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Our little Babushka - the cutest puppy in the world.We first saw her walk out from under a car near our home – a grease-smudged ball of fluffy whiteness.  She was, hands down, the cutest puppy we had ever seen – a tiny thing with little ears, button eyes, and curly tail – a stuffed animal come to life.  Her cuteness was almost unbearable.

We asked her owner – a mechanic under the same car – if she had any brothers or sisters.  He had bought her on a street corner in San Francisco and didn’t know.  The following day, overrun by her puppy energy, he offered to sell her to us.  I bargained her down to $35 and then brought her home as a surprise for Loveleen.  We had a dog!

Almost instantly, she captured our hearts.  When it came to picking a name, it came to me in a lucid ‘aha.’  My special “pet” name for Loveleen was “My little babushka.”  I called her this with much much love and to give it away to this little puppy was no small sacrifice.  Sensing her importance to us, the name was bestowed on her… our little Babushka.

Babushka was indeed a terror as a puppy, relentlessly yanking on my pant legs and Love’s skirts.  She came with us everywhere – even to my construction job.  Her first trip in the back of my truck made her pee, poor thing, but soon after she came to love her windy chariot.

At the time, I didn’t like leashes.  To me they represented control and ownership, and I wanted Babushka to feel free and independent.  There were times, I’ll admit, when I screamed out in terror when cars came a little too fast or a little too close, but her childhood was truly fun-filled with adventure and freedom.

Babushka as a "teenager"As a tiny puppy, we never really imagined she would grow to become a big dog, but in her “teenage years”, those little bent ears stood up, her snout popped out and she grew.  Our little toy became a big toy – now with wolf-like features.

Years later we had her DNA test done and discovered she was an equal four-part mix of Chow Chow, Alaskan Malamute, Akita, and Komondor.  That combo, when flooded with love, is how you make a Babushka.

The reason I’m writing this is because today, fourteen years later, our little Babushka has moved on.  It was hard to know then just how much of a part of us she would become.

Some fun Babushka stories…

One of the first astonishing events in her life happened when we left her in the back of Loveleen’s Karmann Ghia one day to quickly go into a store.  When we came back, I noticed a wet paw print on the seat.  I looked around to see where the wetness had come from.  Did she pee in the car?  After lots of looking, we found the near impossible.  She did indeed pee.  She had gone through a mesh net between the back seat and the trunk area into a jar that was tipped at an angle on its side.  The jar was filled with pee without any spillage.  Not bad for a 3-month old puppy!  Good girl!

Babushka with Sunflowers

Another miraculous event happened that I shudder to even mention.  One day, Loveleen had tied her on the driveway to the back bumper of my truck.  It didn’t occur to her that I might drive off without noticing she was tied there, but that’s exactly what happened.  I had to leave in a hurry and drove off unaware.  Even worse, at this point, not only did we leash Babu because she had become aggressive toward other dogs, but we kept a full body harness around her to keep her from choking herself any time she lunged.

I had driven about two blocks before a neighbor waived me to stop and I looked back in cold horror to see Babu’s empty harness dragging from her leash.

By this time, Babu had become such an integral and beloved part of our lives.  It’s hard to convey how much of our love we had entwined with this little being.  The image of what may have happened to my angel was more horrific than I could ever express.  I turned the truck around in horror to face whatever destiny lay waiting.  When I got home, there she was!  Alive and well, standing with Loveleen in front of our house, wagging her fluffy tail.  I ran out to hug her and to receive her long kisses – both of us knowing just how close a call it had been.  Loveleen had watched in terror as I drove off with Babu running behind my accelerating truck.  That the harness miraculously slipped off her is something hard to explain.  As I held my baby girl in deep gratitude, a praying mantis came from nowhere and landed on my hand.  Grace.  True story.  Thank you.

But the biggest miracle by far was that for fourteen years we were all able to share a deep and priceless bond of love.  I won’t lie.  We’ve been good caretakers.  Babu got her walks every day – she was showered with love and treats, and sometimes went for hikes through the redwoods or rolling hills.  But what we’ve given to her can never compare to what she gave to us.  Babu was a part of our lives.  A big part.  But we were a much bigger part of hers.  She loved us profoundly.  Wherever I went, she would follow.  Whenever I looked up at her, she would be watching me.  Whenever Babu with Wings!we drove home, she would be waiting, always overjoyed to see us.  Her love was extraordinary.

