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Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of Dogs

Updated: 1 day ago


Seville, Spain

We see ourselves in a different light every day, often giving harsh criticism for things not complete, something we felt bad about, or just not being our most vulnerable, and true self. Dogs see us differently though. What came up in my Mindful Self Compassion workshop the other day was Mary Oliver, a poet and pet lover and how her Dog Songs can teach us about the meaning of our human lives. My eyes filled with tears when the instructor read one of her poems about her dog that passed away, and I had to look further into her work.



The First Time Percy Came Back by Mary Oliver


The first time Percy came back he was not sailing on a cloud.

He was loping along the sand as though he had come a great way.

"Percy," I cried out, and reached to him—

those white curls— but he was unreachable.

As music is present yet you can't touch it."

Yes, it's all different," he said.

"You're going to be very surprised.

"But I wasn't thinking of that. I only wanted to hold him.

"Listen," he said, "I miss that too.

And now you'll be telling stories of my coming back and they won't be false, and they won't be true, but they'll be real."

And then, as he used to, he said, "Let's go!"

And we walked down the beach together.



I used to live right on the ocean and lucky enough to walk along the beach everyday. Along my meditative walks, with the sound of crashing waves I was fortunate to see some of the most happiest dogs. Let loose to just run and play, these dogs knew it was their moment to be free. They knew their owner would still be there waiting for them while they chased balls or took in the ocean air. My moments of joy were the dogs who would approach or wait for me as if they new me their whole lives. Could it be a connection, curiosity or simply that you just have enough love in your heart that they sense it. Those are the moments to embrace whether you have a dog or not. Its the moment when the dog sees you for who you are, and hope in return that you acknowledge them too. All dogs want is to live a good, and full life, and humans are meant to offer it to them--to love and care for them. We forget sometimes that we are so capable of offering something so natural that what we get in return is a purpose, and a promise of well-being and moments of joy. Think about the ways in which dogs look at us as supportive, caring, and authentic people. They are precious, and we are lucky to be given the chance to know them. The added love, well that would be even better.


"Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honour as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?"
Mary Oliver, Dog Songs

Maria Popova, from The Marginalian puts it so eloquently when she speaks to Mary Oliver and her poems and it reminds me again of the mindful moments we can have with animals. "Amidst the poetic, there are also the necessary, playfully practical reminders of how dogs illustrate the limitations of our own sensory awareness."


"A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her that you know almost nothing."

If you are spiritual in any capacity, you understand the notion of connecting with something unlike you. Imagine what dogs feel like when they see a human? Though the connection with a dog and its owner is inevitably the strongest and most whole-hearted, you don't have to own one to feel this power too. I remember living with two dogs at one point and taking care of them while their owner was away. I treated them as if they were my own, and in return they would never leave my side. To know you have the capacity to communicate with a creature that can't speak is a feeling unlike any other. We can feel connected to many things in this world that bring us joy and not have to call it ours. The Marginalian story about Mary Oliver also eludes to "Her concluding essay, emanating the loving-kindness of Buddhism and condensing that in the prism of the dog."



We are worthy of love, we are love, and in return lets give those dogs that provide this affection the same love. If the lens we can see ourselves in gets better each day with an animal, why wouldn't we find a way to help and heal them too?

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