The personality of the household cat may vary from aloof, demanding, comfort loving, happy to be cuddled one minute, and then prone to raking your skin with sharp claws the next. Dogs may destroy gardens and furniture, lick away their owner’s salty tears when they sense sadness, and fiercely guard their humans and their property. The one constant is that they are Dharma lessons in the making. Here are seven stories of precious pets and animal friends from Mandala readers .
Story 1: Tale of a tongue
In 1997, my wife Tanya and I had just come back to London from a Buddhist pilgrimage in India, after attending the first big inauguration puja for the Maitreya Project in Bodhgaya. With two boys [from a former marriage] arriving from Spain, we became a standard family with a house, garden, car, and what was missing? Yep, you got it – a dog.
My wife’s niece was fostering several rescued dogs, and when cheeky, farty little three-month-old Bruno just sat himself down on Tanya’s lap, the kids promised they would take care of him. (Warning to parents: if you believe that kind of promise, you’d better believe pigs can fly!) Anyway, we took Bruno home and from the beginning, he was a naughty, mischievous, alert character, playing around with everybody in the house and park.
When he was six months old, Tanya was taking him for his usual morning walk on the lead. A neighbour’s Boxer dog ran across the street and attacked Bruno, biting his tongue out. My wife was screaming, terrified, but it all happened in an instant.
Bruno was bleeding badly when Tanya took him to the vet. When I arrived they were already operating on him; however, they did not have much hope, as they didn’t know how he was going to eat and, more importantly, drink. Bruno had always had a good appetite so eating, although messy, was not a problem, but he was not drinking. The compassionate vet gave us just a few days to come up with a solution, otherwise he would have to put Bruno to sleep.
Over the next few weeks we experimented with food and water; Tanya bought cooking gelatine to jellify the water so that he could get water that way. Then one day at a puppy training session a trainer walked past with a bowl of water. Bruno went straight up to her – and started drinking water for the first time in months. Everyone watched, speechless, in amazement: It was an extraordinary moment.
Years passed, the children left for the States, we decided to sell the house in England, buy something in Spain to rent, and carry on with our life in India, or basically anywhere. Yes, but what about Bruno? He was not only part of the family, but a mother sentient being.
When he first came to live with us, he was insisting he was one of my many friends who had died prematurely due to drugs or accidents; later he changed that version, to say that Guru Vajradhara can take any form needed to subdue beings. Lately, he is asserting that he is a manifestation of Maitreya Buddha so that we can develop loving-kindness: So you see, we have here quite a dilemma. Who is having a dog’s life?
For the last eight years, our life has revolved around this handsome, cinnamon-colored, forty kilogram crossbreed. The furniture in the house has to be placed strategically so that he does not jump through windows or French doors whenever he sees a cat or a fox in the garden, not to mention squirrels. We cannot stay after work for a drink with friends because the dog has been alone all day by himself; we must budget for a dog carer or residential kennels when we go on holiday; and eventually, we got a caravan so that the dog always has a place with us, regardless of where we go.
Is this bodhichitta? I do not think so. Is this attachment? Perhaps. Is this loving-kindness? Well . I remember when in 1977 Lama Yeshe sent me from Kopan Monastery to give an introductory Buddhist course in Spain, before he and Lama Zopa Rinpoche arrived in Ibiza for the first time. I phoned him at Manjushri Institute in England to say that only one person had enrolled in my course and should I drop it? The answer came first as an OMMMMMM … then he said, “That’s fantastic! If you can help just one sentient being out of suffering, that’s a life well used, goodbye.”
Next stop for us is India. We do not think it would be fair to take Bruno there for his well being, so if any kind bodhisattva would like to take on a dog’s life, please let us know. We can deliver to any part of the world (he has his own European passport).
—Antonio Pascual email@example.com
Story 2: The taming of Mala
In 2004, I “liberated” a cat from the Pound. This large tabby (weight 7kgs) had been captured after four or so years as a feral animal. She was so violent that the vets at the Pound could not medicate her or treat her illnesses. It also meant that she could not be “adopted” out to a new owner.
So, for about six months, this cat was confined to her cage, spitting and attacking anyone who approached her. As time passed, and more cages were needed, she was the next on the list to be put down by lethal injection.
When I arrived at the Pound, I asked to see an older cat that nobody wanted. I was shown several cats, but I wanted to know more about this large tabby languishing in the corner of its cage. The staff told me about her violent nature.
