Saturday, August 29, 2015

Eli. Lesson Three.


The 7 Teachings of Eli
Lesson Three

Suggested Pre-Reading:
Lesson One
Lesson Two

"Whoa, Dude!" I said to Eli (which I now realize wasn't the most respectful way to address a guru). "Watchoo got on?"

He was wearing a baggy sweater on a day hot enough to fry an EggMcGreasy on the sidewalk. Why would someone do this to poor Eli? It wasn't dangerous enough to let him fend for himself among moving traffic; he had to do it while fighting off heatstroke.

But closer inspection revealed a kinder truth. Eli wasn't wearing a sweater. It was a ThunderShirt--a garment made to swaddle a pup, easing his fear of things that go boom in the night. 

Welcome to my epiphany:

Someone out there cared about Eli--and had wanted him to feel safe during last night's storm. 

Aaaand, now I have to confess to something I don't much like about myself. When I see a dog on the loose, my first thoughts toward his human caretaker can be less than charitable. This person: isn't watchful enough... must not love this dog very much.... maybe shouldn't even have a dog. 

The thinking is ridiculously hypocritical, since my beloved Madeline had once been homeless for an entire week--as a result of my gross misbehavior.


Allow me a quick non-Eli story.

Madeline had reached the ripe old age of six months without the mildest interest in leaving the yard. So, in my haze of false security (read: stupidity), I put her outside all by herself, just long enough for me to clean up a mess she'd made in the house. Surprise! She wandered away. She did what dogs do--because I had done what no human should ever do. 

I spent the next seven days searching and weeping, weeping and searching, until the Universe figured I'd learned my lesson. I located my girl at an animal shelter some 10 miles away. 

Okay, but how does this relate to Eli? Y'see... I don't consider myself a terrible custodian of animals. I'm an attentive custodian who blundered terribly one day. Yet here I was, assuming the very worst of Eli's person. 

The ThunderShirt made me wonder if I'd been judging the guy unfairly--and the next 20 minutes of our journey would prove that I had been. 

Until that part of the story unfolds, allow me to share what Eli had just shown me in the third of his seven teachings: "You can judge a person's character by his greatest mistake, only if you're comfortable being judged by yours."

Today I'm going to think about someone in my life who made a bad first impression on me. And then I'll take a moment to feel grateful I gave that person a second chance.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Eli. Lesson Two.


The 7 Teachings of Eli
Lesson Two

Suggested Pre-Reading:
Lesson One

So there I stood, out in the fast food parking lot, Eli tucked under one arm. The diminutive doggie had given himself over to me, peaceably putting his fate into my cod-scented hands. 

I took a moment, as I always do in these situations, to appreciate the trustful nature of dogs. If a stranger seven times my own height were to try to pick me up, I assure you I would not be as obliging.

Okay, it was time to plan our next move. If we'd been in a residential area, I would have canvassed nearby homes to see if anyone recognized him. But this was the heart of Industrialville--making Eli's plight seem all the scarier. Was the little guy miles from home?

I needed a moment to think, so I opened the back door of my car and set Eli onto the seat. And though the dear boy was nearly blind, he had no problem finding his way to the front of the car before I could get there myself.

In a less accurate telling of the story, I might say he climbed onto the front passenger seat... But in truth, he climbed onto the remainder of my fish sandwich. I opened the front car door and saw one of his legs up to the wrist in Wonder Bun. By the looks of things, his foot had passed through the deep-fried patty and the bottom layer of bread, coming to rest on the cardboard pod below.

I giggled and he wiggled, plunging his other front foot deep into my lunch. I had to free the poor pup before I lost him to the LaBrea Tartar Sauce Pits. 

I lifted him with one hand, using the other to grope for a wet wipe from the glove compartment. When we were both properly bathed, I fed him the sandwich in genteel bites that he had to locate by sense of smell.

Once the food was gone he licked his lips and offered me a big ol' fish-eating grin.

Which brings us to the second of his seven teachings for me: "Revel in your missteps. They pave the road to good fortune."

I knew Eli had to get home, but our journey together was not yet over. I still had much to learn.

Today I'm going to recall a time when I felt mortified by a mistake I made. Then I'm going to figure out what good came from that blunder.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Eli. Lesson One.


The 7 Teachings of Eli
Lesson One

Meet my new guru. Eli the Boston terrier.

Almost blind, Eli is a seer of many things. Thus begins my series of blog posts based on his sage teachings. Like any good life lesson, this one starts with a parable.

A few weeks ago, on my hour-long drive into town, I decided to stop at a fast food joint. (Don't get judgey--it turned out to be good for my health.) As I was leaving the drive-through lane, I noticed a tiny dog wandering among the cars in the parking lot--cars driven by starving people focusing more on Big Macs than tiny dogs. 

I pulled over, parked, and opened up my fish sandwich. Ahhh... that nauseating bait-like scent. It was time to put it to the test. 

Eli was nowhere to be seen, so I dodged among the automobiles, bent from the waist, waving the world's whitest bun in front of me calling, "Heeeere ya go, baby. Here ya go. Come and get it." 

I'm only now realizing that other patrons of the establishment have probably written their own blog posts about the kooky lady out in the parking lot. But I digress.

I finally located the pup--or he located me--and we came together in one of those beautiful special-sauce-laden moments you only read about. Once he finished eating he snuffled around in the palm of my hand, snorted, and turned to leave. 

My heartbeat quickened with that familiar wariness of the instant before touching a strange dog. Was he frightened enough to bite me? This is especially good thinking with a dog that doesn't see well; he's likely to be easily startled. I reached out like you're supposed to--under his chest, not over his head. He didn't bite, but he wasn't that interested in being petted by a stranger, either. He wanted to get on his way, walking under moving cars where he might find a french fry box or an abandoned ChickyNugget.

I reminded my nervous stomach that in all my years of helping dogs on the loose, I have never, ever been nipped. And today was no exception. The wise, gentle Eli allowed me to pick him up.

And this was the first of his 7 teachings for me: "Even if you're feeling troubled and alone, try not to react by lashing out. Stay peaceful, and good things will befall you."

Did Eli ever find his way home? All shall be revealed in future posts, Grasshopper. (Spoiler Alert: How else would I know his name was Eli?)

I'm going to take a few minutes today to remember an instance where I bit someone who was stressing me out, when a more peaceful response might have served me better.