“We are ultimately not separate, not from one another nor from any living thing — the flower, the tree, the cat, the dog. You can sense yourself in them, the essence of who you are.” — Eckhart Tolle, Guardians of Being
Spiritual enlightenment pops up in the unlikeliest of places, which is a good thing since I don’t go to church. Today it happened at the vet clinic, where I had taken my dog for blood work as part of our ongoing efforts to control the seizures he’s had for nine years.
A tall, good-looking man dressed for the office was there with his boxer, who was scheduled to have surgery. The boxer was tall like his owner (I don’t like the term “owner”, but “dad” would be too confusing here), greying a bit around the muzzle (the owner was not grey yet). Both the dog and his man had open, friendly demeanors.
Owner: I’ve got his bag here. It has his blanket and his harness. The medications are also there. I gave him his heart medication like the directions said.
Staff: Great. Is he allergic to any medications? Has he ever been aggressive towards humans? Other dogs?
No, no, and no.
The owner’s tie was thrown over his shoulder–clearly part of his morning ritual to protect his clothes, or at least the silk accessory, from the gooey mess that dripped from his dog’s mouth. The man ignored the glob of slobber on his pant leg.
The technician came for the boxer. The man pulled his dog to him, taking the pointy ears in his hands and bringing their foreheads together in a Vulcan mind-meld. I do this with my dog all the time, so I know what’s going on there. You’re connecting your spirits. You’re caressing like the Conehead family in the old Saturday Night Live skit. Dogs are good at this.
But then the man started weeping and I turned away, feeling the tears welling in my own eyes. I concentrated on paying my bill. The staff tried to look busy. The man pulled himself together after a few minutes, wiped his eyes, said goodbye.
How is it that human emotion is so deeply connected to the well-being of our pets? What accounts for the bond when no dialogue is shared? An emotional bond so deep it can bring a 6’2″ man in a suit to his knees. I feel it every day with my own dog.
There is spirit in there, the same shared spirit that connects all life forms regardless of what shape they take–two legs or four, fins, feathers or fur (even forests and flowers). It’s why after death a body is so clearly empty, just a discarded package, an empty hermit crab shell. I’ve seen it with animals. I’ve seen it with people.
And yes, my dog’s name happens to be Spirit, though we named him before I became conscious of my spiritual journey. In fact, we named him Spirit to lift our spirits in the aftermath of 9/11, though my young sons–5 and 3 at the time–also liked the ghost-connotation of the name for our new white puppy. They were on target from the get-go.