Zen + Dogs: Thanks-giving

tom-thanks-giving-sThis post is inspired by Robert Carter’s discourse on ethics in his book Becoming Bamboo. He integrates views from Western philosophy and Zen Buddhism. Zen practice is inseparable from ethics. It is a way of life, a ‘spirited caring and effective willing’.

Oct 12

  • Lesson from Tom: Dogs are attuned to their human’s emotional states and often mirror this state back to the human.
  • Tom says, “When Julie’s anxious, I get anxious and I don’t know what to do!”

“We got this amazing delivery of twenty pounds of pork yesterday!” she said. “We had the whole machine there and all the materials for making sausages!”

“It was incredible to dig your hands into the meat…!” he said.

I look at them and don’t respond except with a weak expression of interest. Greg, at my side, just says “Oh.”

“Are you vegetarian?” she asks.

“Vegan” I say.

“Ah” they both say in unison. “And you?” they both look at Greg. I don’t look but hear him say, “I live with her”, gesturing to me. He elaborates, “I eat vegan at home, but sometimes away from home…” his sentence peters out. Then, as though intending to deflect the attention, “the dogs are vegan too.”

Instinctually, I glance over towards the front door. Tom is there, mildly hyperventilating with wide eyes, giving me a look that says, “get me out of here!”

We are at Greg’s sister’s place for thanks-giving dinner. She kindly invited us over while we were in Victoria visiting my mother. She warned that there would be meat, but that she and her daughter would provide vegan options which they generously did. I often feel torn about going for dinner to meat-eating houses. It is uncomfortable for me to watch people prepare, eat and discuss the meat meal because it brings up images in my mind of animal suffering. On the other hand, I feel grateful that people go to the trouble of inviting and hosting. I usually offer to bring something. I try to look at these dinners as opportunities for small openings towards conversations on ethics. This time, the couple changed the subject to growing veggies, which I welcomed.

I take Tom and Sugi outside, sense the crisp damp air and feel better. They let me know that they’d rather wait in the truck than in the house. After, I return to the dining table to be seated.

  • Large browned turkey. I think about the appalling living conditions of turkeys bred for consumption.
  • Brussel sprouts with bacon. Don’t they taste great already? The image in my mind is of the crammed conditions of pigs who never get to see the outdoors, and the gestation crates where females are forced to lay on their sides for months nursing the piglets who’ve had their tails and other parts cut off without anaesthetic.
  • Mashed potato with butter. There are great alternatives to butter! I think about the male calves born into the dairy industry who are born and disposed of, or kept alone in veal cages for months before slaughter.
  • Apple pie made with lard. Seems that this would conjure a disagreeable image for anyone.

The whole evening, I practice meditative techniques of breathing, attention to the moment, compassion towards the other guests, but with mixed results. I continue to feel a small familiar cloud of despair hanging overhead…

Zen + Dogs: Organic Time?

This post is the second in a series of posts related to Zen and Dogs, part of a project I’m doing for my PhD study. Like the last post, I’ve been gathering courage to post this one because the post includes a correspondence with my dear friend and collaborator Simon. It’s all good…: )

Sept 12

  • Lesson from Sugi: my organic time must take into account the organic time of others
  • Sugi says, “I know what I want and when I want it!”

Yesterday, set out to spend the time today ‘organically’. Previously, I’ve called this practice an ‘unstructured day’, having no plans, just moving about activities as needed or as inclined. I’ve found that this kind of day can be productive, allowing for a relaxed attitude toward tasks therefore usually stressless.

Today —the ‘organic time’ day— I had almost no plans, except for the day itself and the Graduate Liberal Studies (at Simon Fraser University) party for incoming and outgoing Directors. That’s later…

06:30 I forgot that the (mechanical) time is projected on my bedroom ceiling. Normally, this allows me to track it without moving from a resting position. Today, it let me know that Sugi was awake and up, as usual at this time.

Sugi, “I believe that when I get up someone else should get up too, and more precisely, someone should let me out into the back yard [which happens to be a Zen garden] to pee and then give me a rice cake.”

I did the former and went back to bed.

