Do any yoga masters own dogs?

Is it possible to reach enlightenment when you have a puppy in the house?

These questions have been going through my mind since I got my new German Shorthair Pointer puppy a few weeks ago.

Her name is Cassie. She’s cute as a button, endearingly affectionate and loving and full of life and personality.

And she’s a little trouble-maker.

She snaps like a turtle and terrorizes the cat and runs in mad circles in the morning after she’s had her meal.

If there’s trouble anywhere to be had in her vicinity, she will find it. Despite being cordoned off to the kitchen, she finds ways to escape and run loose through the house, grabbing pillows and chasing Buttercup terrified and hissing through the upstairs rooms.

The poor cat’s life has been changed forever. And so, it seems, has mine.

I’ve wanted to get a dog for a while but couldn’t do it because of my work schedule. But earlier this year I changed jobs and am now working from home. So I figured this was my opportunity.

My girlfriend tried to warn me. Do you know what you’re getting into? Remember: you like your peace!

She was right, of course (aren’t women always?), but I went ahead anyway because a) I’m stubborn (my Scottish heritage?), b) it gets lonely working from home, and c) having a dog again is part of my vision for myself that, step by step, I’m looking to fulfill.

You see, four years ago this month I went through a near-death experience. I went for a routine colonoscopy, and despite the fact that I had no symptoms and there was no history of colon cancer in my family, the test discovered an overgrown polyp in my lower right colon.

I spent that Christmas season going through more tests and doing a lot of worrying. As suspected, the tumor tested malignant. The following month I had colon resection surgery, which was successful but revealed that the cancer had spread to a couple of the surrounding lymph nodes. Which led to six months of chemotherapy. Which was no fun at all.

I’m fine now, thank goodness. All my follow-up tests have come out clean. I lucked out. I dodged a bullet.

But this experience has brought home to me the fragility of life and the dreams we carry for ourselves.

That polyp-turned-tumor was intent on killing me. If a good friend hadn’t pushed me to go for that colonoscopy four years ago, the cancer would be spread throughout me right now, and I would be saying goodbye to my children, my family, my friends, my dreams.

If anything will wake you up to the preciousness of life and the present moment, it’s seeing Death coming at you, gun in hand, and knowing he means to use it.

And so I made a resolution to go for my dreams and go for them now, because there’s no guarantee that tomorrow will come.

What are my dreams?

First and foremost, my dreams are to raise my children well, give them the best education I can, and see them well launched in their lives.

Beyond that, I want to write more and get my writing published, which is part of the reason why I launched this blog.

Another dream is to build a little cabin on the land I have up in northern Pennsylvania. I bought the land thirteen years with the intention of putting up a cabin but circumstances kept me from doing so. In 2017 I’m hoping to go for it.

Yet another dream is to have a dog and to take the dog with me (and hopefully one or more of my sons) out into the fields to hunt grouse and pheasants and whatever else we can chase up.

Next fall I will be doing that – with Cassie.

In the meantime, I am going through the process of training Cassie and learning her ways.

It’s amazing how a little puppy changes your routine. Forget easing into the morning with a meditation and doing a little quiet reading while sipping my coffee.

Now my mornings are about getting Puppy outside before she pees her crate; getting Puppy fed and watered; getting Puppy play time so that she won’t tear the house apart.

Now I find my meditative time when I can find it – which is during those blessed downtimes while Cassie is sleeping.

Yes, I love my peace. But peace without companionship is a hollow peace. I needed this dog for reasons I’m not even fully aware of.

And how quickly she has gotten into my heart. She is my little buddy. We play together. We go running together.

I love Cassie’s spunk and intelligence. I love how quickly she’s learning commands. I love how she likes cuddling and giving kisses when she’s not trying to bite my face off.

I believe that it’s not only Cassie who is learning right now. I am too. She’s teaching me lessons about seeing life through a puppy’s eyes, where everything is fresh and new and bursting with possibility.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and complete awake,” Pema Chodrin writes, “is to be completely thrown out of the nest.”

Cassie has thrown me out of my nest. And tired as I am right now, I’m feeling more awake than ever.

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Peace,

Jim