Unexpected Spiritual Teachers


Our girl turned 13 this week and our family of three celebrated big: Science Diet beef stew with carrots and peas followed by popcorn topped with hot dogs (two of her favorite things) and a funfetti bone for dessert.  All week I’ve been smiling a lot because of the party. Dory has been farting a lot because of it.

For those of you who don’t know, Dory is my step dog.  Richie had her for 9 years pre-Kate, and when Dory and I first met it was touch and go at best. A little back story...

I’ve always liked dogs, but I would’ve never described myself as a “dog person” per se.  My family had two growing up: Otis and then Sweet Pea. I loved both of them very much, but when I set off on my own, I wasn’t in any rush to get a pet.  I didn’t want to be tied down. And then there’s all that fur. The smells.

Enter Dory, the dog whose namesake is the scatterbrained Pixar fish.  She was nine when we first met, but judging by her energy level at the time, you could’ve guessed she was three.  To me, she just seemed like alot. (I know, I sound like a wicked stepmother.  But there was no love loss on her end either.)

Despite our hesitations, after we moved in together we became fast friends.  Now, I can’t go to another room in the house without her 3 steps behind me. She sprawls at my feet while I meditate.  She stands watch as I work and occasionally will sneak her nose under my arm while I type. I hate to admit this, but she even curls on the bath mat while I read in the tub.

Of course there’s still things that frustrate me, like how her pacing across the wood floors of our raised house sounds like an endless tap dance routine; how we have to “Dory-proof” the house with TV trays on the sofa and books on all the chairs anytime we leave; how she scratches at the back door to go out only to scratch as soon as the door closes to come back in (why does she do this?!)

But despite these small annoyances, this girl has become one of my greatest spiritual teachers.

She reminds me every day what unconditional love is.  

She reminds me to greet each new day as a new day.  Yesterday is gone.  Bring a heart full of love into this one and celebrate the gift that you have another.

She reminds me to let go and forgive.  I could angrily scold her for sneaking into the bathroom trash cans AGAIN, and 2 minutes later she’s walking toward me tail wagging.  She holds no grudges.

And finally, she reminds me to stop trying so hard. She reminds me to slow down.  To take naps. To play. To be kinder and gentler with myself. She reminds me of the first few lines of Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem, “Wild Geese”

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves...

Dory, here’s to you, my girl.  I’m so grateful for your sweet soul.

Who are your greatest teachers?

Does she have fur?  Does he sing on your windowsill in the morning? Does it grow in your garden?  Do they make you laugh at the dinner table because of their simple and surprising wisdom?  

Take a minute to think about it, then say a silent word of thanks.  Or, throw them a party! I have a great recipe for a popcorn and hotdog dish...