I’ve heard the expression, “When the student is ready the teacher will come.” But I always imagined The Teacher would walk upright, instead of on four not-so-furry paws. In this fast-food-fix-it-now dream state that plagues our media minds, I was blessed to be shown firsthand what it means to live and die in the moment by my beloved dog.
Bella was remarkable to look at. She was a Xoloitzcuintle, an ancient long forgotten breed of hairless dog. Over the years she had been such a tangible comfort to me when my own healing journey found me trapped in the web of pain and panic. In the fall I left my career of 23 years due to illness. At this same time, Bella developed cancer at age 13. There are, as you might imagine, lots of details of medical care and options, measures tried and decisions that were made along the way. But this was Bella’s journey and it quickly became clear that she was going to teach us about life, death and healing.
As blessings come to us in time of need, we learned about a “home vet” who would make house calls, which was much needed since I was not leaving home due to my own dis-ease. He explained to us that it was a very aggressive malignant cancer and told us what signs to look for that would help us make a difficult decision when it came time to phone him again for the final visit.
The tumors were hard-hitting as they would double in size each week. There were external lesions that needed daily bandages and the subcutaneous masses were horrific. It was easy to see why people put down their pets at the first word of cancer, because the process of death and dying is so foreign to our culture. Yet I was determined to do this Bella’s way. Each day as she wagged her tail and could still walk and run where she please, I knew that my job was to accept and allow her to be.
At times the mental stories were so heavy both with my own loss and the prospect of Bella’s passing. I would cry even during my sitting meditation with mind noise of pain and suffering. It was then; this warm creature would sit right in front of my face and look deeply at me with those black marble eyes as if to transmit “I am HERE. Why do you mourn my death when I am sitting right in front of you NOW?” Bella’s ability to be present in the moment without being trapped by her declining health was inspirational. I saw no fear in her eyes, no regrets on goals unfulfilled, no depression at a life coming to an end. What was there was peace filled silence enough to fill a room with emptiness.
Through unexpected and rare circumstances we came in contact with a rescue Xolo who needed a home. She was a puppy (6 months old) and while I would never have thought to bring in another dog during these last days, the universe had other plans. The over exuberant puppy broke the stillness in our Zen home and quickly got on everyone’s overstressed nerves. Everyone, but Bella … who showed an amazing compassion and tolerance for the awkward squawk-box. The puppy came to us with the name “Dolly” which we knew we would change when we had a chance to integrate her into our family. We have one more rescue Xolo, Taco (yes, we loved to call out to them “Taco Bell!” come here girls) who would have nothing to do with the annoying runt. Our hairless cat was long in hiding and even my children thought this nipping wild creature was a bit much to handle. But Bella did not seem fazed. I would try and get my other dog to help with some of the training, like showing the puppy how to use the dog door … but it was Bella who insisted on coming down the stairs and showing the puppy herself how everything worked. To see this old girl with heavy tumors still amble around the house as she watched over the puppy was remarkable.
One Sunday I had a terrible body flare (not uncommon, just a particularly nasty and long episode). Bella came to sit by my side and then the puppy came into the room. Bella moved to my back and leaned her weight into my body as I sat upright. The puppy then jumped up on the bed and this little creature that had not stopped bounding off the walls since she came in to our home that week crept into my lap and pressed herself against my chest. For two hours the dogs stayed with me, pressed against my body. I realize now, it was Bella passing the Dharma on to the little dog.
That night, Bella came to wake me at midnight. Her body was done and she began to vomit. She wanted to be held and she wanted peace in her passing. I knew I’d need to make the call to the Vet in the morning. My first instinct was to react in fear for my own failings (What if I panic and can’t handle it? What if my own pain is too great? What am I going to do?) Once again Bella caught my eyes and there was a calm that came over my body. I looked down and I could see this shimmering light on the back of my hand. I looked at Bella’s body and saw the same shimmering light. Then I looked across the moonlit room and saw the Ficus Tree in the corner … it was also shimmering with this incandescent flicker. In that moment it was very clear. There was no separation. We were all the same light. There was only The One and everything was peace filled and still.
The same sense of peace stayed with me for the next 12 hours as I tended to Bella’s immediate needs. When the Vet came to our home, I had Tibetan chimes and chants for my old girl. While I had imagined a simple dignified passing, Bella continued to teach me acceptance until her last breath – which came THREE injections later — all the while her dark eyes focused on mine; letting me know everything was OK.
In the fairy tale ending, the Satori would have resulted in my own complete healing and the sense of stillness and unity would have stayed with me unending. But as with all experiences it was impermeant which after all was what Bella was teaching me all along.
As for the puppy, after Bella passed the transmission on to her it became clear to us that her name was indeed “Dolly” as in Dalia Lama. And as you might expect Dalia continues where Bella left off teaching me more and more what it is to be awake.
Copyright, CoolKarma.Com 2007