07:37 I made the tea. Gave Sugi a snack. Normally, on days like today, after we have our tea, we go for a pack-walk (Greg+Julie+Tom+Sugi) to get coffee. For some reason I looked at my phone. Messenger text from Simon, my (human) collaborator who is finishing his MFA in Helsinki:

simon

He’s proposed a 9am skype call for this morning. Earlier in the week we’d tentatively planned it for tomorrow….

julie

No reply.

Head out for the walk, start making a mental list of the things I need to do this semester. I recall talking to a colleague yesterday at Emily Carr University (where I work) who told me she’s taking the rest of the semester off because she hurt her back. I should have asked her…ACK! I double over with a sharp pain in the mid-back. CRAP! what?! This never happens to me! Struggle through the rest of the walk stretching to try and relieve the spasm.

Get home, do a bit of yoga. It helps. 10:30 log onto skype. No Simon. Send messages to him. No replies.

11:00, lay down on the couch with the PhD course reading for the week, Pierre Hadot “Philosophy as a Way of Life“, part II. Notes: People are prevented from truly living, it was taught, because they are dominated by worries. …Still no reply. Hadot outlines the list of spiritual exercises, that can assist with the path towards wisdom, passed down from Philo of Alexandria: research (zetesis), thorough investigation (skepsis), reading (anagnosis), listening (akroasis), attention (prosoche), self-mastery (enkrateia), and indifference to indifferent things.

I reflect on how I may be integrating, into my own life, these things on this list. I recall how I, just yesterday, told my supervisor how the reading practice was calming. This couch…I can’t get completely comfortable… Hadot later outlines in the text the spiritual exercise of dialogue —Socratic dialogue— and a bit on dialectic (the interlocutor can discover the contradictions of his own position, or to admit an unforeseen conclusion.) I identify with this and reflect on it.

Impatience with the “Christian Philosophy” part of the reading. During my early years, spent in a Catholic girls’ school, I found many of the Christians to be hypocritical. There was a gap between what the nuns preached and their practice. For instance shunning and firing the gay teachers who declared themselves. I recalled Mr. Ralston who taught “Religion”, but mostly introduced us to Greek philosophy. One of my favorite courses! He was fired, and years later I read about his death.

Sugi, now scratching and staring, “lunchtime please”. 14:30.

I make his and Tom’s lunch. Sugi refusing the last half…

Ping!

simon-2

julie2

Back pain a bit worse. I lay down on the floor and do some stretches. It helps. I have a play with Tom, he’s a good sport. I recall Heesoon talking about Tarchin Hearn at a meditation retreat demonstrating his ‘in the moment’ attitude through play. I’m in a better mood.

Sugi, “I’m ready to go out now.” 15:00

Down the street for a walk, the breeze is the perfect temperature.

Back home: cook some more pancakes for the dogs, hang the laundry, water the plants on the deck. 17:30.

Did I get anything done today on my organic-time-unstructured-day? Oh yes, zetesis, skepsis, anagnosis, akroasisprosocheenkrateia, and dialectics. Happy day!

 

 

Heimlich Maneuver for Your Dog

heimlich for dogs

  • Lesson from Sugi: chewy Mochi can be a choking hazard! let it dry out before giving it to your dog.
  • Sugi says, “the Mochi got stuck in my throat and I had to ask Greg to give me a Heimlich maneuver”

In my previous post I talked about Mochi Fun Food for dogs. This post is a special ++Mochi Alert++. I now know that the Mochi should be left for a few hours after baking before giving it to your dog.

Last night I made a new batch of Mochi, Sugi’s favorite treat. When you first take it out of the oven it is lovely and chewy like fresh bread. When I gave Sugi a piece he chewed and chewed and then started clawing at this inside of his mouth! He desperately was trying to free the Mochi from the back of his throat! I fished around in his mouth with my finger but couldn’t find it. It must have been lodged further down. Sugi was freaking out and Tom was barking…Greg picked up Sugi and gave him a Heimlich maneuver. It must have worked because Sugi stopped pawing and gasping immediately and seemed very relieved.

