Welcome to Walking Dogs, Sitting with Cats, the Buddha Nature of Animals

Photo: My dog Yogi five years ago at Ft. De Soto Dog Beach

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d, I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition

March 2018

A year ago I started this project and only now have I returned. In part, this was because I found this passage about dogs by Whitman when I  picked up a book about Animals as Healers. My writer’s block vanished and I knew I needed to write about my magical four-legged companions again. Sometimes that may include the finned or feathered among us also.

I want to be like a dog or cat or dolphin. I think observing them carefully will help me with my Buddhist practice to become a better and happier human being. I am already happily not respectable, as Whitman said dogs are, but as for the rest, I have a ways to go.

Mahatma Gandhi said that we can judge a nation by how it treats its animals, not just its people. I think it may be that he said that because he, like Buddha, like Native Americans, like indigenous people around the world and their shamans share the knowledge of who we really are: a part of all that exists on the earth. Dogs and cats are often considered family because, in fact, they are our relatives in the larger scheme of things.


March 2017

Today marks the day I am beginning my new blog posts about adventures in pet-sitting. I will post about the places and the personalities and proclivities of the dogs, cats and people I meet as a part-time pet-sitter. Here we go!

I am staying for seventeen days with a dog , Brutus, who lives on Snell Isle in St. Petersburg. This dog has very nice, well-to-do parents who are generous and kind to me because I love Brutus, their lab mix.

Most distinct about Brutus are his large expressive eyes and his “figure” which is blocky with only a slight indentation of a “waist.” It’s been hard to find the halter that would fit him comfortably, but I got one for him for Christmas.

I’m often here at the condo complex called “The Water Club” because Sally and John  are frequent travelers. The complex features a water view of the bay, a pool and a hot tub. My brother said I should pay them. for letting me stay here. I have nicknamed this place “the resort” and my friends know where I will be when I say “I’ll be sitting Brutus at the resort.” This is a lifestyle I am not accustomed to. People who live on Snell Isle are accustomed to this lifestyle. Sometimes it feels too Republican-seeming for me and I chafe at the correctness of the place with its tortured landscaping. I identify with the house cleaner more than the residents.

On our walk this morning, we encountered an old British woman. There’s something so charming about old British women. Think Miss Marple and other old lady detectives. I don’t see this charm in many old American women (of which I am one). Something about the plain gray skirt and cardigan she wore, her white blouse, her visibly sagging breasts all added up to an unpretentious, yet dignified, sense of comfort. She seemed comfortable in her skin. Like Brutus.



Quantum Mechanics, Cubism and the Myth of Self

Picasso saw
the blue in the horse
and the scientist agreed:
yes, blue is in the horse,
if you look beyond muscle and haunch
the same blue in our veins
which are filled
with salty water
that first fell as a translucent raindrop
on a blade of grass
until one drop led to another
to fill a bucket, then a lake
then the blue ocean
and back home to the sky
to a cloud it once was
until it gathered again to fall like a curtain
over the land
and looked like a river
for a century or so.
(A river has a body longer than you and I).

Picasso knew
we are not solid
not set in stone
he drew the truth
to show the space we are
not static, lifeless, deathless statuary
our arms and heads and eyes
quantum bits and pieces
fired up by the unseen,
unknowable mystery of our breath.

Welcome to Walking Dogs, Sitting with Cats, the Buddha Nature of Animals

Walking with Dogs, Sitting with Cats

Photo: My dog Yogi five years ago at Ft. De Soto Dog Beach

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d, I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God, Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition

March 2018

A year ago I started this project and only now have I returned. In part, this was because I found this passage about dogs by Whitman when I  picked…

View original post 492 more words

Poem for Hard Times

Look for the peacemakers,
a wise man once said
Look, he said
in the midst of horror
for the kindness
the gentle eyes
how they always
appear to hold your hand
or Great Spirits

Look to the soft eyes of a dog

Head on your lap

creating, sharing your stillness.

Turn away from
the dead-eyed
killed by
their fear
leave them pitied
pitied eave them.

