Lessons from an old dog

“Lessons from an old dog”
Moses was my rescue mutt from Alabama who lived to be 17. That means, I was fortunate enough to still be with my 112 year old dog.  He was my longest-running relationship, room mate and
companion to date so I thought I’d share some valuable “Life Tips from Moses” with any who could use them. As Moses experienced his old age, his personality also started changing, almost as if his internal compass shifted and he was uncannily aware that his days were more precious, his time more limited and he was doing his dog-gy dog-gone-est to make the most of what he had left.  If Moses could speak, here is what he would want us to know to make the best of the “dog days of life”:
Keep close to your loved ones – I was always been Mosie’s “alpha dog” and he would loyally follows me around to the ends of the Earth or the house. But near the end, he was literally my shadow every moment we would occupy the same space.  He was no longer satisfied to stay in his own bed at night and insisted in being in my room, right under my side of the bed.  In other words, he didn’t accept my limitations on our togetherness any more; closeness is what he wanted and he fought for it.  If you want more connection to someone you love, what could you to keep them closer?  
Take Risks when the Reward is Worth It -“Old” Moses lost all of his manners.  If we would open a cabinet, his nose was literally in the drawer sniffing out a treat.  In doing so, he risked an inadvertant head slam to get that bacon bite.  When we would come home, hewould be snoring away on the leather couch which was always forbidden territory.  Once his cataract-covered eyes would focus enough to realize he was busted, he still wouldn’t move but would just smile his old man grin.  Moses wanted what he wanted and he wasn’t apologetic about it – he made his needs known at every opportunity and indulged in comfort, luxury and simple forbidden pleasures.  What could you do more of to indulge yourself? How are you letting others know about your needs? What risk might you take where the reward is just WORTH IT?
Don’t RUSH through the Good Stuff – Moses used to not move an inch if he was mid-sniff on a walk and he had a good smell going down.  I could be missing a train and he would just let me pull his collar (“Life is Good” it says…a well-worn motto)off his neck before he moved from that spot.  If he was eating and enjoying his meal, he started to walk away to save some for later.  Sometimes he would even take his food out of his dish and move it into the dining room.  He was NOT going to be in a hurry for anyone, anywhere.  Where could you SLOW DOWN in your day of action to savor the present? What changes could you allow in your routine that make room for a slower pace?  If you are busy, could you schedule some unstructured time to just see what smells good?
Don’t Let the Bullies Get You Down –“Oso” was the cujo-like barking maniac dog next door who was always fenced in his backyard next door ALL DAY LONG.  I would be angry too but Oso had a sharp bark, a scary glint in his green eyes and appears ferocious.  He bullied Moses since we moved in and was as intimidating as possible when our elder dog would be cruising in and out of our backyard.  Toward his final days, Mosie would walk right up to the fence, perk up his ears, wag his tail and shout back a hoarse bark right back at Oso.  That was new.  That was Moses “using his voice” (or what was left of it) to say “I”m here, I hear you and your problem isn’t mine.”  It could also be called the art of detachment and standing up for oneself.   My grandmother (from the Deep South) had a saying when we’d misbehave, she’d cuddle us into her enormous bosom and coo “Bless It, Bless It”. Those words of acceptance and forgiveness have become my family’s refrain when one of us does something annoying to the rest of us.  In times of frustration, it helps to utter them to ourselves and to each other as if to say “thanks for all of it”; even the prickly bits that are more of a challenge to live with.  Every day I had the blessing to be with Moses, I was saying “Bless It, Bless It” and honor my faithful friend, protector and dearly loved prince of dogs.  So, think about “Wisdom from Moses” as you live out your days ahead and bless every bit of it and those whom you love on this earth.

Plum Blossom Courage

Plum Blossom Courage

(excerpt taken from two wise teachers, Gay & Katie Hendricks and their book “The Conscious Heart”)

Sometimes relationship learning does not come easily or without a tremendous amount of pain. At any given moment, the choice always placed before us is to open ourselves up to love and learning or withdraw from it. The more gentle, honest and committed we are with loving ourselves the more whole we may feel with loving others. Some of the most valuable learning imaginable occurs when committed people in relationship continue to allow for new discoveries and lead with appreciation.

“Zen masters speak of the development of plum- blossom courage. The plum blossom appears soft and glowing, even when winter winds still blow. It knows, deep in its essence, that spring is almost

here, even without outside agreement. The plum blossom symbolizes the resilience of the human spirit, its ability to open again to love and to go forward into another opportunity for celebration.
In close relationships, we gradually develop plum- blossom courage through coming back, time and again to fundamental skills like telling the truth, taking responsibility, and holding ourselves and our significant others in a space of loving acceptance.

There is no better place to practice all this than right where we are, every moment of every day: in relationship with our own hearts and souls, and with the hearts and souls of people around us. This with the hearts and souls of people around us. This “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste is why close relationships open the conscious heart.”

Come explore in a group or workshop this fall all of the possibilities to deepen your plum-blossom courage. Sharpen your skills for truth telling, taking responsibility and move towards greater self awareness & acceptance.

Sincerely, Sydney