Admittedly, I am a cat person. Even though I grew up with a dog companion (Pepper), whom I loved dearly, cats have been closest to me as an adult: Edward for 8 years and Lily for 22. Of course, animals of all kinds touch my heart, and this has become increasingly true as my own awareness has expanded to be able to perceive the intelligence and sensitivity of all living beings on our planet. In my garden, I have sweet and often funny exchanges with birds, bees, butterflies, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks. A connection and communication beyond words frequently passes between us.
Since I am a gardener, I am outdoors a lot of the time in the spring, summer, and early fall. As I plant and take care of my flowers in the yard, I often see neighbors walking their dogs. All kinds of dogs: labs, Scotties, pit bulls, schnauzers, pugs, huskies, terriers. Some are intent on their “appointed rounds” through the neighborhood, sniffing every tree and bush and not that interested in the occasional human gardener. Others, however, are absolutely thrilled to encounter another human besides the one at the other end of their leash.
Two dogs in particular come to mind: a small white terrier named Honus and a large black lab named Maggie. One morning, as I was on my hands and knees pulling weeds in the front border, I heard a kind of whining panting sound immediately behind me. I turned, and there was Honus, straining to get to me, at the absolute end of his leash, as his person tried to keep him contained. He was still a bit of a puppy then, waggling all over, his eyes sparkling with excitement and the overriding desire to get close enough to greet me with licks and touches. Who could resist such intensely focused friendliness? I immediately fell in love with Honus. Every single time I’ve seen him after that initial encounter, he has behaved exactly the same: so excited to see me, this human crawling around on the ground at his level. He is always stretching to get to me before I hear him, turn around, and then reach out to pet and talk to him. It’s a huge gift that makes me happy all day.
Maggie is a much older dog—a large black lab with gray hairs around her mouth. When I first met her, she behaved exactly the same as Honus. As she and the man with her passed by the front yard where I was gardening, I said hello. Maggie turned to look at me, and as soon as my eyes met hers, she began to wag her tail with enthusiasm and excitement, reaching out to me eagerly. Once again, I just had to walk over and pet her. Her eyes were filled with such happiness and love. No other way to describe what I saw there. She emitted a completely uncomplicated and unconditionally loving presence. Something I’ve seen so many times in dogs—and cats, too. Something almost sacred in its purity and spirit. So is it a coincidence that dog spelled backward is god?
Well, let me tell you another story. In recent years, my spiritual practice has opened my eyes to seeing God in everything. Literally everything: human, animal, insect, tree, rock, chair, rug, computer, star, planet. In the midst of this awakening, I watched the world around me transform. Everything I looked at began to take on a special quality of living light. One afternoon, on my usual walk around my neighborhood, I encountered a woman with her pit bull. As I passed them, the dog and I looked into each other’s eyes. I stopped completely. There gazing at me through this pit bull’s eyes was God—life energy shining forth, joyful awareness, pure beingness. Tears filled my eyes. God recognizing God, no separation.
If we could only realize that our entire world is made up of this oneness. Life reflecting life. It is everywhere! God meets God on the street every single day. That innocent, curious, welcoming essence that dogs and cats often show us is within us as well. We had it as children; we just need to allow it to come to life again. Years ago, my father, in his aging wisdom, once said, “If only I could be more like a dog.” Meaning, more forgiving, more loving. He could see that our companion animals are living examples of unselfish sweetness and love. Time to pay attention. Time to see the God in Dog. And in ourselves.