My Dog, My Teacher

This fall, sixteen women have embarked upon WWFaC’s 2015 Conscious Feminine Leadership Training. Speaking for myself, I seek to better understand, embody, and manifest the open-hearted, truth-telling, community-building principles of the conscious feminine in my world.

As a group, I can say that we are finding the journey transformative, as individuals, as women growing in our understanding of and capacity for leadership, and as members of a vast network of overlapping and far-reaching relationships. So many new ideas, new learnings, and new friendships are being discovered and developed within this spectacular, surprising group of seeking women.

Much of our reading has emphasized important characteristics of solid, healthy relationships—reciprocity, being able to both receive and give equally in our healing, sharing, caretaking relationships; remaining clear-, full- and open-hearted; telling the truth without judgement or blame; being radically present to ourselves and others; always bringing our authentic selves into interaction.

I have not been alone in pursuing new “laboratories” for exploring the workings of relationships. One friend, not even part of this training group, has had a recent breakthrough in deciding to use her toxic workplace as a personal laboratory for her renewed spiritual practices. However, since I have been spending a lot of time alone recently, reading, writing, chipping away at a backlog of small (and large) tasks that I haven’t been able to tackle for some months, my new “relationship laboratory” opportunity wasn’t immediately clear to me.

And then it dawned on me: Lupin, our new-within-the-last-few-months shelter dog, almost certainly abused, afraid of everything and hence a fierce barker at almost everything, and the fastest, most athletic dog I have known personally, is an ideal “lab” for me (he’s not a Lab). Just as I learned long ago with my toddlers, if I am not fully present to him, and he needs my attention, he starts to bite playfully at my hands, whine, ask for inappropriate attention, create minor mayhem if he can’t get me to notice any other way. Home together for long hours, our relationship, presumably one of master/mistress and pet, can bear my being barely present to him for only so long.

When I bring my full self to him, on the other hand, and we go out into the sun to play, and I throw the ball for him, he chases it joyfully, easily running past it to field it from the far side, and turns back to me in a big, graceful, looping arc to run past me, and field me from the other direction; my heart immediately soars, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t bring him out sooner, or let him bring me out, sooner, more often, more…. Whatever attention I turn toward him is returned to me in such full measure: walking, he calls my attention to so many little things, makes certain I notice every tiny moving creature anywhere in our vicinity; lying on the back edge of the sofa (he is that small, and can even sleep balancing up there, with limbs drooping down, but not interfering with his balance), he patiently waits, follows my every move with his eyes, always ready to meet any attention I offer with his radically present, infailingly authentic self. My dog, my friend, my teacher.

Mary Peckham for The Poplar Grove Muse

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