Connecting in the Present with Dogs
"Be in the present moment" is something we hear, but for most of us, that simple sounding directive is actually quite challenging. We are really good at distracting ourselves by focusing on others, planning the next thing, or even thinking about the past. Our monkey minds are not designed for present moment experience. We are easily taken out of the here and now by a variety of things because it's easier. For those of us that meditate, we know exactly that--present moment connection is something that requires practice. Or for those who like to access the present through a physical practice such as yoga, you know that moving energy through and out of the body helps the mind. I appreciate all of the ways that both meditation, yoga, and physical movement have allowed me to be more present.
But perhaps my biggest "be in the present moment" shower has been my beloved Reggie, my French Bulldog.
I grew up with a lot of dogs. Big dogs. My dad was an amazing animal lover and rescued numerous dogs over the years--stray dogs, dogs that were hit and left on the road, neglected and abused dogs, you name it. We usually had at least three dogs at one time. Sometimes the two didn't get along with the third, so they would occupy different parts of our house. And sometimes, the dogs, who were often coming from abused situations, did not like strangers and only trusted our family. All this led to various instructions, signs and post-its on the doors around the house saying things like "Do not open door--dog inside" and "So and so in here--do not let out." My dad LOVED the managing of all this--the managing of all the whereabouts of the animals, the necessary segregation of a few of the dogs, etc. He wanted to make sure everyone was safe. We teased him about this, and he'd always laugh.
In addition to dogs, I also had the other usual childhood pets: cats, bunnies, a guinea pig, mice, hamsters, gerbils. Those were my ideas. I loved taking care of them, feeding them, buying Christmas presents for them. Even at a young age, I was aware that all the animals in the house grounded me by keeping me in the present. I took my job as animal owner very seriously. Feeding them, cleaning their cages, brushing the dogs, and spending quality time with them allowed me to manage my highly sensitive energies. I was all in.
Fast forward years later, and enter Reggie. My dad prepped me well for dog life, and was actually responsible for connecting me with Reggie. He knew right away that Reggie was the perfect fit for me, and he was right. At four and a half months, this dog was a spitfire--high energy, high maintenance, and highly stubborn. He demanded my energy, and I was happy to give it to him. It wasn't until he got older that I fully appreciated the "dog=present moment" dynamic. Reggie never left my side. He laid on my yoga mat when I practiced, slept under the covers with me, traveled in the car, and just wanted to hang with me no matter what. (Except when it came to food. Then, he forgot who I was). He had an enormous presence.
Everyone stopped for Reggie to pay homage to the king.
At the very end of his physical life when he had some serious health issues, my friends and I threw him his own special barbeque. It was June and the weather was warm. We gathered outside and bought him all his favorite foods, including a cake, and he did a really good job of at least tasting everything. It was a celebration of Reggie and his gifts. All the humans wore matching bandanas alongside Reggie to show their love. But the most amazing part of that evening was that despite his challenging physical health, Reggie made sure he greeted every single person at that party. HE SHOWED UP FULLY PRESENT. I didn't quite realize the magnitude of that until later, and I'm still in awe.
Reggie taught me a lot. He showed me that every moment counts.
He showed me all the stuff beyond the present moment doesn't really hold up. He showed me through the barbeque that even though he is no longer in physical form, I can connect with that present moment energy anytime I want. And for that, I am so grateful to my Reggie guru, king of the Frenchies.