What Your Dog Can Tell You About Yourself
I listened quietly on the phone to the broken voice of a dear friend as she told me of the death her 14-year-old dog. “She was the only one that knew that I really am a good person.”
My friend had been visiting her grandchildren out of state and, within an hour of her return, the dog had breathed her last. She had been sick with old-dog ailments for a while. She did not die in a crate at the vet’s or when my friend ran out for a gallon of milk. She died snuggled in a familiar old bathrobe with her family around her. She had waited.
“She’s the only one knew I’m not really a crazy raving bitch!” my friend sobbed. The dog was always there for her, wagging its tail, giving her unconditional love and acceptance.
Not long after, I happened upon a lecture on lack of self-worth by British Theravada Buddist monk Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera (born Peter Betts), a sort of rock star guru with endless lectures on YouTube. He’s funny and irreverent, so you get a spoonful of levity with every bite of truth, even if it’s only playing in the background. He’s also the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia, among many other religious responsibilities.
Not long into the lecture, he noted that kindness is needed to combat low self-worth and feelings of rejection. But kindness is actually very hard for us human beings to practice consistently. Families, for example.
Then he cited a newspaper article about a pilot program in which hardcore juvenile offenders were given puppies to care for instead of counselors or jail time, and the puppies miraculously helped heal the troubled teens.
“Unconditional love opens up your heart,” said the monk. “These kids have had a very hard life and started to offend. Why do they offend? Every psychologist knows they have a lack of self-worth. They don’t think they’re worth being good people.”
Dogs don’t care what crime their owners have committed or care about their owners’ station in life. They just damned well love you.
Of course, dogs see us as we really are—our innate goodness, the pure light within us, the positive energy core of our very being, God, love, the universe—however it’s named.
With that setup, the monk also suggested that parents should practice loving our children like dogs—every time we see them, we should jump up and wag our tails and lick them in the face. In other words, we should practice giving our children unconditional love.
How hard is unconditional love and kindness? Well, hey, even a dog can do it. Or maybe better stated, especially a dog can do it.