Sometimes a mentor or teacher will come into our lives at just the right time, regardless of whether we’re looking for one or even know we need one. A few years ago this happened to me, quite unexpectedly, when I met Simba. My teacher wasn’t a Zen master, or a lama at the local Buddhist center. He was no ordinary teacher; he was a dog.
When I adopted Simba through a rescue group, I learned much of his history from his foster mom, who had taken care of him for the previous three months, and from the woman who had freed him from the chain he had been hooked to for nearly four years. He had been neglected, barely fed or given water, and was so lacking in exercise that he was hardly able to use his hind legs. After being rescued he had to be shaved to remove the parasites in his fur, and he had other skin and health issues. Worst of all, he had chewed on his infected paws so severely that the vets had at first thought he had chewed his toes off. He was still in bad shape when I brought him home, but I was confident we could get him back to health.
Physical health, that is, but how was this sentient being going to heal emotionally, mentally, and maybe even spiritually? I was a bit scared. He weighed nearly a hundred and fifty pounds! Would he be angry as a result of his experience and act disobediently and aggressively? How would he behave with other animals, children, women, and men? To my amazement, he turned out to be a gentle giant. He respected the smaller animals in our home, adored meeting babies and toddlers on our walks, never showed any aggressive behavior to anyone, and brought smiles to the faces of everyone he met.
As he got healthier, our walks got longer and we could go faster, especially when the weather cooled off. With more to explore, he’d want to stop and sniff the plants and flowers to see whether any of his dog friends had been by. On those cold morning walks, especially if it was raining, I’d tug him along and grumpily tell him we had to keep moving. He did like to lollygag, to take in life and enjoy it. He seemed at peace with the world and didn’t see why I needed to rush. It was true. I didn’t. I was just being impatient, wanting to hurry to get on to the next thing. And what did I have to be angry about? A little rain, a little chill was nothing terrible to endure. It’s just nature doing its thing. I realized that every day in so many ways he showed me how to experience the moment and practice patience.
Even when he was dying he brought happiness to all around him, despite the pain the tumors throughout his body must have been causing. Right up to the end, his soft eyes would remind me to be patient and appreciate the moment.
What an amazing journey his life had been. After enduring years of neglect, abuse, illness, and disease, this dog exhibited nothing but kindness and respect for others. It must have taken great inner strength to have not only persevered, but to have come through the fear and suffering with only love in his heart.
I am grateful to have had a teacher who taught me not through words, but through his personal story, experience, and actions. No matter what life threw at him, he practiced patience, taught love, and spread only joy.
No evil is there similar to anger / No austerity to be compared with patience…There’s nothing that does not grow light / Through habit and familiarity. / Putting up with little cares / I’ll train myself to bear with great adversity! / Don’t I see that this is so with common irritations: / Bites and stings of snakes and flies, / Experiences of hunger and of thirst, / And painful rashes on my skin? / Heat and cold, the wind and rain, / Sickness, prison, beatings – / I’ll not fret about such things…For is not patience the supreme austerity?
– Shantideva, Bodhicharyavatara (The Way of The Bodhisattva)
– The original version of this article first appeared in Buddhadharma magazine.
What a wonderful teacher your found in Simba, thank you for sharing him with us, and I know he will always be part of your journey and will continue to guide you.. ❤
Thank you Sue! He is with me everyday. 🙂
Such a beautiful teacher. Love, patience and light shine through him. Thank you for sharing Simba’s story.
Thank you for reading it! 🙂
Tears in my eyes for this beautiful story and wonderful dog. Animals are my best teachers too. I have learned so much of them and I still do 🙂
Thank you. Yes, animals have much to teach us! 🙂 Namaste _/l\_
Beautiful story. Glad he was there for you and that you were there for him.
Such a sweet story! Mom tries to rush me along sometimes on our walks. She says I am a daydreamer and spend too much time staring at the air. Maybe this Simba story can teach her something, too! 🙂
Love and licks,
Cupcake, it is nice to just stop and daydream! Tell your mom she should try it! 🙂
You were very brave to take on this rescue even though you had some fears how simba will turn out. I think your unconditional love is as beautiful as Simba’s 🙂
Aw, thank you. I knew I had to. Simba was truly a soul mate!
What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for your words of wisdom. Sometimes I’m a little impatient with my dogs and your post has put our relationships into perspective. My dogs don’t have the same busy agendas that I have, they’re all about enjoying a long morning walk, sniffing the same bush for as long as they need to and making sure they mark just the right spot. I need to work on my patience, sheer determination, and presence.
Thanks for your touching post – sure masters come in many forms – a dog?
Let me quote from the Gita:
” Men of Self-knowledge see the Eternal equally in a wise and courteous Brahmin ( wise man of learning and discretion), a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcast.”
so you surely Julainji are a lady of Self-knowledge.
Please believe me Im not being patronizing – just a humble follower of truth.
Thank you, Indraji! Simba was a very wise soul. I am sure we had been together before. I have a strong connection to animals and animal spirits. We “speak” to each other. We are all of the Divine.
Thought you’d like this:
What need is there to say more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them.
If I do not exchange my happiness
For the suffering of others,
I shall not attain the state of buddhahood
And even in samsara I shall have no real joy.
The source of all misery in the world
Lies in thinking of oneself;
The source of all happiness
Lies in thinking of others.
Thank you again and Namaste! 😉
Namaskaram (tamil)! 🙂
I also had a very special dog who taught me much about healing. A bodhisattva can appear in any form, teaching what is needed.
So true! Namaste!
Great post!! Animals are the best teachers: the have no hope, they’ve no need for it, just direct living, what more can we ask of a Zen master?
I have a minie doxie and she is a “comfort” service dog. My best friend for almost 10 years! She teaches me patience LOL.
Wonderful story with great wisdom within. Animals, most especially dogs and cats are the greatest teachers. They come into the lives of many to teach the greatest lesson of all…”Unconditional Love”. Rarely do many see the lesson. People are great teachers and student unto each other.
“I AM that “I AM”.. Namaste, Jerry
Thank you Jerry! Animals are amazing creatures and teachers. They have much to tell us; we just have to listen. 😉 Namaste
There is so much to learn from animals in silence spent just observing. 😉
Beautiful post and the heart you share with all of us especially the pup! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
What a remarkable journey. The peacefulness of animals has always been fascinating to me, as I grew up with a rescue dog who may as well have been my babysitter.
I learned Zen first from one beagle and then, another. It’s not a preference for beagles as both were rescues but the coincidence has never been lost on me. Clearly, Simba enjoyed a life of love and a sense of home with you. Thanks for sharing Simba’s story as well as a bit of your journey.
Thank you Karen! Animals and animal spirits can be wonderful guides.