Words for Milo

Last week, a dear friend’s dog died. He only had the opportunity to know him for a week: he had been abandoned at a temple, left and unwanted. He only had three legs.

My friend named him Milo after the chocolately drink. The temple took him in, and the devotees washed him, fed him, played with him, and gave him a home.

Then one morning they found him – lifeless, with blood strewn about. Some guessed a coyote had come down from the hills during the night but, regardless, after one week at the temple his life was over.

It is possible to reflect on the joy he must have had during the week, or upon the lesson of immediacy and impermanence his short time with us had to offer. Hopefully the blessings that lead him to the temple can carry him to other great things.

I can’t help but feel that temple animals are something special. I don’t wish to be seen as romanticizing their lot – life as a animal is surely brutal, senseless, and short. That being said, every encounter I have had with a temple animal has left me with plenty to think about.

My first time staying at a monastery had me dreadfully nervous – at the evening service we would all be meditating for hours, and at that time I could scarcely sit for more than ten minutes. I resolved to practice in the guest room and, while sitting with my eyes clenched (the extra wrinkles in my eyelids showing I was extra serious), something furry curled into my lap.

While a more experience meditator might not have been perturbed, I declared my meditation over, and began rubbing the cat. Just as I started to care less about the coming night, the cat decided it was done with my petting and sauntered off. A quick check of the time showed I had engaged in single-minded petting for about half an hour and I had barely noticed. The evening service already seemed much less intimidating.

That story aside, temple animals might not be special at all. Perhaps it is the environment that allows us to fill them with the very virtues and attainments we are seeking. But, even if that is the case, it cannot decrease my gratitude towards these animals for being present, for allowing us to make them into so many things.

Thank you, Milo.

3 Replies to “Words for Milo”

  1. When I lived at a Zen Center, two animals “adopted” me. The first was a black cat who showed up one day during an all day sitting and howled outside until we took her in. She lived with me there for about a year, until one day she was hit by a car and killed. She was a very special cat, and seemed to have something unusual about her. The next animal was a black rabbit, which was hiding in the bushes of the temple. I caught it and took it in. It was unusual in that it would sit quietly facing a wall, as if it was sitting in meditation. After a few weeks it stopped eating, and I took it to the vet. At the vet’s office it suddenly went into cardiac arrest and died.

    Both the cat and bunny received a memorial service and dedications during chanting services. I find it interesting that both animals had black fur. I cannot help but think that these animals had a deep connection with the Dharma, but because of some karma had taken animal form. Yet, they managed to find their way into a Buddhist temple before the ends of their lives, and received the blessings of the Dharma.

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