Dog Tales

Sometimes it is difficult to see God in every situation, but I’m learning to look closely, listen carefully and to be open to the gifts that can be found even in  painful circumstances.  I think back to one of the most challenging times I have experienced:

In June 1996 I found a lump on the side of my dog Chelsea Blue.  It felt like a soft golf ball.  When I took her to the vet, he diagnosed it as breast cancer and scheduled surgery.  He could not give a prognosis, and advised me that this type of cancer frequently recurs. 

I took Chelsea home and waited for the day of her surgery.  During this period I often found myself holding her to my heart and asking her not to leave me.  But as I moved through my grief and fear, I realized that I could not ask Chelsea to stay if it was her time to leave.  As one of God’s beloved creatures she had her own path through eternity.  I was grateful for every day I shared with this gentle spirit, but still I had to honor her journey and her destiny.

So it is with all of those whom we love.  We come to earth for a short time.  We share these days of warm sunshine and cool breezes with others whose lifetimes coincides with ours.  We love.  We behold the beauty in others.  We comfort and are comforted by them.  And then we move on.

Even if we live with the faith that we are eternal beings, we know that in death we change forms.  We were born into a body and we leave that body when we die.  For the days between we are the expressions of our eternal souls in flesh—each of us unique, each treasured, each claiming a season of life.  We breathe, we laugh, we love.  We share this earthly existence with other eternal souls.

We cannot hold on.  Life is change.  We change day by day, moment by moment.  Love itself is given a deeper meaning, a bittersweet joy, by the knowledge that nothing lasts forever.  Loving is letting go.  Loving is beholding the beauty of an individual without holding on. 

Chelsea’s surgery was successful.  When she returned home, we became closer than ever before.  She was weak and needed extra care from me.  Tending to her needs gave me the opportunity to express my love in new ways. 

One of the unexpected pleasures of her convalescence was her unusually joyful behavior.  She had always been a sweet and undemanding dog.  But for those few weeks she seemed filled with gratitude for being alive.  This may have been a side effect of the anesthesia used during surgery, or perhaps her body was producing endorphins to combat the pain.  She exhibited this “joie de vivre” in every waking moment.  One event illustrates this:  Chelsea was lying on my bed while I was folding laundry.  I began singing, and as usual, my other dog Patches joined in.  (Doggy duets were commonplace in our home.)  On this day, Chelsea added her voice to ours, and we became a trio.  She never sang with us before, or after.  In that one precious moment she expressed her joy for living.

My experience with Chelsea’s cancer calls the question about the first of Unity’s fundamental teachings--that there is only one presence and one power in the universe, God the good, omnipotent.  This principle, while easy to accept in the abstract, can be quite challenging to apply in specific life circumstances.  If there is only God, and God is good, then why do hurtful things happen?  Perhaps the question should be restated as follows:  why do we label some things as hurtful when we know that there is only God and God is good?  This is a big step for most of us, a real leap of faith.  To redefine all of life as good requires that we reject many of the labels used by other people and by the media.  It also requires that we practice nonresistance, learning to embrace each thing that happens as part of the unfolding of God’s greater plan of good.

If we look closely at events in everyday life, we can see that they support the essential goodness of the universe.  Whether a situation has a profound impact, such as the loss of a loved one, or is merely an inconvenience, we can look for the blessing.  No spiritual work is nobler or more sacred than learning to see the blessing in every circumstance. 

As for Chelsea Blue, after three years the cancer recurred, and she had surgery again.  She did fine and lived to the ripe old age of 17.  I am grateful for every day that I had with her.  And I am most grateful for the spiritual lessons that she provided for me.

When we learn to live each day knowing that God’s goodness is everywhere manifest, and when we learn not to resist seemingly negative circumstances, we come into a greater awareness of our purpose here on Earth: to express the Truth of our being:  We are eternal.  We are good.  We are blessed.
This August at Unity Spiritual Community, we are offering a wonderful variety of Sunday services and other activities. Please see the calendar for details, and especially note that on the 23rd the Sunday lesson is entitled “Ten Things I Learned from My Dog.” This talk is dedicated to Chelsea Blue and the legions of other canine companions who have supported humankind throughout the ages.
With much love,
Rev. Carla