October 28, 2010

Dog? (MDIV 555)

We have moved from Jack Kornfield's book to Chogyam Trungpa's Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior.

Journal for October 26, 2010

I have always struggled with Trungpa. Quite aside from the wild tales of the man himself or the odd results sometimes observed among his followers, I find more than enough to quibble with in his books. Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior was the first I read, and one of my earliest dharma books. I remember thinking to myself as I read it, “Well, that sounds good,” but somehow it never really sunk in and I have remained skeptical. (Big surprise.)

For this reason, I’m not going to discuss this book in these journals. I know myself well enough to realize I can be very critical, sometimes to an unwarranted degree. It is an aspect of my personality enhanced by formal education. Architecture is a very critical profession. Often enough, that comes in handy in other areas of life, but in some places it is simply habit.

Instead, I’m going to try a new tack entirely and write about a decision I’m contemplating. I’m thinking of getting a dog. It may sound frivolous, but it is a large decision given the uncertainty of my future. Animals are very important to me. They are some of my best teachers and have facilitated my growth as a human being, morally and spiritually. Though my intellect tells me it is unlikely, experience often seems to indicate they are little buddhas in fur coats.

As a young child, we had a shaggy white mutt named Andy and a sour calico cat called Joker. When my parents’ business failed and we moved back to Nebraska from South Dakota, they couldn’t come with us. We moved from a big old house in a small town to a small apartment in a big city just before I began kindergarten. I missed them. In many years we had only guinea pigs. Mine was named Frizzle, because she had curly hair. Sometimes we had baby pigs to give away. Sometimes they died.

Just before sixth grade we finally got dogs again. Because my brother and I fought over everything, we each got a dog. Mine was a shaggy grey mutt named Jordon. Brandon got a small white miniature poodle called Benjamin. Our mother was a rancher’s daughter who grew up training horses and working with cattle dogs. She took us immediately to 4-H for obedience classes. Turned out Brandon wasn’t a dog person, but I was. In the end, I had Jordon and Jordon had Benjamin. They both slept in my bed. In our home we didn’t have pets, we had fur-people.

Two years later, my close friend Christine brought my mother a small black kitten as a Mother’s Day present. Dad hadn’t wanted a cat, but couldn’t get out of it when Mom insisted it was a gift. (Prearranged, but a gift nonetheless.) Dad sulked for two weeks, but in the end, even he enjoyed having Spook around. Benjamin and Spook were about the same size and used to play together. They were great friends. Since I was eleven years old, those critters were my best friends and my greatest responsibility. I still relate better to dogs than people. When I visit peoples’ homes, their kids remind me of things my dogs would do, but I’ve learned the parents don’t usually appreciate the characterization.

Benjamin died unexpectedly of kidney failure at the age of fourteen. I held Jordon in my arms and felt his heart stop beating as the overdose of anesthesia was injected when he was fifteen and a half, mostly deaf, mostly blind, entirely senile, and suffering from horrible arthritis. But he was still my dog and I cried. That was five years ago.

I have a cat, Isis. She is very small and very noisy and a constant source of amusement, but I miss dogs. They were probably the first animal to be domesticated and have a better understanding of human communication, words, gestures, and tone, than even our closest primate cousins. Now I need to decide if it is time to get a dog. I have a house here with a small yard, but it will complicate things when I inevitably move elsewhere. Giving them away is not an option. I take such commitments and responsibilities seriously.

I have wanted a dog for five years, but I’ve managed not to listen to that urge. I’m in college. I figured one day that would change, but as I’ve decided to pursue a PhD track, that one day seems much further away and far too long to wait. However, now that I’m here, that desire has grown stronger, but I have to wonder if it isn’t taking the place of something else. I don’t like it here. I miss Nebraska. Heck, I miss where I lived in Boulder as compared to here. I miss the tent I had during the summer I worked at Shambhala Mountain Center. I felt more comfortable there. I don’t feel at home here and I wonder if I’m thinking of getting a dog as a consolation prize, to try to make this place home. I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing. And I recognize the commitment required.

I’m just wondering, would it work?

1 comment:

John said...

A dog sounds like a glorious "complication." I see no reason to put off being happy. I vote yes.