Listen to
the songs and singers
never silenced
by the water hoses
or bombs
only sung louder, sweeter

Watch for
the dancers
who bend but never break
who fly free as birds
free at last
Listen to
the storytellers
who sit around the fire
among the ruins
telling tales
of treasures most sought
and freely shared
at no cost, no cost
to anyone

See the beloved with open arms
opening their doors
stretched beyond their own kin
to embrace us all
like family

They are here, there, everywhere
They are never far
They are
They are.
They have always been.
They will always be
the peacemakers
hope givers
truth tellers.
Look up
just look up
there and there and there
they are carrying
you and me
to the promise

of peace.


Yoga and Meditation at Meeko’s


When the temperature drops to the 60’s in Florida, we put on our long pants to do yoga. The hardy among us remains barefooted.  I prefer this weather to the humid summer to come.

My Buddhism teacher has said that preferences are a cause of suffering. I believe him. Many things don’t go my way and I don’t like it.

I often dog sit and I am back with Meeko, the American Eskimo dog. The inside of my car looks like I live in it.  I bring stuff to Meeko’s house and take stuff back, the same with three other dogs I care for in their homes. Consequently, I leave stuff in the car between dog visits. You never know if I might need the rolled up hammock or the pint-size cooler. And that sweater and red skirt for when I have to teach. A fleece remains in the back seat because some dog owners like the AC turned up to frigid. I need my textbooks too; my other job is as an adjunct instructor of writing. Let’s just say, the backseat is not a minimalists dream, and I would prefer it did.

When I dog sit, I gravitate to whatever outdoor areas of the property. It’s another preference. This is why I do my yoga this morning on the beige cement patio behind Meeko’s house. The air is dry and cool, the sun plays with the wind, makes shadows of tree leaves on the patio.  The scent of burning wood drifts past since it is cool enough for fireplaces. I feel satisfied because things are as I prefer them to be. For now. Herein lies the problem: I am not suffering because I have my way, but as soon as I don’t…It’s human nature. Notice I say, human, not Buddha nature. I am told we all have Buddha nature but most of us are not aware of it. I’m trying to find it in myself because I would like to live in a preference-free zone. It’s unlikely I ever will, but it’s a better goal than trying to lose ten pounds.

I’ve noticed the preferences of the dogs I’ve met. Although, in the case of dogs, preferences are not of the ego, like ours; they seem more breed-driven. Meeko, unlike some dogs, isn’t interested in the fact that I am at ground level as I do yoga on a mat. Other dogs would immediately pounce on my chest to join in the game, or crawl under the bridge I make with downward dog pose. At those times, I usually give up the yoga “game”  much to their disappointment. Meeko is much more interested in flying bugs, squirrels running along the fence and humans who dare walk by and have the nerve to walk with a dog. Meeko goes ballistic with squirrels and other moving things.  I read that American Eskimo dogs are bright, quick-witted, loyal and good watchdogs. Bingo. he is all that. You’ll catch his full attention if you try to break into his house. Meeko watches more than other dogs. He watches everything, all the time. His bright dark eyes are only heavy-lidded after a day of watching. His upright ears, like a little fox’s, lie back only when he is puzzled, like when I tell him he can’t just stand on my stomach as long as he wants.

When I sit to meditate on the mat, he comes over for some petting. I use this moment to be mindful of his soft, snowy white fur. It’s part of my meditation. My preference might be to be uninterrupted, but when I dog sit, I let go of preferences like that. I can’t explain “later” to a dog.

I’m thinking about preferences today. Meeko’s versus other dogs. Mine, versus other people’s. It’s easy to notice someone’s preferences when you come to their homes. For example, Meeko’s mom doesn’t use the back patio and may be surprised that I spend time in an area she considers Meeko’s bathroom. She is more of an indoor person than I. But the area is big enough that, fortunately,  I’m not aware of any unpleasant smells.

