Nobel Peace Prize

Dog Brains

When I was younger, I took a women’s literature course and one of the writers the young professor introduced us to was a revolutionary woman named Rigoberta Menchu.  Physically, she presented nothing of a threat:  plump, ordinary-looking, no scowl on her round face.  But mentally and dynamically, she’s a powerhouse for the indigenous population of Guatemala.  I remember reading her work and appreciating the guts it took for her to speak truth to power and righteously defend her people.  She not only defended people; she defended animals and nature  . . . basically, she defends the rights of all living beings.

She said, “There is not one world for man and one for animals; they are part of the same one and lead parallel lives.”  That statement is so simple but incredibly powerful.  And true.  One thing you can count on with Menchu is that she tells the truth.

This morning, I was thinking of that statement when I walked Izzy before the sun rose.  We saw several of his dog friends while walking.  One’s a female boxer whose submissive and sweet personality reminds me of Menchu herself.  Boxers are strong, muscular dogs, yet Peaches defies the stereotype.  Instead, she is friendly and wiggly, like you would expect Izzy to be.  Both of them are the exact opposite of what you would expect, as is Menchu.

We inhabit a neighborhood where possums live next door to foxes, bluebirds share the sky with buzzards, tiny yappy dogs (like the Chihuahua down the street) walk the same streets as burly pitbulls.  Black Methodists sing in a church a block away from White Baptists.  Single women who have grown up in North Carolina and spent their lives surrounded by family are friends with others who grew up in New England and have no family nearby.  Doctors shake the hands of field workers.  Though there are times when our paths do not cross — and other times when they collide — we all are part of the same world, and as Menchu states, we lead parallel lives.

As I pondered that thought, Izzy did his morning routine:  sniffing under the old white Cadillac for the tortoiseshell cat that hides there, peering into the sky when the rook of buzzards lifted off the roof of Mr. Mendoza’s house, lapping the pool of rain water that has collected in the dip in the sidewalk.  Occasionally, he’ll glance up at me, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, and I laugh at him.  He may not speak human words, but the language he has says one important thing:  I’m here for you.  I’m part of your world.

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Friends

When I ask Izzy as we’re putting on his leash to go out the door whether he wants to “go see Ellie,” his ears perk up, he cocks his head and does a little dance, pulling me all the way down the driveway, up the street, around the corner, up the little hill, then down Ellie’s street.  She actually lives behind me with her ‘mom,’ my friend Peggy, but we have to go around the block to get to her house because there’s a stand of 50′ tall bamboo and a few buildings separating our yards.  It’s the height of Izzy’s day if we visit his best friend, the little Maltese.  I suspect it’s the height of Ellie’s day, too.  And in a lot of ways, when Peggy and I sit on her porch and watch our little dogs chase each other around a tree, it’s the height of our day, too.  But the past couple of times we’ve gone to visit Ellie, she hasn’t been home.  I think Izzy would have patiently waited at the door for her, but when I told him, “She’s not home, buddy.”  I think he understood, though he seemed disappointed for the rest of the day.

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As I write this, I’m reminded of the delicate strands of friendship and relationship that wind through all our lives.  I’m watching two people unload a little house across the street, packing a lifetime of belongings into a trailer they’re pulling behind a black GMC pickup.  The house and its belongings were the property of my neighbor, a 90 year old woman.  She spent her life her life in that house.  Though I never really got to know her, my next door neighbor did, and when the old woman was taken to a nursing home, my friend Deb cried.  That’s one of the many things I like about Deb.  She’s compassionate and warm.  She thinks she’s oversensitive sometimes, but I don’t believe there is such a thing.  I think we use that term to cover our own need for self-protection.  We don’t want to feel someone else’s pain or anguish, so we call those who do “oversensitive.”  I find that term . . . well, insensitive.

Dogs don’t feel the need to hide their feelings.  What you see is what you get with my Izzy, as well as with his other friends.  If someone’s having a bad day, they growl or snap.  If another is happy to see you, there’s no denying the little happy dance dogs do — big or small.  There’s something contagious about a dog that practically wiggles out of his skin when he sees someone he loves.

I’ve been reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Thay (pronounced Tie), as his disciples call him, is traveling throughout Canada and the United States right now, and as a practicing Buddhist, I would love nothing better than to see him.  Unfortunately, he’s not coming near my little hamlet in North Carolina, so I’m satisfying myself by reading some of his writings.  Today, the one the struck me has an awful lot to do with friendship.  I’d like to share it with you.

“The most precious gift we can give others is our presence.  When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.” 

I think Thay knows dogs well 🙂

Peace.