We dogs understand that our life span is traditionally shorter than our caretaker’s. I’ve said it before: one of our roles in the universe is to display life’s path of birth-to-death for our caretakers, and it’s not easy for any of us.
I’m Lazarus, a 13-year-old Plott Hound originally raised to hunt bear. It’s easy enough to say “hunt bear,” but it wasn’t all that easy to do; I ended up blind in one eye, missing parts of my nose and tail, and earning my name only after repeatedly returning from near death. At 13, I’m described as a ‘senior’ dog, and am so senior that I regularly question if I’ll be here to write again next month. Some days are physically better than others, but I often feel as though Nirvana is close enough to sniff.
The true Buddhist definition of Nirvana means that I would not be reincarnated. Nirvana is the final release from the cycle of reincarnation — absolute blessedness by the extinction of all desires. But what if I desire to be reincarnated? What if I still have unmet desires? I’ve often thought about being a purse puppy, carried everywhere I go and seeing the world from four feet up in the air rather than just 18 inches off the ground. Or maybe a cat? Some dogs have problems with cats, but I don’t. I find their ability to recklessly jump from sofa to mantle to end table fascinating. Or a shark? Both loved and feared. I think a moose best reflects my personality of quiet stoicism and getting to enjoy the natural scenery of the mountains. But I believe our life purpose and creative harmony are typically parts of a universal view, not one of the self.
Some would call my believed closeness to death frightening or worrisome, and in ways it is. I know why my caretaker returns home and puts a hand on my chest after his being away for the day; life can be expressed in many ways but it only continues with a breath. It is becoming increasingly apparent that I’ll die of old age, so I ask, do I have any remaining purpose other than teaching something about death? Can harmony continue when the end is in sight for even a blind dog? Of course the answer is, “if you make it so.” There are challenges late in life which can show love, create heartache, bring forth questions that need answering and preparation. Have you discussed what to do and who will make those decisions? We all have purpose, and for some that includes determining when Nirvana has arrived for others.
My name expresses my life: when many think I am near the end I return to health. I have scars from a younger dog’s near-death surgeries and I’ve lived months past expectancy with liver cancer, but in the end this body will fail. I’m okay with that. On the good days I enjoy what I have, and on the other days I sleep knowing I’m loved. Can you say the same? I am not in pain and I live life as I choose. My past week was spent with the larger family enjoying walks with a nephew, treats from a cousin, steak for dinner and even a donut for breakfast. Sounds like Nirvana may already be here.
Lazarus lives with Biostar’s Rick Moore.