Tuesday, February 19, 2008

EAT, BEG, LOVE - More Musings from the House of the Divine Canine

By Felicia Donovan

A dear friend of mine recently sent me a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s EAT, PRAY, LOVE, which I am devouring for its beautiful and reflective prose. I confess to a twinge of jealousy over the author’s ability to travel on this wonderfully spiritual journey, for I too, have been doing a great deal of self-reflection about my own spirituality of late.

I do not have the ability to travel to the Ashrams of India to study under the loving wisdom of a Guru. I cannot abandon my family for three months to discover the delicacies of Italian pasta, nor would work excuse me to go to Indonesia for four months.

What I have, then, is the House of the Divine Canine – a dwelling that is filled with the spirit of animals who offer me daily glimpses of a holier, more reflective life through their closeness to a more natural world. I share with you some of the spiritual insights I've gained through my observations of this canine world.

The Bow: It begins with the bow, long recognized as a form of supplication and submission to something greater. I watch my dogs bow to each other as an invitation to play; or as a welcoming gesture. It is the human equivalent to the handshake or tip of the hat, simple gestures we have long forgotten to show respect to another person.

The Meal: Unfortunately, our Nation has forgotten how to consume. We remain one of the most obese societies because we forget that food is first and foremost, meant for survival. Look at dogs roaming in the wild and you will rarely ever see an obese dog. Why? Because they eat to survive. They find their food sources and within their own hierarchical structure of alpha, beta, etc; they eat what they can to survive. Is it any wonder that at the same time we are faced with a crisis of obesity amongst humans, we now have the same crisis amongst our domesticated animals?

The Alpha: Dogs understand that there will always be a “top dog” and that this cannot be circumvented. "Alpha" is a title has to be earned. As long as the others respect that title, all is well. When a less dominant dog gets pushy, the alpha pushes right back to reassert itself and all is orderly once again. In the spiritual world, there is almost always a “top dog.” Is it any coincidence that “dog” and “God” are reflections of each other?

The Howl – Is there anything more eerie than the howl of an animal as it reaches deep into its soul and cries out? It is this ability to let go and go deep that we humans have forgotten how to do. I'm not suggesting everyone arch their neck and let out a deep cry, but animals are not shy about their need to cry out and call to others - for help, to make them aware of something, to invite them to gather. It is a part of their social nature. Animals, nor humans, were meant to be solitary creatures.

Finally, I believe my dogs - all animals, in fact, – embody a spirit that transcends what we, as humans, can ever experience and that the animal spirit, in whatever form of divinity it manifests itself as, is ever present. How else can you explain why things are immediately better at the site of a wagging tail or a good lick of the face?

You think I'll ever make it onto Oprah with this dogma?


Mark Combes said...

Yeah, but my neigbor's puppy eats its own feces.....

I'm with ya Felicia. But I approach it more broadly perhaps. I see nature as a sprititual teacher. The world is a magical place if you choose to live magically.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Great post, Felicia. I enjoyed it greatly.

But alas, I receive my training from arrogant cats, whose job it is to keep me humble and at their service.

Nina Wright said...

I worship with you, Felicia!

Hence Abra the Afghan hound.

Thanks for the post. Hug your dogs for me!


Leann Sweeney said...

Great blog, Felicia. But if the dog barks in the forest, does anyone hear him? Especially at night if I'm sleeping yards away? The answer is a resounding, "Damn sure someone hears. Where's my bee bee gun?"

Leann Sweeney, who is currently writing about cats and will steal any and all material related to animals.

Mark Terry said...

Ah yes, my denomination appears to be slightly different, though similar:

Three's A Crowd: As I have a large chocolate Labrador that insists on sleeping with my wife and I, and if he can, right between us, even if that means one of us (me) should get up and leave. And if you're not quick enough to bed, he pick one of your spots and lay down with his head on your pillow.

The Insistent Exerciser: Spoiled? Three walks a day. And if he doesn't get them, he'll pester you to play tug and fetch until you do. (And even if he does get three walks a day, he'll pester you to play tug and fetch until you do).

Barf-o-Rama: For some reason said-dog has a tender tummy, so in the middle of the night a couple times a week (recently, anyway), he's been lurching up from the bed, standing in the middle of the bedroom and vomiting on the floor. Yes, all that is glorious is dog.

What do you mean, your furniture?: If you sit on the couch, he wants up. And will nag until somebody moves and lets him. Even if the 85 lummox is half on your lap. Otherwise, off to the La-Z-Boy, where he is camouflaged.

So It's Not Exactly A Toy: Recently, this 4-year-old puppy has decided if we're not paying enough attention to him, he will find somebody's shoe or sock and thus GET our attention. It typically takes 2 to corner him.

I'm not really sure where the spiritual elements come in.

Keith Raffel said...

I have four children aged 9 to 18. Enough said.

Southern Writer said...

I had a Great Dane for 13 years who taught me everything I know about patience, responsibility, and unconditional love. Now I have cats. They expect less from me.

Beautiful post. You obviously have a lot of Dog wisdom.

Felicia Donovan said...

Mark T. - Sounds like your lab has read "Zen and the Art of Mastering the Master."

We shall continue to worship at their paws and pause to give worship to all things furry!

Leann Sweeney said...

By the way, Felicia, I would never silence a dog. I have my own sweetie-pie mini labradoodle Rosie who loves to torment the cats and give me sloppy kisses.