Dogs fill the void that forms when life becomes unmanageable or incomprehensible.
Cold weather may be causing my depression, but I wouldn’t count on it.
A string of horrible news stories over the last few weeks may be more to blame, but I am not looking for blame here — it is answers I am after.
At times it seems the news we are bombarded with is more bad than good.
That’s a given.
If I wanted to avoid this onslaught of daily death and destruction I would have to live on the moon.
As the world’s predominately male armies duke it out in the urban corridors of Baghdad and across the rural landscape of Afghanistan, I am shocked by the images of ordinary folks caught in the crossfire.
War is horrific for the men and women waging it. Its worse still for the real victims: innocent women and children whose only crime is to be women and children.
When I see these images I shudder. My body language changes. I shut down.
It is this unfathomable inhumanity toward humanity that drives me right over the edge.
But there are other crimes of consciousness that do me in as well.
When I saw recent photographs of Trooper — the dog nearly dragged to death in Whitehorse — I shut down.
Avoiding clinical definitions — possessing or exhibiting a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder — depression illustrates itself by leaving us hollow, bent over, pulled down low to the ground.
Physicians have names for specific parts of our anatomy that do the pulling. Muscles or nerves that press or pull down or decrease activity are ‘depressors.’
In order to get up and running once again, the body requires ‘levators’ — muscles and nerves that pull us up and increase our activity.
If we allow ourselves to find good news among bad, find the positive where others see only the negative or wrestle hope out of despair, we send electrical signals to our levators and they kick in.
Trooper’s journey is a good news story.
Someone caused the pain Trooper now has to endure. Others will now be called upon to help him heal.
Good heartedness is the flip side of the coin of humanity. Good heartedness is only possible when people do things wholeheartedly.
And wholeheartedness is one of the things we can learn from our relationship with dogs. We can learn this from dogs because they have the ability to draw us up and out of ourselves.
Raising and caring for dogs provides us with the opportunity to experience wholeheartedness.
The monks of New Skete, who sustain their monastic practice by raising and training German shepherds, are quick to remind of the following:
“When we take the time and energy necessary to raise our dogs correctly, when we learn to truly listen to them, seeing them as they really are and guiding their development accordingly, a deeper part of ourselves is unlocked, a part more compassionate and less arrogant, more willing to share life with another life. And whenever that happens, we know the real meaning of happiness.”
Trooper now gives all of us an opportunity to heal as he heals.
By forcing us to acknowledge the worst and the best of the human character, his journey now opens us to the possibility of wholeheartedness.
Trooper — all dogs in fact — touch us at this deep level.
They are our levators.
They fill our hollow places — the void that forms when life becomes unmanageable or incomprehensible.
More importantly, dogs reconnect us to the nonhuman world. And God knows we are in desperate need of recovering our connection to the natural world.
Again the monks of New Skete:
“Nothing impresses us anymore, and we travel farther into a disharmonious cavern of individualism, with ourselves as our own guides.
“We arrogantly process reality through preconceived notions that are sterile and cold. Our world is striped of a profound and compelling mystery.”
When I look at Trooper, head surrounded by a protective collar, eyes both sad and determined, I find the compelling mystery.
As Trooper struggles every day to become whole once again, we can do the same.
If we find the courage and determination to become wholehearted, we can begin to reduce the number of bad news stories that flood us every day.
Conflict and war are only one side of who we really are. Humans by their very nature are compassionate and forgiving
The human body with its competing system of ‘depressors’ and ‘levators’ is always working to find balance.
As we moved steadily, over millions of years, from the savannah of Africa and spread out over the surface of the planet, we did so by walking.
Walking required the body’s levators to exert an overriding influence over depressors.
We straightened our backs and our legs and in so doing we filled our hearts and minds with the potential to be wholehearted.
But every once in a while, we need to be reminded of our great human potential and right now Trooper is a metaphor we can all take heart in.
Good boy, Trooper.