I walked over, put my hand to the cage and began quietly reciting mantras. I’m sure the staff thought I was crazy – this bloke in a red dress (I did explain that I was a Buddhist monk) singing to a violent, feral cat. To everyone’s amazement, including mine, she walked over, and began mewing and rubbing her side against my hand.
Despite the warnings, I “adopted” the cat whom I named “Mala.” Since Mala has been living at our Chengawa Buddhist Centre [in Canberra, Australia], she is completely transformed. Mala almost always joins us in the gompa for meditation evenings, settling herself down in front of the altar, crossing her paws and purring quietly.
In 2005, we were fortunate to have a weekend visit from Geshe Thubten Dawa who kindly conferred the Vajrasattva Initiation. Mala just wouldn’t leave Geshe-la’s side. After we set up Geshe-la’s teaching throne, Mala insisted on sitting at its base, then moving to its cushion. She insisted on sleeping at the foot of Geshe-la’s bed, and took to following him through the house. During the weekend initiation, Mala sat at strict attention next to Geshe-la’s teaching throne. Geshe-la just adored Mala, declaring her to be a “Gompa Cat.”
These days, Mala faithfully attends every meditation and teaching session; making sure that she has a front row position. However, she still finds it difficult to control herself outside the house. So we go out into the backyard on supervised visits. Most of the time, Mala is content to leave the birds, butterflies, and insects alone and to sit with me in the sun listening to Dharma teachings on my MP3 player. She is a little treasure!
—Ven. Alex Bruce (Losang Tenpa)
Tania Duratovic & Phil Hunt, Coordinators of Animal Liberation Sanctuary, Nepal, visited MettaCattery last Friday.
sms from Phil and Tania to Siew Ying:
“Phil and Tania here. We’re at ABC now and have asked about getting you a stpa. We think it will happen as we haev a friend working on it and E Jong. So we’re looing at getting you a 1m high oe. We are very happy that this is happening. We fly out in a few hours so we will be in touch in a few weeks. Have left a small parcel here for you. Take care 😀 Was lovely to meet you!”
Today, together with a growing appreciation of the importance of human rights there is a greater awareness worldwide of the need for the protection not only of the environment, but also of animals and their rights. Where there is a mind, there are feelings such as pain, pleasure and joy. No sentient being wants pain, instead all want happiness. Since we all share these feelings at some basic level, we as rational human beings have an obligation to contribute in whatever way we can to the happiness of other species and try our best to relieve their fears and sufferings.
–His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Lama Zopa Rinpoche blessing the animals on the Animal Liberation Sanctuary in Nepal.
Max loves running into my room and lying on my bed and Madame enjoys whiling away the day in the kitchen or on my Mum’s tummy. These two occasionally fight. We’re not sure who’s the bully but we make sure that we give them the eye whenever they start grumbling. Max may be the bigger one but he’s also the scaredy cat and always runs under the couch when we have visitors. Madame on the other hand will walk up to anyone and show them who’s boss. We bought collars for them, but they’ve shown that they’d rather not have it on, so we’ve kept them aside.
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 9:32 AM
Nana is recovered yesterday afternoon.
Gained appetite again,and so active now.
No diarrhea this time.
According to doctor, Nana is 4month + old.
I will bring him to a Vet for sterilization in March.
Lovely story of a rescued black cat called Midnight.
Background: Abandoned, this little kitty was hounded by established community cats, and so he hid amongst the debris of a construction area. He was at great risk of being crushed to death.
13-01-2009, 7.15pm: He was noticed by a caregiver last evening and brought to the vet for neutering the next day.
However he is too young and so the neutering is postponed. He is now safe in the refuge of mettacats.
14-01-2009, 2.28pm: sms from SY “Prada is sleeping nicely. He is confined in a 3-tier cage.”
14-01-2009, 2.33pm: sms from Carol “Oh baby Prada sounds asleep. Must be nice to be able to sleep in peace without fearing any cats coming after him or all that construction noise, men and dangerous equipment. ”
15-01-2009, update from SY, “Prada is super-manja and he purring all the time he is being held. He is already using the litter-bin.”
DOB (estimated) 18-08-2008
Temperament: Very affectionate and trusting
Vaccinated: 14-01-2009 (Clinic for Pets)
Remarks: He has a straight long tail.