How to give the Heimlich maneuver to your dog (from Canadian Living)
1. Stand (if he’s a tall dog) or kneel (if he’s a small or medium dog) behind the dog, with the dog facing away from you.
2. Put your arms around the dog’s waist. Make a fist with one hand and place your fist, thumb side up, on the dog’s abdomen just below his ribs. Wrap your other hand around that fist.
3. Give a hard, fast jerk or squeeze upward, toward the dog’s backbone. Apply enough force to move the dog’s whole body. (If he’s a very small dog, place two knuckles of one hand on the abdomen just below the ribs and the other hand flat on the dog’s back to help steady him, then give a quick, hard poke upward with your knuckles.)
4. If the object does not come out of the dog’s mouth on the first try, give another hard jerk. If after three or four jerks the object still has not come out or the dog still can’t breathe, rush him to the nearest veterinary clinic, where a vet can do a tracheotomy (cut a hole in the dog’s windpipe below the obstruction) to get air into the lungs and then remove the object surgically. YIKES!

 

Mochi Fun Food!

mochi

 

  • Lesson from Sugi: Dogs love fun food!
  • Sugi says, “I just have to give Julie the stare and she knows I want mochi!”

When Sugi was being picky about his food a few months ago, I searched for alternative treats that would be nutritious for him. I came across this product called Mochi by a vegetarian restaurant in Victoria called Green Cuisine. It is based on the Japanese food used for mochi deserts. The Green Cuisine mochi is made from organic brown rice only. It comes as a hard slab, and you can buy it from Capers or Whole Foods. You can freeze it if you need to. You prepare the mochi treats this way:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Cut the slab into 1″ cubes and spread them out on a cookie tray (I use a pizza stone). Cook the pieces for about 10 min or until they puff up and brown a bit.  Let cool before giving to your dog.

I eat them dipped in salted olive oil!  They are puffy and crispy with a delicious softness on the inside. A nice gluten-free alternative to bread.

Sugi’s Vegan Gluten-free Oat, Lentil, Sweet Potato Dog Pancakes

 

pancakes-lentil

  • Lesson from Sugi: Dogs do well on a vegan diet
  • Sugi says, “I love these oat lentil pancakes even more than the other pancakes!”

I modified the last pancake recipe to increase the protein content and to substitute sweet potato for the banana. I think Sugi likes the savory flavor of this one in comparison to the more sweet flavor of the oat/banana recipe. You can buy the lentil flour from Anita’s Mill or from Fairy Cakes. I learned from vegan chef Preet Marwaha, who spoke at the Vegan Congress Tasting on Jan 22, 2014, that you should soak your hemp or flax seeds for a few minutes before using them in the recipe in order to allow them to create a nice jelly like texture. Preet also said the omegas in hemp seeds are especially easy to digest. I added safflower oil because according to my vet it has the same omegas as flax oil which should not be heated.

  • 1 cup organic oat flour
  • 1/3 cup organic lentil flour
  • 1tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cooked small organic sweet potato
  • 2 tbsp organic hemp seeds
  • 2 tbsp safflower oil
  • about 1 1/3 cup unsweetened organic coconut milk beverage (I use So Delicious brand)

Put the seeds in about 1/4 cup of your coconut milk and let them sit. In the meantime, put the flour and baking powder  in a bowl and use a whisk to mix up thoroughly. Put the sweet potato into the bowl that has the seeds/coconut milk and mash together until smooth. Add the mashed ingredients to the dry ingredients. Then add the coconut milk, whisking until smooth, and until you get the thickness you want. Add more coconut milk if you want. Use a spoon to put a dollop (about 1/8-1/4 cup) of batter onto an oiled pan. Cook until dry on the up side. Flip and cook the other side, just like you would regular pancakes! You may have to add a bit of coconut milk as the batter sets while you’re cooking.

You will see in the picture that I’ve cooked them as small (about 3″) grittle cakes on a special grill that spans two burners. Once done, I let them cool on a rack. Sugi (20 lbs.) eats about 6 of these per day (in addition to other lovely treats…). Unlike Tom, Sugi knows when he’s had enough… Delicious!