spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
PictureFoxibeau le chien asks to go out.
All my activities seem to branch out from Foxibeau. From the soft little red brown creature I venture out, ever mindful of closing the door and leaving behind a crated pliant fellow eager for my return. During my away time, thoughts stray back to him. How long will I be gone? How long have I been gone? Have I been gone too long?

And I credit Foxibeau for recalculating my time commitments. For one thing, I won’t be an usher at the opera this upcoming season. With a dog, an hour and a half before the performance and possibly a three-hour, or four or five-hour opera just doesn’t work. Probably Foxi could manage, but I don’t feel wholehearted anymore about paying the cost of a ticket with my time. I don’t want to be away from this dog that long. Of course, my decision not to re-up as an usher was reinforced every time a lobby assignment was the “non” job of standing at a door through which patrons were not permitted to enter or exit. This assignment triggered some unpleasant reactions: doubt about my worth and dread that I was being punished for an unknown infraction. Came the thought: Only the lowliest would be assigned a lonely job ushering no one at an unused door. Doesn’t feel worth doing when a cuddly creature appreciates me no matter what. No dog-related chore feels too low, and unworthiness never arises.

And it is because of Foxibeau that I haven’t been and won’t be hopping BART at night to zip over to Oakland to the East Bay Meditation Center to meditate or take a class, much as I appreciate that diverse sangha. When I attended regularly, pre-dog, I left the house early, conscientious about allowing for delays under the Bay. The return trip usually began with a wait after 9pm at the 19th Street Station. Back in the city, I would fast-pace it to the bus stop, hoping to hop the 5 Fulton. But I might face a 22-to-48-minute wait. Because I calculate those minutes as Munits, there was never any real certainty about the wait time. So I would invariably make the five-block walk home. Now the whole endeavor feels too labor intensive. I reason that with the dog next to me on the couch I can listen to dharma podcasts from the East Coast, Redwood City, San Francisco Zen Center, all over the world actually. And I have lots of books for study, and at least eight chairs in which to sit and meditate. All I miss are other people and yet with a dog, loneliness doesn’t happen.

Another sacrifice has been all-day classes and meditations. Twice I have asked fellows in my building to add my dog to their dog and care for them both from sun up to sun down on a Saturday. If I want to continue that convenience, I will need to negotiate with them so it is worth their time. Fortunately, Foxibeau has not bitten Cooper, their dog, and he seems to like Cooper’s men as well.

In the pre-dog past I would join friends for lunch following an early movie, but not now. I liked the Ferry Building after a film at the Embarcadero, but not now.  Now I take activity breaks for Foxibeau.

Clearly, dog companionship has caused me to rethink what I want to do, for how long and where. So far all the trade-offs have been worth making; there have been no real sacrifices.

Yet, my entire social life can’t come to a standstill. After all, there’s the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and although dogs can stay many places in Ashland, I won’t be traveling with my dog. To prepare for his time away from me, he will meet with a dog trainer. Foxibeau, loveable as he is, behaves like an animal. He’s aggressive with other dogs, particularly large ones; he barks at people he can’t see but hears passing by; he has even lunged and nipped at a couple of people who scared him.

Clearly, Foxibeau factors into all my decisions, and I am not complaining. He helps me choose. Because there is so much to do and so many possible choices, I like having this small friendly red-brown reference point from which to consider.        

4/1/2014 02:20:24 am

Hey Alison, cute dog and name.
When Denis was in Long Beach for his internship, I had to manage Toulouses care by my self. He was crated and at 9 pounds he could last 11(eleven) hours without an accident. When they are crated they pretty much sleep all day. And I don't think they have any idea if it's 4 hours or 11.

kerry parker
4/11/2014 03:48:23 am

Allison - I can't wait to share this with my daughter - she took on a new canine companion in December and her life has changed for the better in so many ways. Have your read "The Art of Racing in the Rain" - a modern love story/tragedy written from a lovely dog's point of view. Thanks for thinking the thoughts you do and for publishing them. You are an inspiration to me.

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