When I was in grade school, living in Colorado Springs I discovered a book How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend, written by some monks. It was an incredible book, and discussed the relationship between people and their dogs. It was one of the first of many books I would read about dogs, fiction and non-fiction alike. I always had a love for dogs, and practiced what I had read in the book that was written, I found out later, by the Monks of New Skete who started a monastery outside of Cambridge, New York.
Some 40 years later, I would remember that book and look it up on Amazon to buy and reread – the updated one that was revised and updated in 2002. Well, last week I found myself at that monastery in Cambridge, speaking with the very monks that I had read about all those years ago. I overused two words during that visit – “wow” and “thank you”. I was fortunate to be a participant at one of their seminars, the Art of Living with Your Dog. I was even able to share an evening meal with the monks and speak with them one on one. Wow.
I met some of the most beautiful German Shepherds that I had ever met, so calm, social and balanced amongst the 25 or so participants of the seminar that couldn’t wait to pet, meet, observe and gush over the magnificent animals. I was able to see two fairly new litters, and meet Daisy who just delivered seven puppies a few days ago. At the seminar were people who lived in the village of Cambridge, and some who had traveled from Mexico. Some were trainers, most were dog lovers in general, and a few were just curious and were on vacation. And the monks – American Orthodox – who lived and worked in the monastery from the beginning, who believe hospitality as a spiritual discipline.
What did I learn? Dog breeding, socialization, history, but most of all the connection we humans have with dogs and some theories as to why. Mostly, it was a primer in looking inward as well as outward to embrace the unconditional love that we experience with our dogs. It seems that dogs have the unique ability of seeing us as our authentic selves without judging. What a gift that is – to be seen without any façade, and to have that reflected back to us.