Life with dogs in Manhattan - How three dogs are my best teachers. September 18 2013, 1 Comment
I own three dogs, Bunny, Chippy and Oopla. Living in New York this usually warrants people to ask me "how do I do it?" This question doesn't really make sense to me, it infers that dog ownership is work. Perhaps to them, but quite the contrary to me. I have such appreciation for the unconditional love that I get from my three, that it is my honor to care for them. Work no, love yes.
More often than not, I get mistaken for being a dog walker. My response is "No, they're all mine, I'm one shy of being a hoarder." Truthfully, I'd really like another, there's so much to learn from them. Sometimes our best teachers are not human...
Chippy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel teaches me eternal optimism and forgiveness. The latter being the hardest for me given my prior stance of "off with your head" should I have been wronged.
Upon meeting another dog, Chippy always wags his tail enthusiastically, eyes wide in anticipation of a friendly exchange. Waiting patiently to be approached, Chippy is not one to force the issue, he lets the other dog initiate. When successful, his tail helicopters. On the occasion that he is ignored, his gaze follows the dog leaving, tail still wagging, albeit slower. I can almost hear him thinking "next time...."
His ability for forgiveness amazes and inspires me. Unfortunately he had to suffer terribly for me to learn this.
Before Oopla had come into my life, I was out with Bunny and Chippy down by the Hudson River. There's a strip there that I fondly refer to as "the beach". When the tide is low, an area of sand becomes available for frolic, fetch and surf chasing. It was there, one day, that a young woman and her off leash Pit Bull stopped by. I asked if her dog was friendly, to which she responded indeed he was. I chose to believe her. In moments, her dog violently attacked Chippy with clear intent to kill. As the owner started to kick her dog, inciting it further, I didn't hesitate. Crouching down to eye level, my face inches from the Pit, I tried desperately and unsuccessfully to pry its jaws from Chippy's throat. Everything was happening so quickly, but there was a moment when, because of loose skin, fur and an ear, the Pit loosened it's bite to get a better grip. It was this fraction of a second that I shoved my hand into its mouth, freeing Chippy. I changed my open hand into a fist and pushed hard against the dog's throat. This caused it to gag and I pulled my unscathed hand to safety. The owner leashed her dog and was speaking, but I could not hear her words over the sound of my beating heart. I looked down at Chippy, still laying flat on the ground, blood all over his neck and ears. He looked at me, eyes so wide, it broke my heart to see him suffer. I was filled with rage and resentment to the owner, her dog and the breed. The dog was still standing over us, Chippy raised his eyes to it and wagged his tail.
Bunny, a Miniature Dachshund, brings many things, but what stands out the most is her passion and persistence and both of them combined. I can only aspire to have her immense determination and pride in what she does. Whether it be a hole in the ground (and what lurks within), a dot on the wall, a pebble in a pool of water, a blade of grass in the wind or a squirrel in a tree. Bunny's ability to focus on the goal at hand and truly believe that whatever it is, it will be accomplished. Nothing will sway her, her passion and desire are evident, as well as her ability to truly live in the moment. An unending example of how to focus and to act, no matter what, you can always get what you work hard for, all you have to do, is believe. A quote by the Dalai Lama comes to mind "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito."
Oopla is a stray from Panama. When I got her, she was malnourished, mistrustful and afraid. A healthy diet transformed her skin and her coat to a healthy shine along with a significant weight gain.
Because she knows where she came from, and that she knows what suffering is, her gratitude and joy for life is unceasing. She prefers to be off leash, I believe because she feels that she could escape if in a threatening situation. I live in New York and must abide by the leash laws. When the opportunity arises and she can run free, her joy is palpable. One also to take risks, Oopla will never second guess herself. Pouring her heart into any challenge as if her life depended upon it. In the moment that others might pause, Oopla throws herself into the unknown without so much as a thought of how things could go wrong. Because, in her heart, she knows that they won't.
Watching her leap off the ground and pause in mid air like a deer, reminds me of Tigger. This always puts a huge smile on my face and in my heart. She'll do this, it seems, for no apparent reason other than that of for the sheer joy of being alive.
When we all curl up together to go to sleep (yes , they sleep in my bed) I look at them and thank them for all that they are teaching me. How lucky I am to be in their World.