Two new Zen Masters came to town last Saturday. They are Kazuo and Yuki of Imminent Death School of Canine Zen.
Along with their three siblings, Kaz and Yuki (originally named Riggs and Riley) were slated for being gassed to death at a kill shelter north of Montreal. I can’t quite get my head around the oxymoron of putting the words kill and shelter side by side but there you have it. With 24 hours to extermination, Friendly Giants Dog Rescue managed to “pull” them from the shelter by convincing the shelter the pups would be picked up 48 hrs past their expiration date. FGDR is a non-profit community of people who care deeply about the abandonment, neglect and rate of kill in shelters where pets or progeny of unexpected encounters between non-neutered/spayed dogs are frequently abandoned.
I don’t know how they do it. I can’t even watch Hollywood-whitewashed movies about animals without dissolving into a blubbering mess. And the Japanese original version of the story of Hachiko? Let’s just say I refused to re-name Riggs as Hachiko or even Hachiro because I’d end up sobbing if anyone asked me what it meant. So I designed a psychological hardening program that had me lurking on various dog rescue facebook sites. For a while it all showed up on my new stream but that was too much like flooding myself into empathy overload. So I made a vow each morning to check in on each site and just bear witness for a few months.
There is something about the vulnerable sentients that should pierce into each of our hearts. It should activate and energize stepping into this cycle of life and death. But there are so many and Frank tries to reassure me that not all can be saved. To which I counter, why not? And the deeper question is how? How can we save all beings without frying our empathy circuits and frazzling our compassion networks?
Bernie Glassman is fond of pointing out that unless we take the time to bear witness and sit with not knowing, compassionate action is not possible. It will not arise; instead what arises is ego-ladened and more likely to do harm than good.
And so it happened, one day, quietly, without fanfare. I sent an email asking about Riggs. The adoption form seemed to fill itself and the background check (yes they are that thorough) didn’t reveal that I once had to have rabies shots. (Not to worry; no one I’ve ever bitten has hung around to complain.) We made all the arrangements and the boys arrived last Saturday.
Yes. The Boys. Plural. I have no excuse other than to say the idea of being alone, without companionship, pierces more than the idea of physical death.
Meet Kazuo: And Yuki:
It’s quite the challenge to take on two 12-week old puppies of uncertain lineage – other than Large or Giant. And apparently, our home is not quite puppy-proof; at least the boot rack and boots aren’t. However, we seem to have fallen into a sesshin-like schedule and there is something powerful that arises when our focus is beyond our self-weighted needs.
These little guys have taught me a lot in the last seven days of Puppy Sesshin: Entering the heart of equanimity and harmony. I’ll do my best to transcribe their talks (played on souped-up woofers) and pass them along for your enlightenment.
In the meantime, enjoy the fur creatures in your life. Oh and… get over to the various dog/cat/rat/all beings large and small rescues to help, donate, offer your professional services. Whatever you have. It all counts. And it all matters.