在17th August 2002, Imee入住爱心猫之家。她已经绝育和训练使用沙子。她有良好的进食礼貌和猫的灵敏。对洗澡并不抗拒，在这期间她给予充分的合作，其他的猫儿只能尽量的配合。
Salie: 9th September 2002
Caroline: 17th December 2002
非常感谢你们四位昨晚带Imee来， 在你们离开后她显得有点紧张，但是还很友善。较晚，我们把她关在备有床；沙子盒和食物的厨房里，我想她感到害怕和孤独，因为当晚她发出很多声音。她很感激 我们数次探望和轻微的抚摸她。今天，她用了很多时间睡觉和侦察。如果我们接近她时，她显得非常友善但是还有点紧张，她很谨慎四周所有新的声响。大部分时间 在难以接近的地方，好像床底下，和每次有人开门时就特别的害怕。
Caroline: 9 January 2003
Soft as a caress, pretty as a picture, Imee’s appearance and personality belie the tragedy that changed her life. Like most strays , she was impregnated early. While late into her pregnancy, she was attacked by four stray dogs who cornered her and made her the butt of their aggression.
The commotion caught the attention of Trischia who together with her friend Pushpa fended off the dogs and rescued Imee from under the car. She was a sorry mess, drenched with rain and blood. The main injuries were on her legs and tummy.
The result was Imee lost her litter of four as her injuries were too extensive to save any of them. Her medical bills were funded by Trischia and Pushpa, who again did not hesitate to save her, this time by giving her the best medical attention they could afford.
While good vet care took care of her physical injuries, Imee went through a period of grieving for her babies. While hospitalised, she would reach out to offer succour to any kitten who is meowing.
A month later, Imee is well on the mend. Her wounds are fully healed and the fur around them is growing back beautifully. Gentle, affectionate, quiet and calm, Imee has the makings of a well-adjusted domesticated pet. Being loved is very important to her and she is happiest when being stroked and patted.
On 17th August 2002, Imee came to reside in Metta Cattery. She is neutered and completely litter trained. She has good table manners and eats delicately. No stranger to baths, she extends her full co-operation at such sessions when most other cats would find them trying
If you want a ready-made pet, think Imee. If you admire qualities of courage and strength in adversity, this is a cat you will proud to call your own..
Imee’s stay at Metta Cattery was sponsored by Trischia.
Update from Salie: 9th September 2002
Just to let you know that Imee has found a new love in the cattery. And she is a fierce babe too you know.
She actually attacked Peggy & Whiskie when these two tried to get close to her kids. But when OLIVER went near, she let it be. It seems that Oliver is protecting the kids too. Ha! What a big family… Oliver stayed in the cubicle most of the time.”
Update from Caroline: 17th December 2002
Thanks so much to the four of you for bringing Imee round last night. She was quite nervous after you left but still very friendly. Later that night we shut her in the kitchen with her bed, sandbox & food but I think she was scared & lonely as she sang to us for a lot of the night. We visited her a couple of times for a quick stroke, which she appreciated. She has spent most of today sleeping or exploring. She is very friendly with us if we approach her but she’s also still nervous and wary of all the new noises around her. She spends a lot of time in inaccessible places like under beds and she’s particularly frightened of anyone opening the front door.
She’s a very intelligent cat and has worked out who the most important person is in the house – Nilmini, our maid, is the one who gets most of her attention as she’s the one who spends her time washing fish, cooking chicken etc. Imee has used her sandbox once, but still not passed motion. We have bought some canned food ‘coz we thought she might need more moisture for a while.
She’s a beautiful, gentle cat. Thanks for introducing her to us.
Update from Caroline: 9 January 2003
Imee is doing very well. She has her mad moments – once every morning & once every evening, when she tears around the flat, attacking anything that moves. She has ruined 4 toy mice already and we have had to glue her scratching post back together twice. Luckily, she usually sticks to ruining her toys and the scratch post rather than the furniture. She’s very affectionate, spending every evening close to us (usually on the corner of my skirt so I can’t move my legs). She isn’t scared when we have guests – we’ve had so many visitors & parties over Christmas and she just struts around as though she’s another one of our guests. She’s decided the windows are not a good idea, but she always tries to investigate the lift lobby when anyone opens the front door.
The main problem is that she has worked out that we are softies! She loves lying on our bed, but with Larry’s asthma, we can’t allow it. No amount of shouting, clapping will get her to move, and when you try to lift her off, she goes floppy and digs her claws in the covers so you can’t lift her off!
My friends tell me to get a water spray for when she’s naughty.
Anyway – we would like to take her to the vet for a once-over check and to clean the mites from her ears (she struggles too much for me).