Love, love, love, says Percy. And run as fast as you can along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust. Then, go to sleep. Give up your body heat, your beating heart. Then, trust. — Mary Oliver
There is something about dogs that makes me want to live to the fullest and love to the fullest, and open my heart to the fullest. Their happy dreamy loving eyes, their warm ‘come-pet-me’ fur, their all-consuming joy in the world and the pure love in their faces. They want you. All of you. You are their person, hands down. They hold no judgement, no questioning, no criticism, no suspicion. They see the best in you, no matter what. You simply arrive, and you have given them everything they want in this world. That’s it. You are theirs, unconditionally.
How to even put language to how a dog relaxes me, calms me, loves me? Compassion, with a dog, becomes a verb. It’s their light scampering of paws across the floor as they come running at you with race-horse power when you open the door, their skidding when they run so fast they cannot stop themselves on the glossy hardwood, their warm dog smell pushing into your arms on the couch as they sleep, their happy tapping of metal as they eat from their dish, almost faster than the eye can see. Their wet nose pushing into your hand, their tail wagging like a summer fan, their eyes on you during a rainy afternoon or late at night: closing, closing, closing as they slowly fall asleep into doggy dream bliss.
Mostly they are so very alive. Ever tried to hold a dog back on a leash when the most wonderful, uncontainable scent of the world overtakes them? Every smell, every tiny branch, piece of bark, wrapper, curled leaf, spring rain, fresh footprints in soil, snail on a low branch, tree visited by other dogs, mailbox, squirrel. How their ears are alert and perked up, how they prance-run along grass like they are floating above the ground, how their brown-flecked eyes open wide and look at you like “come on!” and their excited yearning forward-pulling energy takes over.
Dogs have the present moment mastered. Mindfulness is the natural skill of the dog. Loving without reserve is their gift. And we can all learn from it. I suspect when the memo came out on loving unconditionally with grace and forgiveness, that dogs got it first.
Will I learn to love and be loved like dogs already know how? Will I learn to ‘love, love, love’ like Percy? Will I learn to be alive and filled with wonder at a tree, a breeze, a drop of rain, the sound of a branch on the roof, a snail? Will I run with all my might and heart towards the things that make me happy?
Someday I will die. And this is the poem I want read at my funeral. The Percy poem. “Love, love, love, says Percy. And run as fast as you can along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust. Then, go to sleep. Give up your body heat, your beating heart.” And I hope that while I am still alive, I would pay attention, experience the world with every one of my senses, run along the shining streets after rain and on the beach, like I’ve never ever run before.
There are days for many people, friends of mine and people I have not yet met, who do not see the joy in the world, who want to give up, not live, not be awake. Where they can no longer see reasons for running along a shiny beach, or to love, or to let their heart beat. And I do not pretend to have answers. I know this too is our world and our very sad reality. I too am learning this thing called being alive, being here, being in the midst of love. It’s hard. It’s real. And there have been times for me too when the world called, and I did not want to answer.
I think it will be a lifelong journey and then some. But I know that I can learn so much from a dog. I know that I can be so much more fully present and contented when I am around them, that this can be a starting place, and that Mary Oliver’s final words of this poem are so true and so necessary: