.  In the waves Homer splashed.  In the waves Sean crashed.  In the waves Homer crashed.  Sean built a sand castle.  Homer destroyed the sand castle.  Sean ate a sandwich.  Homer ate a sandwich.  Sean slept.  Homer slept.

Now, we are in present time, five years later.   HM, Sean’s Mom, Sean’s sister, and a few friends, return to the dog beach.  Sean is a young man now.  He has no time for any nonsense.  His voice has deepened, he has fur on his own face (Homer has noticed), and now, he has a dog of his own!  Harley, Homer’s nemesis!  Harley is a yellow lab, just like Homer.  Harley and Homer play and play and romp and romp.  It is Harley’s first dog beach visit.

And, oh, how they love it!  The two labs run down to the ocean and – splash bam crash – into the waves they go!!!  But wait!  Suddenly, Homer is swimming frantically toward three boys on surfboards, making a wheedling noise deep in his throat.  He thinks one of the boys is Sean!  He circles them and sees Sean is not there.  He turns in the deep water, a wave crashes him, he goes under,  re-surfaces and goes out farther and farther!  Where is Sean?  Where is Sean?  HM calls out to Sean.  He is way out.  Homer paddles frantically, way out in the ocean to Sean.  HM has to go out into the deep ocean waves to “rescue” the Labrador retriever! Homer has completely taken on the role, once again, five years later, of Sean’s protector.

Yesterday HM, Sean, Homer and Harley went for a walk.  Homer was unusually difficult on his leash, pulling and yanking HM’s arm.  Sean, who was walking Harley a few steps in front of HM and Homer, looked around and simply said “Here, give me the leash.  Homer needs to be with me.”

It was true.  Once Sean took Homer’s leash, Homer lowered his head respectfully as he walked slowly to the right of Sean, Harley on Sean’s left.  Both leashes were slack, as both dogs were grateful to walk with their beloved boy.

But the dog on the right, Homer, was absolutely perfect, his eyes on the road ahead, every now and then glancing to the left, his head swinging low but steady, his leash slack.  His job was assured, because he knew who he was and what he had to do.  He was happy and perfect. He was safe and content in his life’s purpose.   He was simply Homer Hanuman Ram Dog, and he was doing his job, walking with the boy he loved with all his heart.

 

-The End

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The Boots Blog:  8:00 p.m. Monday:  Houston, We Have a Rollover!

December 24, 2009

 

I began my lonely garage vigil at 7:00 p.m., having heard nary a stir from the garage from the flying feline today.

As I began the usual medley of Jaques Brel songs he loved, guaranteed to bring him running from any hidey-hole de jour, I became slightly panicky when even “Timid Frieda” failed to work its charm.  So I launched into Barbra Streisand and a rollicking rendition of “Funny Girl”.  With the inimitable way I have with “So, waddya gonna do, shoot the shwans, dese lovelies?” I glimpsed one oozy eye followed by a huge ear  growth and a fat black cat waddling out of the darkness, listing slightly to the left.

My heart leapt with joy, but I dared not stop my singing.  I jumped to “Look at that face, that wonderful face!  It shines, it glows, all over the place!” until I realized that Boots was glowering at me for what he righteously considered my hidden sarcasm.

At any rate, he brought his matted, drooling, Quasimoto self to my chair.  I slowly began our nightly ritual of brushing, and he preened and allowed my grooming.  He was getting better!  Boots, never one for hygiene, had the worst buttodah of his adult life (read “butt odor”), and I attempted discretion when I held my breath and avoided his rear area with the brush and God Knows with my hands.

When I finished with his back, he – ROLLED OVER!!!!  If you know Boots, he is like a dog, and will roll over and let you pat his belly.  So, he not only rolled over, I was allowed to brush his belly.  Eventually his nose ran like a faucet with purring pleasure and his good eye gooped gratitude and I whooped and sang and brushed and figure – 8ed my smelly boy with glee and gratitude.  My Boots is better!!!!!  He has decided to re-join the Feline race!!!