If you were to dog sit at my apartment you would see pictures of the outdoors, mostly scenes of water, trees, and birds.  A white wooden Buddha, the size of a big book, sits on a table under a mirror. There are a few pictures of dogs who shared my life.  One is a myself with my arms around a friend’s grandkids who became my pals.  Another is me at age six holding a little blonde boy’s hand another is of my brother with my dog, Yogi, taken at a scenic spot of a mountain near Asheville, North Carolina. I was still youngish (early 50’s) and cuter than I realized. If you looked at the pictures and photos you would notice though that I’m single and have more luck with dogs than men. Also, I don’t care to have many photos of my dog family or friends and family.  The past only makes me sad because the good times are gone. I spend too much time in the past as it is. Buddhism teaches me to stay in the present and when I do, it’s better for me.

Others people I dog sit for prefer photos of their families everywhere in their homes. On each wall, several on tables in each room. In one family everybody just got married by the looks of the various wedding photos. Their families are the center of their lives, as animals,  nature and Buddhism are to mine. Just preferences. Yet we base our identities upon them. Meeko prefers to watch; Brutus prefers bouncing small balls off his nose or standing in water; Paco needs to be on someone’s lap as often as possible, Snickers loves to chew things to smithereens. Preferences. My old boyfriends preferred blondes or long, dark straight hair when I had neither. Sometimes we think we can make an outdoors person into an indoors person. I wanted sober. He wanted drunk.  He wanted perfection. I wanted acceptance. He wanted to be taken care of. I didn’t want to be his mother. That kind of thing.

You say potato, I say tomato. This often makes people part and dogs put up for adoption. I have been more accepting of my dog’s preferences than of my old boyfriends. It’s one of the reasons I’m single, I’m afraid. I was never able to be an outside person with an indoor person.  And the guys I was with had the same problem.

I admire those of you who have the kind of love that allows you each your preferences enough to stick with it and through it. May you continue to be so blessed!

Breakfast with Meeko


This morning I made a big mistake. Much smaller than anything that matters, fortunately, but it ended up with Meeko winning.

I made two slices of toast covered with peanut butter and jelly. I was hungry and out of my cereal. I was looking forward to that toast. I set it down at the kitchen table and went to look for my cell phone. There is a chair at the table—you may are already know where this is heading. I’ve seen Meeko jump up on that chair several times.

I came back with my phone and found him grabbing a piece of toast from the plate. No way could I get him to drop it, although in my fruitless chasing, jelly splattered on the floor. He ran from me in a most jaunty manner, then jumped on the futon in the TV room and ate the toast happily. while I wiped the floor clean.

The futon is his choice to go with a treat, I think, because sometimes I eat there while watching TV. I guess it is our recreation space and he was recreating. The living room is for a different purpose. He perches on the top cushions alongside the big window. You never know when enemies like UPS trucks might dare arrive.

By the way, he got the best piece too. Did he know which one was the best?   I was stuck with the heel of the bread..Mind you, he had already had his own breakfast. Oh, foolish human, as if that makes any difference!

I slipped up on my knowledge of dogs and tables and food on the tables. When I lived with my own dogs I knew to follow the commandment Thou Shalt Not Leave Food Where the Dog Can Reach It. However,  I have to admit that it’s always very cute when they get away with their thievery–at long as the food is not bad for them. Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing too much, but they sure do seem proud at winning the forbidden prize.  At those times I know I am not so agile and clever. I forget that, like with a child, you are being watched. A lot. Nearly all the time unless a squirrel or mail carrier comes by. Otherwise its all eyes on the giver-of  meals, thrower-of -squeaky-toys and petter-on-call.



Reading Thoreau in Meeko’s Yard



Henry David Thoreau and Meeko are good companions. I curl up with each of them at different times. Last night when I had turned off the lights in the bedroom, called Meeko to bed and turned on my side to sleep, I felt Meeko put his rubber squeak toy at the nape of my neck and then lie down. I felt honored.

