Notes from a Park Slope Dog Walker: The Dharma of Dogs

She taught me the essence of my spiritual practice: pay attention, be present, appreciate and be grateful for every moment of life, and celebrate impermanence.
— Beryl Bender Birch, on her dog Hopi

As you all know, I started a dog training project and named it Buddha Dog, because of the inspiration dogs have given me on my own meditation and spiritual exercises. Well, you could only imagine how thrilled I was to see The Dharma of Dogs: Our Best Friends as Spiritual Teachers on the bookshelf. It is such an inspiring and thoughtful book that taught me so much about our relationships with dogs, and confirmed many things that I’ve thought for a long time.

Edited by Tami Simon, who has her own dog named Spoodle in Boulder, Colorado, Dharma Dogs is a collection of essays and stories from spiritual writers who share their experiences with their dogs. Writers such as Alice Walker, Eckhart Tolle, Pam Houston, Mark Nepo, and His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche, all reflect on the spiritual wisdom that they learned from their dogs.

These essays vary from heartbreaking in Jeri Parker’s “Lost Dog” to fall-on-the-floor hilarious with JP Sears’ “Blessings from Zephyr,” which is a narrative told completely from the perspective of his dog, Zephyr (there’s no stream of consciousness like dog consciousness). All of these stories express the deep and unconditional love that dogs and humans share. It’s about confronting our fears, feeling a connection with nature, and being in the moment.

And sometimes being in the moment involves feeling our sadness, as many of the stories in Dharma are centered on the death of the writer’s dog. Sometimes their dogs are euthanized, and in others the owner can’t do it, and chooses to stay with them until the very end. The book is a reminder that our relationships with dogs are more meaningful than the everyday work of living—eating, sleeping, and walking. We share a unique, symbiotic connection that comes from a place compassion, empathy, and unconditional love.

You can buy The Dharma of Dogs: Our Best Friends as Spiritual Teachers at your local bookstore, or here at Amazon.