"My efforts now turn from trying to outrun suffering to accepting love wherever I can find it." Mark Nepo

Flash, our beloved Airedale, left this world two weeks ago.

Flash noticed that humans show affection by petting dogs. So, Flash showed his warmth by rubbing his head up against humans, "petting" them. Up until his last minute, he nuzzled and petted us, radiating the same unconditional love he exuded his entire life.

I felt my own love expand exponentially as we helped him transition. Even now, after his death, I am able to dip into that amazing reservoir of limitless affection he showered on me and everyone else. It's my meditation and intention throughout the day to live that love.

For his transition, we set up a vigil. We moved the furniture to the edges of the living room and placed his bed in the center. The other animals gathered with us to form a semi-circle around Flash. We held vigil and loved on him, while he loved on us.

As soon as he took his last breath, our other pets knew. Immediately, our cats left the room, and Cowboy, our other dog, walked away and hopped on his favorite chair. They have a deeper knowing than we do.

Our friend Susan, an animal chaplain, also joined us for the vigil. A long-practicing Buddhist, she called Flash a "Doggie-Satva". In the Buddhist tradition, a Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has transcended this level of reality but nonetheless remains or returns to help others wake up.

Flash, was our "Doggie-Satva", awakening us to a truly unconditional love. Even now, he somehow nudges us to love more, more, more. Thank you Flash. I will. And I love you too.

Who is your "Doggie-Satva" or "Kitty-Satva"?

Meanest Dog I Ever Had

I took Cowboy, our Fox Terrier, to the dog park last week. He outraced all other dogs to the thrown tennis ball time after time. Then Cowboy started to mount other dogs, each of which was two to three times his size...and none of whom welcomed Cowboy's dominant display. As I was apologizing to the other people in the park, an old man looked at me and said, "Don't worry about it. I had a Fox Terrier once...meanest dog I ever had!"

I don't think Cowboy is actually a mean dog. He simply doesn't comprehend why the universe does not organize itself around him. Why would any human give attention to another dog or cat when Cowboy is available? It simply doesn't make sense to him.

Of course, humans and their animal companions often share traits. This morning I picked up an orchid, which was tangled with another orchid. Both dropped to the floor, splattering debris.

After yelling a few choice words, I realized my deeper anger: The universe was not organizing itself around me. Why were these plants, whose lives I'm sustaining, making my life harder when my intention is to care for them? Why had The Universe/God not cooperating? Why am I not getting what I want? I was howling like a Fox Terrier.

Once I realized these self-absorbed expectations, I pondered what to do:

  • Embrace these patterns with compassion, knowing that we all have selfish tendencies that need loving attention.
  • Put the lie to these false expectations. I could say, "Get thee behind me Satan!", or in other words, "You are present within me but not helpful. I choose to move forward and leave you be. Get behind me."

What do you do when self-centered craziness takes hold of you? Which method liberates you? 

After a few minutes, I couldn't help but smile at myself. The simple awareness on this self-centered illusion called its bluff, and it seemed to dissipate as quickly as it arose.

Perhaps the spiritual path looks much the same as becoming a skilled human companion for a Fox Terrier. The wise human learns when to say "no", when to embrace, and when to laugh and simply let things be.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World: A Haiku

Here is a photo I took of our fox terrier, Cowboy, reigning as top pet in the house. Below is a haiku inspired by the photo. Please share a haiku that comes to you as you view the photo. (A traditional haiku is 3 lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables.)

I rule this house. Snarl

At dogs; bite cats; it's hard work!

You can pet me now.

P.S. If you or someone you know has lost a pet, please join us for a night to remember and celebrate the lives of our animal companions this Wednesday, April 3 in San Rafael, California. For more details, go to the Classes webpage.

Barkly and Mitts: Who Will Lead the Pack?

