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Dog Zen

The rambling of a banjo and long wind of a slide on a steel guitar permeates the air. Greensky Bluegrass and similar artists lead the tune of the day. I am staring at an old picture of our dog Maveryk, who is now 8 years old and as majestic as ever. This image strikes a distinct chord with me as I gaze at the white star of his face, eyes closed, ears perked, and resting on his self-proclaimed thrown on my parent’s deck. His thrown actually being an acrylic patio chair that we have had for decades. His face doesn’t show a single sign of his age, but more importantly not an ounce of concern or discomfort. Entirely in the moment, sniffing or thinking about whatever smell or thought dogs concern themselves with.

I analyze the image a few moments longer. I myself have been trying to find some type of balance in my life despite a multitude of strains related to relationships, finances, business, and interpersonal conflicts. Constantly feeling behind, falling short, or needing to plan ahead to meet the demands of the world. I remember a conversation I was having with my significant other about feeling like Sonic the Hedgehog, in that my legs feel as they’re moving as fast as they can, but with little to no gain. As one can imagine this feeling is extremely unsatisfying and tiring.

This image however resonated a clear message to me that can be illustrated by a quote from Osho, “Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand – relax.” This gave me the ability to not only let go of some of my stress, but more importantly a perspective about my current situation. I look at a dog, who as far as we know has the responsibility to be just that, a dog. He doesn’t have rent to pay, business to attend to, a job to perform at, or friends to pay attention to. He must simply ensure his belly is full and those he lives with are happy and feel loved. It would be naïve to believe that there isn’t more that a dog concerns themselves with, but simply put these are the primary focuses of this domesticated animal. These are things that after 8 years of living with our family he has grown accustom to, like being fed. Occasionally, sneaking extra cheese when my parents aren’t on the same page. This leaves him with one responsibility and that is to ensure happiness and love is felt by those he lives with.

I recall a time when I was much more fit and would run through the woods with Maveryk. This feeling of man and beast rummaging through the forest with no worry in the world, but to outrun or outperform the other. I would sometimes climb a pine tree to hide from Maveryk. I would perch on a branch, call for him once, and watch as he would zig zag through the forest, muzzle close to the ground trying to catch my scent. I would leave slices of cheese or salami at the base of the tree as his reward if he found me. When he did, he would quickly eat then look up at me, puzzled at my sudden gain in height. This thought would quickly come and go, then we would shift his focus to the sound of a bird chirping or new smell. The game then continued as he darted towards the region of interest and I followed suit.

I take my eyes away from the image for a while and walk into my kitchen where I had been cooking some chicken noodle soup. This is probably the most balanced meal I have had for some time. Often skipping breakfast and sometimes lunch. Coffee suppressing my appetite and allowing me to continue working, rather than stopping to cook and eat a meal. This very meal was actually what I had lived on for a month back when I had first moved to Colorado. My temporary employment had ended and I was job hunting. Sending likely 50 applications a day, being lucky if I heard back from any of them. My finances were pretty tight so homemade soup was how I chose to try to save money and not go too hungry. Being much worse off then, then I am now, but still being able to take the time to eat well and take care of myself. Now, I barely take the time to think about eating and push through the day on a coffee filled stomach.

I return to the living room to rest on my couch and eat my soup. Mac, my own dog, lounging with his legs spread out and resting at my feet. I reflect on the importance of being in the moment and not to take life too seriously. A mere image of a dog is all it took to allow me to reflect on the benefits of casting stressors aside and being what you are, human. Whether you are a business person, student, husband, adventurer, cook, or whatever you identify with.

Be just that and be yourself.

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