Memories of a Bodhisattva

Two years ago today, she passed away. Perhaps an unlikely bodhisattva, Jackie brought joy to everyone she met. Bounding down the hall at Hayfield Animal Hospital, enthusiastically wiggling her nubby tail in anticipation of visiting one doctor or veterinary technician or another–so unlike the other pets quivering frantic and fear struck in the waiting room.

She came from the animal shelter, abandoned by her former owner. Nine-year-old Jennifer wanted a dog. Reluctantly we agreed. On a test walk, Jackie flopped on her back to expose a belly for rubbing. We took this to mean that she liked and trusted us. Actually, that was her personality–loving and friendly to everyone. Still, as a 75-pound Giant Schnauzer, she was a fierce watchdog behind the family door–barking furiously at a knock until certain of who was on the other side.

Jackie, Jenn and Dad

Jackie turned out to be my dog–or more accurately, I turned out to be her person. She adopted me. She did Gongyo with mom and I every morning and night. If I were a little late, she reminded me that I needed to conduct the Buddhist ceremony.

She had been with us for ten years when cancer struck. She went quickly, without complaint or obvious pain. We took a trip to the mountains of West Virginia her last week of life. She scampered carefree and happy 60 yards ahead of us on the wooded trails, looking back for us to catch up. On the way home she couldn’t keep food or water down. At the hospital, she still wagged her stubby tail in friendly greeting to the staff, but the next morning we had to let her go, after doing gongyo and chanting with her one last time in the family room of the hospital.  In the “Treasure of a Filial Child,” Nichiren Daishonin says, “When the fox of Mount Shita encountered the Buddha’s teachings, he grew dissatisfied with life, longed for death, and was reborn as the god Shakra.” WND, p. 1041. I cannot say if that will be Jackie’s destiny in her next life; but at least a human, I am sure.