As I finished our little nightly ritual, I turned off the lights and held him in my arms.  In the middle of the garage, I sang O Holy Night with all my heart, my fat ugly cat in my arms, happier than I have been in a long, long time.

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 December 19, 2009

I rushed Boots, my 11 year old cat, to the emergency vet on Saturday because he was hiding under the bushes all night, in apparent pain, his eyes wild and crazy.  His left ear was swollen out like a golf ball.  It was soft and felt like a bat’s belly.  I have never felt a bat’s belly, but I absolutely know a bat’s belly would have felt like Boot’s left ear if I could feel a bat’s belly.

The vet told me Boots had a hematoma and recommended surgery.  She aspirated the swelling and found blood, a good thing, she said, because this meant that it was a hematoma.  In my upset (I had to get to my hair appointment), I neglected to ask if this ruled out any underlying condition, like tumors or abscesses.  And I ruled out the surgery, because it cost as much as six hair appointments  And it was mostly cosmetic anyway, and well, those of you who know Boots, I mean, well, really….Cosmetic surgery on a guy who looks like that?

 

We arrived back from the vet, Boots all drooly and goopy eyed, and I let him out in the garage.  When I came back from my hair appointment to give him his pill, he was nowhere to be found.  Nor was he found yesterday (Sunday).  When I finally caught a glimpse of him in the garage, he was bedraggled, unkempt, and he was howling.  He had not eaten for two days, nor had he had water.  He was clearly dying.

My denial and grief took me immediately to childish turnarounds:

  1. His incredible fatness would keep him alive for weeks
  2. It was ‘okay’ that I had overfed my cat.  After all, bringing up three tempestuous girls (Chrissy, Julie, and Lisa) and their incipient eating disorders , coupled with my subsequent Jewish mother tendencies and subsequent frustration over not being able to make them eat, was being gratuitously acted out on my animals.  The fact that Boots had gained over half his body weight in the last two years (from 6 pounds to 13.4 pounds) because of my tendency – nay – downright need –  to overfeed the fellow, was absolutely justified because of my past.  I was a victim of teenage refusal disorder (“TRD”)
  3. If a coyote, God forbid, got the feline, I wanted him to be sated so as not to come back for the other animals.

 

I was inconsolable.  The stupid vet.  She clearly missed the underlying condition.  It was a tumor so hideous I would eventually see my cat look like the Elephant Man.  Or should I say the Elephant Cat?

So, imagine my surprise last night, when in the middle of my hopelessness and grief, as I sat in my encampment in the middle of the garage, the LA Times at my feet, the phone handy, my journal in my hand, wanting to console the Elephant Cat in the last moments, the air was suddenly stirred and the lights actually dimmed by a huge shape – a flying squirrel ??? – and a clatter bang boom! – from the rafters and debris falling all about my feet as I looked up with a blood curdling scream!  BOOTS?!  How could this be?  My cat had reincarnated as a flying squirrel?

No!  It was the cat, Boots!  His ear looked even worse.  Folded in half, propped up by the swollen golf ball, all furry, the translucent bat belly.  His eye was dripping, his nose running, his hair matted.  His eyes were psychotic.  I backed away as the apparition approached.  What demon had possessed the once tranquil cat?

The thing approached the plate of food on the garage floor and slurped up some Fancy Feast on the good side of its mouth. It was eating.  This had to be Boots!  My belly relaxed somewhat!

This morning, I went out into the garage and boxes and old clothing and dust has fallen from the rafters.  He was alive!!!!  More food had been semi-scarfed and slurped!

Boots is alive, not well, his ear is hideous, his eye is goopy, but he managed to eat more food, and I even got a pill down his throat!  Furthermore, I managed to read about cat hematomas, which are not as uncommon as all that, and he will end up with a cauliflower ear, but will probably make it.  I could have done my reading on Saturday, but it was more essential to have my hair done and complain.

Anyway, the important thing is:

My Fat Lump, My Matted Cat, My Cat Who Soars His Heft Through the Air is alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We all have our Christmas miracles, and I wanted you to know about mine.

Love, Boots Mama, and the One Who Longs for the Bat Belly

 

 

 

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