The goddess of compassion, Quan Yin, rules a corner of my garden under the branches of several aspens now about to turn gold. She’s an ambiguous presence, a gift from a man who leaned heavily on my over-developed sense of compassion; I sometimes wish I could decide to replace her with another representative of the female, something fierce, like a bear.
My puppy Pip wanders around under the aspens, innocently unaware of the guardian spirit hovering over him. I don’t think he senses the need for compassion; how could he? He is learning all kinds of rules, when to sit down, when to lie down, how to wait (this one is particularly difficult), how to leave something like a dog treat alone (also hard), under the expert guidance of my trainer and friend, Indigo Ataki.
I’m learning, too: how to lower my voice, speak from my diaphragm, breath, and fix my mind during Pip’s training—as Indigo suggests—on the figure of a powerful female. I’ve chosen, not Quan Yin, but the amazing tennis player, Serena Williams. Surely she would have no trouble teaching Pip.
Yesterday was a particularly interesting lesson. Pip, after all, is a boy; his neutering has had little effect on his boyishness, for which I’m grateful, since he can be a charmer when he is trying to evade commands. He’s never shown a bit of aggression against people or dogs; he is a daily reminder of the mistaken prejudice so many harbor again pit bulls.
But there are times when his shenanigan has to end, which happened yesterday. Instead of reacting to Indigo’s commands, Pip began to jump, run and whirl, grinning at the two adults who were momentarily powerless to bring him under control.
Only momentarily. When several deep-voiced commands failed to quell him, Indigo looped the leash firmly around Pip’s neck and led him in tight circles, a maneuver, he told me, that some of his clients reject as being “mean.” I’ve seen the result for dogs who couldn’t be trained because of their owners’ bleating about meanness, and I know the resulting dog is very hard to deal with and will probably end up at the pound.
Pip became subdued. I tend to think a subdued creature is a depressed creature, at least of the human variety, but there is another kind of subjugation. It seems to entail a recognition of reality, on Pip’s part, a fuzzy realization that the human being at the other end of the leash is in charge. And my puppy has been an angel ever since. Of course this will wear off.
Being at times exuberant myself, although not given to running, twisting and leaping—at least not yet—I recognized the lesson, for me, in what Pip was learning.
Reality is intractable.
My mother used to warn me about “Kicking against the pricks”—no pun intended. And yet it has taken me all these years to begin to spare myself from battling reality, to begin to admit that certain human beings whom I love cannot love me, and that the leash around my neck is made out of links forged every time I battle this fact.
Meanwhile, there are my gardens, resplendent after a summer of rain, and Quan Yin, who perhaps can teach me compassion toward myself.