My Guru Had Four Legs



There is a maxim: when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Mine did in the only form this stubborn and unhappy heart would hear as a Jack Russell Terrier named, Victor.

A word about Jack Russell’s. As a breed, they are high energy, fiercely loyal to one person and very focused. They would rather die than take their eye off the ball. They are a lot of work, just like me. In fact, when a friend met Victor bouncing hello at the screen door for the first time she impulsively gasped “He’s you!”. I tried to be flattered.

Dogs are part of the landscape. We see them on leashes, adorning purses and we step in their messes. As a society we recognize the value of service dogs. We see them assisting the disabled, assisting with rescue work, sniffing out drugs and even visiting the sick and elderly. Yet how often do we consider the impact these creatures have on our lives.Where do you buy your wisdom?

What makes them so special to us? How do they work their magic. They see us but do we see them?

Before my guru arrived I was a very busy, thrill seeking, fast living, deeply miserable sod. A hamster on a wheel in need of an off ramp.

I lived alone and I hated my roommate. Of course I was too busy or polite to give that much thought. But, I was miserable and I had the bar bills to prove it.

I had long considered getting a dog but with my crazy life I wondered if a canine would be a tailored fit to my schedule. He’d be fun but wouldn’t he cramp my go-go life style? I look a part-time gig for a year as an after work dog walker to see if I was up for the commitment. I lasted for a year. No one was more surprised than me.

In the end there was a phone call. Someone was advertising in the church bulletin that a Jack Russell puppy needed a good home.

My guru needed rescuing so I took the bait and we each rescued the other.

Adjustments were made. Change is hard, but, before long we were best buds. I had lots to teach him sit, stay and tube socks are not a desert food. With so much teaching it was more than two years before I realized he was teaching me.


Here are the three key lessons my Guru taught me:


1) Life has rhythms

My Guru insisted there was a time for food, a time for out, and a time for play. You could adjust the tempo of these rhythms but you couldn’t avoid them. My will, overtime at the Oscars and my nap would have to wait. When it was time. It was time. The point was beyond negotiation or discussion.

I work from home so this Guru rhythm by necessity was woven into my work. Rhythms became routine and I was better for it.

On a deadline, I would type and click furiously and glaring my screen into submission. My guru would arrive at my feet and gently insist that now was the best time for a belly rub, a few throws of the ball or look at me with that look that said “There’s a tree with my name on it, shall we?”

His message: Stop working. Take a break. You’re done with that for the moment, focus on something else. If I resisted he might relent at first but eventually he would insist.

He was the clock master. He held the clipboard and the schedule was his. I was the beneficiary of him watching.

I would return to my work refreshed from our mini break ready again to win a staring contest with my screen.


2) Moments are for Living

Life is busy. As a strategy we set goals. Goals focus purpose, a way to organize our noisy thoughts and world. By sticking to our goals we grow smug, if we weaken, we dispart. Our goals define us. They are our lives. This is living.

My guru knew better. He accepted that there were things I wished to achieve, tasks that needed doing. Goals were fine but moments were best.

I work from home. At the appointed time my Guru would site near my chair and give me “the look”. The message: “enough of that we have other things to do”.

Obediently I would grab his leash, don my coat and cap and head out. After attending to his toilette, my Guru would engage in his thrice daily game of fetch. I would oblige and he would lose himself in the pure pleasure of it.

Run, run, run – leap. Success. bound, bound, bound, return. The process repeating endlessly with him never tiring.

Occasionally an impertinent squirrel would appear to check things out and would need to be chased away but otherwise the rhythm was unstoppable.

Initially, my mind would continue to review the work I had left upstairs but inevitably my focus would be pulled to my Guru’s simple joy of the game.

Run, run, run – success. bound, bound, bound, return.

Soon I forgot the work and together we shared the joy of the game.

For a man who lived in his head – this was and achievement.


3) Love

Love can be directed towards you but accepting it is nearly impossible until you love yourself first.

When my guru arrived. I had one enemy, myself. I blamed the world for misfortunes large and small but it was me I despised the most. It was irrational, cruel and not fair. I would never treat anyone as poorly as I treated myself.

Love requires humility. You are humbled before it. I sometimes think babies and puppies poop only to keep us humble. Doddie duties keep a daddy’s soul humble.

My guru taught me that my needs are not always first. I can be as selfish as I want on my time but when it’s just him and I, I have responsibilities.


And in the end

The crazy thing about responsibilities. A commitment is a terrific confidence builder and it’s very hard to stay mad at someone who does what is needed – even yourself.

In the end comes the greatest gift the sacrifice.


My Guru takes sick

Victor vomited blood the Friday before Thanksgiving. His energy hardly waned. Sickness comes to Gurus, even young and active ones. At first there was hope and then there was none. Our time ending there was one lesson ahead. I struggled with my decision, sought wisdom from family and friends.

I waited in the examine room for the vet to bring him in. He had been receiving treatment all day. Did he need more time to rally or was this it? I didn’t want to let him go if there was a chance. I didn’t want to prolong his pain either. Deep down I knew I would know when I saw him.

He was carried in.

His eyes said it all. Please no more. He was helpless and it was my turn to act. I made the decision, the hardest in my life. I thanked him and kissed him. There was one soft sigh, and my Guru, my best friend, was free.

I am so grateful for our time together, the memories, the fun, the secrets shared. Great wisdom comes in strange packages. I am reminded daily of this and many other lessons he taught me.We share the planet with many souls each capable of changing our vision of the world.

The teacher is out there if you only have eyes to see.  end