I've been reading this book "If Dog's prayers were answered ... bones would rain from the sky .. deepening our relationship with our dogs" by Suzanne Clothier. She poses a question that I have been using (not in those exact words) as the foundation for all my efforts as i muddle through the complex and highly emotional world of animal rescue/welfare and as i work (with the support and hard work of many, many others!)on starting a coalition here in Minnesota with a vision of a day when there will be no more homeless animals ... Suzanne asks the question from the perspective of humans relating to dogs. I believe the question is one we need to ask of all living beings and of each other, especially those whom we disagree with or those who have a different viewpoint. I believe our greatest learning and our deepest lessons come from our trials and our tribulations.
"To ask 'What can I learn from you?' is to open the door to an entire world of possibility in which our dogs can and do serve as our teachers. This is a participatory universe, and this simple question declares our willingness to participate in a very specific way..."
".. our dogs, like all spiritual beings, have lessons to learn as well as to teach. Whatever the physical form that expresses our small cup of the spiritual ocean, each of us contains the light and the dark, the fullness and the emptiness, the good and the bad. Woven through our lives are flaws of understanding, failures of compassion, places where we have not yet learned to sweep away the fear and let the love pour in as it wants to do. Our lessons in this lifetime are simply our struggles to smooth the flow of life through and around our particular flaws ..."
".. What I find so deeply moving is the animal willingness to let love flow and not block it. Never once have I seen a fat dog draw back in shame from a loving hand that offered a belly rub, nor a dog who would turn away affectionate attention because of guilt over past misdeeds. But moved by fearful reasons, I have countless times shrank back from love extended to me, turned away the gifts freely and generously offered, set walls against the flow of love through me. In doing so, I limited myself as an instrument through which love and life could flow. It seems to me that dogs and other animals are such effective angels for the human spirit because, like very young children, so little blocks the flow of love and life through them....
... for readers who find themselves drawing back at the notion that a dog is also a spiritual being, try this: Just crack open the door of Maybe. Emily Dicksinson wrote about the need for the soul to remain ajar, open to the ecstatic experience. You need not enter nor even peek inside. Simply leave the door of possibility open, and see what happens. Matters of spirit flow past and through and over the barriers we set in place, and given even a small crack in our fearful fortresses, spirit can move us deeply, and in surprisingly profound ways. See what happens when you examine an experience with this question in mind: 'What can I learn from you?' It is surprising what unfolds when you approach another being with that question humbly posed and a sincere curiosity about what the answer might be"
Over the past two and a half years I have come to learn so much from the animals and from passionate humans who work tirelessly on behalf of abandoned, abused and neglected animals. I have also come to learn how much I have yet to learn and how important it is for me to remain open-hearted. As I find myself in the middle of what often feels like turbulent water, I am committed to building bridges and this morning I am realizing how this one question "What can I learn from you?" is a simple, yet essential building block for a bridge that must be built for those of us in the community committed to a vision of a day when there will be No More Homeless Animals.
I am excited to say that the kick off meeting for the new coalition is set for the end of the month .... we are beginning to build the foundation for the bridge that will lead us to our vision. About a year ago I wrote a piece titled "A Panoramic View of Animal Rescue", using my passion for photography as a metaphor, and I end the piece with ...
"We welcome every person into our organization as someone with the potential to lead and change the landscape of the pet overpopulation problem. Every volunteer brings with himself/herself a new lens, a new filter, a new perspective. We must allow ourselves to be surprised and touched by every image. And hold in our heart, an image in the viewfinder, of a world where there are no more homeless animals."