Masses Of Mammals…

Rituals; The Building Blocks Of My Days

I am nothing without my rituals; the ritual of movement, the ritual of prayer, and the ritual of cooking among them.  To live a day in my shoes, is to extend one ritual right into another, connecting them end-to-end to form a completed day.  The most meaningful ritual of my day though, and I mean this literally, is the ritual each morning of gathering my four dogs and assigning household leadership to one of them for the day – that they look after the house and one-another while I am at work.

The Crew

Pumpkin, is a Shih Tzu-Pug mix.  She is 13 years old.  She has only one eye, and is blind in that eye.  Her hearing is failing, and her sense of smell has diminished.  Despite a very sweet disposition, Pumpkin is the Helen Keller of dogs.

Stroodle is a Dachshund-Chihuahua mix.  He has all 4 legs, but only 3 of them work.  Stroodle is both, Pinky and The Brain, rolled into one.  Stroodle gives codependency a good name.

Pumpkin and Stroodle. Or, as my daughter calls them; Cyclopse and Tripod...

Sparky weighs nearly 150 lbs.  His silhouette is that of a German Shepherd, but his fur is snow white, and is a gentleman through and through.

Sparky: Mr. Dignity...

Toddy, an Australian Shepherd, codependent like Stroodle, is a tomboy.  She likes to get dirty and play with the boys, but deep down she’s all girl.

Toddy: Her is pretty...

The four pups have access to the garage during the day, as well as the run of the entire back yard.  There is water available to them in the garage and on the patio, and food in the garage if needed.  They have not excessively exploited my open-feeding policy, but I do think Sparky cheats some.

The Meeting

Showered, caffeinated, and ready to get on my bike and ride to work, each morning I gather the dogs in the garage for a meeting.  I will select one dog, look he or she in the eye with one of my hands touching his or her cheek, and I will inform them that they “got the nod” – that it is their day to be in charge while I am at work.  I explain that it’s up to them to look after their brothers and sisters, to protect the household and the property, and to use their cunning fisrt, and to use force only if needed.  “Brain first, bite second”, I say.

I then select another of them, to be the lieutenant for the day – to be available to the one in charge if needed.  Like any lieutenant, I explain that his or her job is no less important than being in charge.  The other two get the day off as a reward for their prior service.  It’s a four day rotation, each cycle beginning with Sparky since he is the oldest.  Next is Toddy, Pumpkin, then Stroodle.  Unless I spend extended time away from the house on the weekends, the pups get weekends off.

Before I leave for the day, I kiss each one of them on the cheek, pet them, let them know how much I appreciate them, thank them for being so good to me, and remind them which one I left in charge for that day.

As Rituals Go

Life can be fast, harsh, chaotic, and even numbing.  Oh I know, there’s the good stuff too, and I guess that’s my point.  That on a given day, no matter what comes my way – the good, the bad, or the ugly of it all, if I have lived my morning ritual with my pups, I’m already grounded and much better prepared to handle what mayhem might be around any corner.  This connection with my dogs reminds me to (attempt to) live each day with the same degree of dignity and reverence which my dogs execute so naturally.  They may be scruffy, shed too much, and have halitosis, but their souls are as elegant as the universe, and probably as old.

This ritual may seem silly, crazy even, but in the personal religion I have been building for myself, my morning ritual with the family mammals is no less holy to me than a candle being lit at an alter, a wafer placed on the tongue followed by a shot glass of grape juice, or a mezuzah touched while entering or exiting a door.  This ritual helps me keep it real.

The Evidence

I sometimes think the only truth I will ever know is looking into the eyes of a dog.  God may love me, but I live in constant doubt that he even knows my address or my name.  With my dogs, with any dogs, love is ever-present, evident with every glance, and my heart fills with peace from every wet kiss across my cheek and every stare upward from the floor below me – even from Pumpkin’s one blind eye.  Be well.  rc


Please check back next week for some thoughts on the utilty of modern word processing, and podcasts. 

Oh, and there is this from King Kapisi.  Enjoy…

14 responses

  1. Very nice post and thoughtful analysis. I absolutely agree with you about having some sort of ‘ritual’ you do to keep you grounded.Mine used to be as simple as a shower everyday to get going. I noticed I did almost everything the same in every shower: how and what order I wash and dry. Now that I’m older, and don’t go to work everyday outside my office, I sometimes don’t shower…just to change things up a bit…or I take it later in the day. I love my animals as well and have a good-bye rituual with Lab Casey. He now knows the hand signals for the ritual: Come, sit, sit pretty (up), high fives with both paws, lie down, play dead, still. Then I give him a treat. It takes his anomosity away (knows he’s not going with me) and grounds both him and I. My grandmother taught me to make the sign of the cross before driving. I do this everytime in all cars with a small 8-10 second metitation before I pull out.

  2. Love this! I’m going to try it on my kids 🙂
    Also, I have been looking for a little doggie; life is incomplete without one.

  3. Maybe God is looking at you through your dogs’ eyes.

    Most of my days are way too chaotic to “extend one ritual right into another, connecting them end-to-end to form a completed day”. But I do like to have a frame of rituals to give it structure. But then there are days which cannot be held by any structure.

  4. Nothing, absolutely nothing can tug the heart strings like a dog! I miss mine terribly and hope to be able to find another furry friend soon. RIP Keys and JB, my faithful labs.

  5. Stroodle, that is an awesome name for a pet. We don’t have dogs, we have cats; four of them. Somehow I am not certain this same ritual will stick with cats as well as it appears to stick with your dogs. My cats are all named after food; Healy (micro brew), Crush (orange soda), Nacho & Zinger. If I moved in to kiss one on the cheek, it would be my cheek that gets scratched; a mutiny even before we had a chance to become a crew.

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