Below is a short story without an ending. Read it and notice what your gut reaction is. What do you think happens next? There’s no right or wrong answer, but your first response is likely the most honest and the most instructive. Your response may reveal something about the lens through which you are processing life. Whether or not it provides any insight, have fun with it! The story:

Once upon a time there was a pack of dogs, purebreds and mutts, living together. The pack had just come through a difficult period. Their former alpha, a cocker spaniel named Georgie, had made a mess everywhere he went. For instance, he let his fellow purebreds eat almost all the food, leaving only scraps for the mutts in the pack. Unfortunately, the unmitigated gluttony of the purebreds caused a collapse in the food supply so that all the dogs suffered. To make matters worse, Georgie had taken on a pack of nasty Chows claiming they had hidden bones in their territory, which proved to be untrue.

Licking their wounds after the Chow episode, the pack decided to change leaders. The new alpha was Barkly, who was the first mutt ever to become pack leader. He reined in the purebreds' excesses and ended the ongoing spats with the Chows.  Barkly claimed that it took the work of the entire pack to secure food. Mutts served as scouts, pack protectors, puppy nurturers and territory markers, all of which were essential for the survival of the pack. Under Barkly's leadership the purebreds who led each hunt still got first dibs, but the rest of the pack got a greater share of the food. Because they were better nourished, the mutts became even more adept and committed to their pack duties. As a result, food became more prevalent for all the dogs. In fact, even though the purebreds were receiving a smaller percentage of the packs' GDP (Gathered Doggie Provisions), they actually ate more overall because the healthier pack was securing much more food.

While times were still hard, the future looked promising until...along came Mitts. Mitts was a pampered Pekingese, who nonetheless enjoyed instant status because he was a purebred. He started to complain about Barkly's leadership. True, the pack was getting healthier, but Mitts yiped that it was taking far longer than it should.

Mitts also howled at Barkly's idea that everyone in the pack should take turns licking a seriously injured dog's wounds in order to maintain the wellbeing of the whole pack. Mitts said it's a dog-eat-dog world, and each dog should tend to his own wounds. Mitts snipped at any starving, stray mutt who tried to join the pack, telling them to self-deport back to their own territory.

Above all, Mitts whimpered that Georgie's approach had been right all along: purebreds should be allowed to devour all the choice food and let everyone else beg for scraps. This was the natural order of things according to Mitts. Oddly, a number of mutts even began to believe Mitts' claim that they too would be better off if they let the purebreds do as they pleased.

Things came to a head. Mitts challenged Barkly for leadership of the pack. Mitts met secretly with the purebloods to line up their support, where he harrumphed that 47% of the pack were lazy, dim-witted mutts mooching off the feasts of hardworking purebreds.  In public, however, Mitts tried to woo everyone with his double-bark and platitudes about the pack's greatness. He even made a play for the support of female mutts by referring to his "binders full of bitches".

The day of reckoning has finally arrived. Barkly and Mitts face off surrounded by the rest of the pack. What happens next?

Pet Alley

The Chasm Between Us by Scott Quinn

Each night

My partner and I plop into bed,


Ready for comfort in each other’s arms.

Such a blissful notion,

And a naïve one,

For we are not alone.


There arises between us

A chasm

A breach

An interloping space

That cannot be broached,

At least not with any lasting effect.


It begins with a bounce,

Then a poke,

Then a demanding look

As the Fox Terrier

Reclaims his daytime territory

From misguided humans

Who mistakenly believe it to be their sleeping nest.

Inserting himself horizontally in the bed

So that minimal space remains for

Either human,

He then allows them,

With both insistence and feigned apathy,

The right to stroke his fur

As payment for squatting down for the night.


Soon he is joined by his nemesis,

The mistress of the night,

Whose wide whiskers

And pitch black fur

Portend of dark omens.

With her inboard motor

At full throttle

She treads with deliberate pace

Across each human,

Kneading all soft tissue with

Her Siamese technique.



The Fox Terrier begrudgingly

Allows her admittance

While forbidding the Airedale,

Three times his size

Yet with only one-third the temper,

From entering the entering room.

With teeth bared from a narrow snout,

His alien grimace and growl

(The likes of which have not been seen

Since Sigourney Weaver saved humanity in space)

Cause all critters to flee except for the black cat,

Whose path he dare not cross.