Today,  in the yard, under the Live Oak on a lovely Spring day,  I read a compilation of HDT’s essays.  His style is more verbose than we modern folks are used to.  I do not  understand some of his archaic terms, and I admit to skipping over some page long paragraphs, yet he startles me with thoughts that are so contemporary that he could be writing in 2017. Reading his essays is like mining for gold—which he thought was a dishonorable activity, by the way— but you are sure the nuggets are there and they are and there are many.  Like this.

(I’ll be right back. Meek is nosing his bowl telling me he wants his dinner). Okay, I’m back. Here are some his thoughts that startle me in how familiar they seem. This passage describes so closely what Buddhism teaches me.

“If we have I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending  to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality. Our very intellect shall be macadamized, as it were,–its foundations broken into fragments…If we have thus desecrated ourselves—as who has no?t–the remedy will be by wariness and devotion to reconsecrate ourselves…We should treat our minds, that is , ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous children, whose guardians were are, and be careful what objects and what subjects be thrust on their attention.”

HDT would like that I was sitting under a tree while reading this.  He would applaud my urge to always be outdoors. I think he and I share a lot in common—like his hermit tendencies that are mine also.  Today I feel close to old Henry. I think he would understand me. Both of us pretty much loners who have a difficult time in polite company. It comforts me that he writes about the emptiness of much of what we consider “success” and he called “industry”—how the industrious man was praised all for making money, and yet a philosopher, a writer like HDT, is seen as lazy, a failure even. I think even Ralph Waldo Emerson, his friend, criticized him for lack of ambition.

Like Thoreau, I could never make myself work for money. My work needed to be meaningful and helpful to others. As a result, I am not rich. Neither was Thoreau, and I , like him, can sometimes feel like an outcast in my society  when it comes to owning a house and a new car. And I have to watch my mind, as he suggested, to keep it from thinking of myself as a failure because I don’t have “fame” and fortune.

It wasn’t easy being Thoreau. And maybe he was no fun to be in a bar with, but I sense him in the room with me as he says, “I shall be a benefactor…if I can show men that there is some beauty awake while they are asleep.” He was speaking of taking walks in the moonlight, but I understand it to mean what Buddha meant. You are my benefactor HDT, even if you had a lousy personality. Smiley face.



Dogs Are Almost Perfect, But…


Dogs, like people, can be difficult to love sometimes. Every dog family has its dysfunction. It’s not nearly as bad as it can be in families that are all human, but, it can still be a trial.

I love all the dogs I dog-sit, but they are not without their quirks. One has a bark that, inside, is painful to the ears and I worry a little about damage to my hearing. There are too many FedEx trucks in the world! And why don’t mail delivery people just toss the mail from their vehicles as they pass the house. Why in the world do they need to storm the house like invading armies, the dog wonders.

All of them tend to scratch my arms because it seems I do not notice that it is time for someone to get an ear scratch. My skin is thin and  the blood blisters on my arms are not so attractive!  Usually a long sleeve sweater helps, but not always.

Another dog has terrible separation anxiety, maybe because his parents travel a lot and leave him or maybe he was born with that trait. Either way it can be heartbreaking to leave him even to go to the store for a little while. The panic in his eyes is painful to see. It’s worse when he freaks out and jumps like a whirling dervish—he is a big, strong boy and his nails on my back hurt.

Sometimes I can’t tell what my pups want. This must be what it is like with an infant who cries no matter how the parent tries to soothe them.

I take out the leash and say “Out?” He lies down and looks at me. Okay, not out. ”

“Chew thing?” Another blank look; it’s not that he doesn’t like chew things, he seems to be saying, but not this chew thing. He looks at me like I should know this by now. And actually I do, so why do I keep trying with that chew thing. Some of us never learn.

“Cookie?” That always get a positive reaction and all is right with the world. For about an hour. Then it’s time for ball tossing. This guy is very smart and has me trained. He looks up at the drawer in the bureau where the balls are kept and gives a slight bark. I get the ball. He is a talented ball player. I especially admire how when I throw the ball and he hits it back to me with his nose.

So I am trained by my dogs to be patient, to pay attention, to go out, to sit, and that’s just the truth!