spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

Farewell to Chloe


PictureChloe when I meditate/Alison R.
By Thursday, one of Rashad’s friends will have taken Chloe, my dog for the month of July, to another temporary home. In a somewhat pleading email to Rashad, who is in Europe, I suggested that Chloe could come back after my Ring Cycle week of opera in Seattle. I don’t know if this will happen. Moreover, I don’t know if more time with Chloe will make me ready for my own dog.

The upsides of hosting this little dog have far outweighed the couch cushions with nibbled corners or the chewed up $500 dental implant “flipper”. Possibly my willingness to appear in public with a perceptible gap near a front tooth attests to my improved mental wellbeing. This I will credit to Chloe.

Although the little dog has been with me for just one month, she has been a fine teacher and with a few minor adaptations, her lessons will surely make me more fully human.

Chloe liked to be stroked and scratched. Her body language made it clear what she liked. I appreciated her obvious pleasure as it reminded me that there are good alternatives to verbal communication. I tend to rely a lot on striving to make sense and to find the right words.  

Chloe has taught me other valuable lessons about priorities. Her affection never depended on my grooming or clothing choices. She never looked up with an expression of “not that sweatshirt again.” She did, however, seem to favor a black coat that hung on a doorknob, and she wagged her tail when I put on shoes.

In the time I spent with her, I saw how Chloe was very much in the moment. Meditation has made that one of my goals as well. This did not preclude her being obedient. She never needed much convincing that going where I wanted to go was good for her too. And heeding Chloe’s needs did encourage discipline and consistency in me. Once the dog has gone, I wonder if I will don my coat and walking shoes with alacrity and head out into the neighborhood four or five times a day.

Dogs-at-home friends have said that this past month of unconditional love will surely convince me I need a live-in animal of my own. But there has been a downside to this temporary dog care. I very much wanted to attend an all-day training Oakland, a forerunner to a longer program wherein I would learn to be a Buddhist activist. I missed the program because Chloe couldn’t be left for an entire day nor should she have been crated in the back of a car from 10 until 5. Moreover, every plan anyone made that included me during the month of Chloe had to take into account my time constraints. No all-day film festivals nor whale-watching trips. If I choose to have a dog without access to a yard, I will choose to be measuring out my life in dog duties … to paraphrase Eliot’s “Prufrock” and his coffee spoons.

Downside notwithstanding, the Chloe positives are sure to matter more in favor a future dog. For one thing, dog company has been an uncomplicated pleasure unlike other pleasures that frequently involve two-legged beings. And her forays into the world, no matter how many times we passed the same rubble or she scrambled through the same weed patch, were always lessons in curiosity and trust. By far the best gift from Chloe besides the comfort of her closeness was a sense of what it is to trust. Her physical nearness told me everything I needed to know about how things were between us. And yet, I am undecided. So be it.

Guy Rittger
7/31/2013 01:46:02 am

Yes indeed, once you take on the responsibility of caring for a dog it becomes a lifelong commitment and impacts everything you do. As I near the end of yet another 15-year commitment to a dog, Otto, I find it difficult to want to take up another, despite the fact that I've already been placed in one, potentially, with the recent arrival of 8-month old Nelson. I don't regret a single day of the 15 years I spent with Leeloo, or the roughly parallel 14.5 years I've spent with Otto, but the desire for freedom weighs heavily on my reluctance to fully embrace the commitment to Nelson, and that's going to be a challenge I'll need to deal with over the next 4-5 years.

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