Those of you who have taken many classes from me have probably heard me talk about my dog, Fletcher. He is among my greatest Yoga teachers. Not a day has gone by since we’ve had the pleasure of being his humans that he hasn’t reinforced a lesson or taught me something completely new.
I grew up with dogs, and have had many in my life. Fletcher is the only dog I’ve had as an adult and he is by far the quirkiest. To say he has personality is an understatement. He is smart, incredibly stubborn, and only motivated by human affection. His capacity to love is giant and marvelous and beautiful. All day, every day, is about giving and receiving love.
A dog’s ability to be loyal, humble, joyful, playful, curious and always in the present moment serves as an excellent example of how to approach our Yoga practice. In Hindu imagery, Shiva is often depicted with dogs. Dogs can represent the lowly ones of society, but are also sometimes representative of faithfulness. Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras that by approaching our practice from a place of faithfulness and humility, without any attachment to the outcome, we will progress.
Fletcher has been a living example for me each day. He has taught me incredible patience both with myself and others. He has reminded me of the necessity to love and accept people, including myself, as they are in each moment, trusting that where they are is exactly where they are meant to be. We have spent many hours together walking, smelling, exploring and enjoying the simple pleasures of each moment. Most of all, he reminds me to let all of my actions spring from unabashed love. Allowing others to see our desire to love and to be loved can be a very vulnerable experience, but it is always the right choice.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Fletcher made it across the big sea like a total champ. He came out of his crate after the long journey happy as always, affectionate, a little thirsty, and excited to see us. He immediately started investigating his new surroundings, being sure to never wander far enough away from us that we would be out of his line of vision. For a few days all was well as we started to settle in. Then, one day, while out for a walk, he suddenly started yelping in pain. We had no idea what happened, but it was clear he was experiencing some pain in his hind legs. We got him back to the apartment as quickly as we could and immediately got in touch with a vet. The vet told us to treat him like an injured athlete – rest and pain meds – and to call if it didn’t get any better. Over the next few days it got progressively worse and so we brought him in. Now, weeks later, we’ve been back and forth to the vet several times, and still don’t quite know what is wrong. We do know that he is in a great deal of pain. We know that he is suffering. We know that there is nothing that can be done.
We’ve made the impossible decision to let him die peacefully and it seems my dog, my Fletcher, is teaching me the hardest lesson yet – letting go. This whole year is shaping up to be one giant lesson in non-attachment and acceptance of change. It is one thing to recognize that intellectually, but it is another thing entirely to actually move through acceptance. I am beyond attached to Fletcher. Letting go of him feels like letting go of an organ essential for life. I NEED him. Or so it feels. And yet, I know through my Yoga practice that all beings enter our lives for a reason, leave for a reason, and that a part of them stays with us always. Change is eternal. Dogs are not.
The timing of all of this feels awful, but when is a good time to lose someone you love? We will be welcoming new life into our home so very soon, and I know that this baby will become one of my Yoga teachers. My heart will expand in ways I cannot even imagine and the love in our life will increase exponentially.
The Universe, in her entirety, is full of lessons. Every being, every living thing, has something to teach us, if only we are open to it. Right now, in this moment, I am trying to celebrate Fletcher’s life, appreciate all that he has taught me, and be grateful for the opportunity to learn from a humble, loyal, quirky, stubborn, magnificent dog.