Last week was another of my "dog days." January 11 --1/11 -- so "Wan, wan, wan," the barking sound of dogs in Japanese. It was a day of especially feeling the presence of dog spirits and a good chance to reflect on my life with dogs, and saying goodbye to the Year of the Dog.
I met many dogs last year. They came and stayed with me for a while while their owners went away. Some came for a day, others for weeks, one even for months. Each brought a little light into my life. They were balm for wounds from the loss of the physical presence of my long time companion dogs still fresh in my heart. Each was a unique creature. I learned to accept each for who they were and received from each, as they gave what they could.
I saw my prejudices, my judgments, my stereotypes. I thought I didn’t like certain dogs even before I met them, because of their size, breed, or color. But each was vulnerable, needy, suddenly feeling abandoned in a strange place with strange people. And I was responsible for their care and well being so I opened my heart and encountered them with beginner’s mind. This led to seeing their beauty that is expressed in such diverse forms.
Each dog one day leaves me. I’m learning to love and let go over and over again. It’s not the deep connection I made with my own dogs, but it’s the kind that we’re called to make more often --our lives touching for a moment, then separating -- loving and letting go. Is anything harder? But experience teaches me that I can do it and learn to attach and not get too attached, to accept loss as inevitable, simply part of life and the price we pay for the joy of connection.