One of my favorite things was getting kisses from her and looking into her innocent eyes while she kissed.  Oh my lord, what a precious being.  Knowing that she was dying, I made sure to do this often.  Though it may sound odd, Babu and I would stare into each others’ eyes while she kissed me – sharing together an exchange of love – two beings radiating all of our love toward one another. The love that flowed was universal and overflowing.  In love, we were true equals.

Babu was blessed to live a healthy life, though her last month was hard.  Most everything began going wrong.  Diabetes.  Kidney disease. Liver disease. Infections.  Seizures.  Loss of mobility.  No appetite.  Through it all, she stayed loving.

We did everything we could.  If she was to die, we wanted it to end on the right note – in harmony with the beauty and joy of her life.  Deciding when to let go is a decision I wish on no one.  That we were able to compassionately make this decision is something most take for granted for animals, though it’s a nearly taboo subject for people.  This is something that ought to change.  It is said that one’s state of mind at the moment of death sets the course for what comes next and is therefore of utmost importance.  What matters most is that one’s mind is with love.

Babu appearance right after death?

This dog appeared before us just minutes after Babu's passing.

Knowing in our hearts that it was Babu’s time, Loveleen drove my truck as I lay with Babu in the back – my arm over her fluffiness, our heads pressed together, feeling the tremendous loss that had arrived.  It was in the back of my truck that she was laid to rest.  I could feel her pure white spirit surround us.  Minutes later, a young dog appeared on the hill above us – a fluffy white dog with a puppy energy and an eerie resemblance to Babushka.  It sat and looked at us as if to say “I am here. I’ve crossed over. I’m OK.  Life goes on.”

All animals – every one of them – are our kin.  We need to respect and treat them as such.  Thank you, little Babushka, for all of your love and protection.  And thanks to all the beloved beings of the world.  Happy 14th Birthday on this Valentine’s Day.  We’ll love you forever.

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rubber_ducky

Welcome to life. At some point, each of us is bound to experience profound loss. And we all somehow manage to get through it. I’m not happy about my current situation, but life is what it is. The key is how we deal with it.

By posting this now, I am kind of opening myself up, sharing this most difficult process as it happens in real time. For me, there couldn’t be much of a greater loss than losing Loveleen so, if it actually happens, how am I going to deal with it?

It’s kind of twisted to say that it’s fortunate I’ve dealt with profound loss before, but I have, and having been through it, I’ve picked up some survival tools. The feelings that will be coming my way are likely to be pretty severe. It’s one thing to talk about how to cope. It’s another thing to do it. I’m sharing these tools with everyone, hoping that maybe it might help you out in similar situations, but it will remain to be seen whether they prove useful to me this time around.

Rule #1 – I Love Myself. When tragedy hits, we can lose hope and fall into depression. The antidote is love and if the world is not feeding you with it, then feed yourself. Repeat to yourself over and over “I love myself, I love myself…” – whether you believe it or not. Eventually you
will. Sometimes, it may be hard to keep the flame lit, but this is a sure way of doing it. See also my earlier post called “Recipe for Blue Skies”.

Rule #2 – Enjoy the process :).  In moments of sadness we are exposed to the sweetness of life. Life is not just about smiling and being happy. Life is about savoring our existence and this existence is made up of all kinds of extraordinary experiences, many of them very difficult to go through. Nothing can reveal severe beauty like the pain of loss – here, we are re-living love on its way out. It’s OK to be crushed, but enjoy being crushed, and savor the love for the second time as it makes its departure. When you can learn to appreciate everything – wanted and unwanted – then life just becomes an amazing ride.

Rule #3 – Stay true. This is an important part of enjoying the process and the best way to grow with the ride. For me, poetry has always been very helpful in times like these.

Rule #4 – Stay active. Distract yourself and keep the fire burning in whatever way it takes to
get through the really tough parts.

Rule #5 – Practice anonymous acts of kindness. In planting seeds of goodness, new joy begins
to grow and take over.

I’m sure there are many more rules. These are just a few that have helped me. Feel free to add any you may know in the comments section. Anyway, I’m just trying to be positive. I’m assuming from past losses that this will be pretty hard to handle, but who knows, perhaps after 6 Vipassana courses, I’ll be grounded enough to watch this one a little differently. :)

compass4I came back to the US without any agendas. I figured I would figure it out once I arrived. I gave myself some time to recover, some time to be present with Loveleen, some time to just be. In the absence of any structure or guidance, I found myself reverting to some old habits. I looked at my first naked chick pictures on the internet in well over a year, I slept a lot, I avoided the incredible pile up of work that was waiting for me from Friends Without Borders.