And so,

They lay between us.

Twenty-five pounds of snoring dog,

Miraculously claiming over half the bed,

Until, with no assistance from His Majesty,

Who lies rigid like a wheelbarrow full of bricks,

He is turned vertically for the night.

And two feet away,

Our masseur also settles in for the night.

Two balls of fur

Set aside their enmity for a few hours

To share the bed

Nuzzled up against their human companions.


And thus,

A chasm

Between my partner and me,

A space known as “Pet Alley”.



Each night,

A miracle of Biblical proportions occurs

As the fox and the feline lay down together.


Lose Your Mind and Come to Your Senses

When you see the word "freedom", what comes to mind? Weekends? The Fourth of July? Never hearing a Michael Bolton song again? Freedom always has at least two aspects. We get free from something: old habits, an overbearing boss, pain, or a lousy cell phone contract. We also get free to do or be something: be happy, start a new business, or speak the truth fully.  Unless we channel our "freedom from" into a "freedom to become or do", our freedom is likely to be short-lived, either because our new found energy is taken captive by another draining situation or because we squander it on self-absorbed gratification, which becomes its own prison.

How do we get free and stay free? A good place to start is to take the advice of Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy:  "Lose your mind and come to your senses."  The controlling, critical aspect of the mind keeps us trapped in old patterns that rarely serve anyone, yet we continue to justify the status quo with any number of irrational rationalizations. What's needed is a trip back into our senses, our subconscious, our deep spirit, our inner light and our deep joy.

Whether we do this through nature, meditation, prayer, creating art, singing, yoga, or playing with dogs, the form is not as important as the benefit, which is liberation from our habitual thought patterns. When the old mental chatter simmers down, clarity emerges in which we see things as they really are and respond appropriately with grace and ease. We become fully alive.  Our hearts and minds open.  We freely give back all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do to Life, to God, to the common and highest good of all. We finally come to our senses.

Coming to our senses is more likely, fun, and enduring when we collaborate with others who share a common intention, supportive energy and wise feedback. If you would like to take a deeper dive into freedom, come join us for a series of day retreats this fall. The theme of the three retreat days is "Path to Freedom: Using Challenges to Revitalize Your Life". For more information, check out the page on Classes.


The Sweetness of Dogs

In memory of Jimmy (pictured with me), who was a sweet dog if ever there was one, I offer this poem that Mary Oliver wrote about her dog Percy. Jimmy left this world two weeks ago, but those of us who knew him carry his gentle sweetness in our hearts. Jimmy, you looked at each of us like we were your perfect moon, when, in truth, you were ours.

The Sweetness of Dogs

What do you say Percy? I am thinking

of sitting out on the sand to watch

the moon rise. Full moon.

So we go

And the moon rises, so beautiful it

makes me shudder, makes me think about

time and space, makes me take

measure of myself; one iota

pondering heaven. Thus we sit,

I thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s

perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich

it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,

leans against me and gazes up into

my face, as though I were

his perfect moon.

- by Mary Oliver in Evidence -

Paraprosdokian: It's a Dog Eat Dog World

paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the second half of a sentence or phrase is unexpected. The surprise ending makes us reframe or reinterpret the first part. Examples:

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." Groucho Marx

"She looks as though she's been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say when." —P. G. Wodehouse

“Some people are like Slinkies … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.”

“Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.”

These clever phrases tune our minds to welcome new perspectives. Rather than resist surprises, these terse bits of humor open us to embrace life’s unplanned possibilities.

Please share your own unexpected ending to the first half of the following phrase to create a paraprosdokian….

“It's a dog eat dog world….


Silly dogs! I watch these Olympians

Hurl themselves into

Dust, water, air,

Scurrying after their favorite toy:



The lure of a KONG about to be thrown

Or pinned in the mouth of your brother

Is simply irresistible.

The KONG that you don’t have is always more enticing

Than the KONG between your paws.


The secret of life is

To wag your tail like a propeller for

The KONG you already have

With one eye cast midair for

The KONG that is yet to arise.