Very shortly after arriving, I picked up the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and started reading it. It had been many years since I first read it and it was actually very different from what I had remembered. It was very difficult watching Siddhartha lose himself after cultivating such an extraordinary spirit. In the story, he is very casual about the choices he made, saying that they allowed him to awaken naturally and know the limitations to surface living in a genuine way, without dogma. And his experience seemed to be very parallel to what I found myself falling into the first weeks back in the US.

Without direction, I wasn’t going anywhere. I could easily see how this could spiral into depression and addiction, etc. Fortunately, for me, the need for some kind of compass was very clear, and I don’t feel I will drift very far.

A compass is something that ensures that your spirit is lit and exercised. We are surrounded by all kinds of temptations that seem attractive, but will only bring us misery in the long run. Though they are often flawed, religion, spirituality, or at least some kind of engagement with the world can keep us moving through life in a healthy way.

I guess for me, I tend to recreate my compasses all the time. Presently, I don’t yet have one, but it’s likely, when I find it, the needle will be pointing your direction.

baby_bird_1I’m back in the US. In terms of the blog, I’m not sure what that means. I named the blog “To Be True,” implying that I would keep things real. I have a lot more to say, but to write about what’s real is often difficult because things are sometimes too real… and too personal… to talk about openly. But to avoid these big things is to stray from the essential.

Since the age of 17, I have always carried with me the gut knowledge to avoid getting nested. This knowing, though strong, was never validated by my life. As much as I knew to avoid long-term commitments like pets, debts, and children, there never seemed to be a justified reason why. It just seemed like an irrational fear or eccentricity and over the years, with little compromises here and there, I ended up somewhat nested, but not totally. This trip to India gave me the first validation that there was something to my internal knowing.

baby_kitten_1Having to leave behind Loveleen, Babushka, and Luna for so long was a difficult thing to do in so many ways – not to mention all the other commitments and responsibilities that needed attending to. I took that difficult step and did the best I could to make everything work out.

But it was sometimes hard on Loveleen.

I have always been open to having a child, though it never seemed quite right. If I did, I would want to make the child my life’s primary focus and in doing this, I would make an incredible father. I would love my child as much as any father has ever loved his child. Being a good father, however, would require a complete reversal of everything I have built my life on. Raising a child in America – the way I would want – is not easy. Our isolated lifestyles in America are good for cultivating the benefits of self-development, but not good for providing the “village” required to raise the happiest children. And maybe it’s just me, but I find the public schools in America often to be hell-holes.

The biggest change for me is that I would have to let go much of my reckless approach to giving, and shift my priorities to making money and providing. Perhaps we could find a community living situation or could move to a village somewhere or to a place where my child could run free without worries, but that would require moving away from family, and things get complicated…

arunimaLoveleen’s biological clock is ticking and for a long time, she has wanted a family. I think Loveleen would make the best mother of all time. One of my strongest tendencies is to want to fulfill people’s dreams, but this one is tricky. By fulfilling her dream, I become nested. And what that means is that my ability to give my all in whatever way needed becomes seriously compromised by my needing to be present to the new, long-term needs on hand. If I tried to continue on course – and be a dad – I would end up being an absent father. Very often, very caring and dedicated people like Einstein, Gandhi, or John Lennon, just don’t make good parents because they spend all their resources elsewhere. This is my big fear.

Several days before leaving India, I became sick. I developed a high fever and slept a lot. Perhaps, I thought, this was a result of an easing of all of the responsibilities I had held for so long. The plane ride home was long. The greeting I got at the airport from friends was very sweet, and then I spent the next few days still recovering. Certain blisters I had gotten in India were getting more and more infected and the bacteria entered my bloodstream and became life-threatening. It’s likely I had a staph infection. Once again, antibiotics saved the day.

babymonkeyThe hardest part about arriving, however, was when Loveleen started talking about breaking up in a very serious way. She is very understanding and eloquent, and said she has to come to terms with the idea of me not wanting to have a family.

It’s not that I don’t want a child. How incredibly amazing would that be? It’s that my gut is warning me – it’s telling me to remain free so that I can serve unbound. The thought of losing Loveleen deflates my spirit to zero.

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