Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.  For me they are the role model for being alive.  
--Gilda Radner

After the somber note of our last post, I take pleasure in turning attention to a happier subject. Today our ambassador to the virtues is Ricochet the Surf Dog, who turns 3 years old today. (Happy birthday, honey!) I felt she could give us all a reminder of the many virtues of “Man’s Best Friend,” which I package up (in a doggie bag?) in the name of Dog-good-ness.

Dog-good-ness is the second animal virtue we’ve visited here, the first being Cow-abundance, which we visited on the Hindu holiday of Vasu Baras. As with Cow-abundance, Dog-good-ness is an aggregate virtue, composed of elements like Innocence, Loyalty, Unconditional Love, Guilelessness, Courage, Forbearance, and Mirth.

The virtues of dogs have been well-known since ancient times. A founding father of the Cynic school of Greek philosophy, Diogenes of Sinope, had qualities so reminiscent of hounds that his peers named his lineage for them: the Greek word κυνικός, kynikos, means "dog-like."

Diogenes, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860)
Diogenes felt humans lived lives of pretense and artifice. Dogs, on the other hand, show a complete lack of self-consciousness. Living completely in the moment, they rarely seem to worry, eating and sleeping what and where they can. Diogenes respected dogs for their Directness: Dogs wag their tails for their friends, and bark at their enemies. No hidden agendas.

The foremost modern scholar of the Cynics, Donald Dudley, claimed they earned their nickname for at least four reasons:

First because of the Indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of Shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a Discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them. [caps mine]

I admit to my own Shamelessness when it comes to canines. I come from a proud, long line of dog people besotted with our furry friends. (My dad, Big Rock, shows some ambivalence about our family’s shaggier, four-legged members, but we love him anyway.) My little buddies are Georgie, a 6-year-old Staffordshire Terrier, and Astro, a big galoot of a German Shepherd we rescued from a shelter this past summer. Some of my human friends live in an exclusively feline Cat-mosphere, and I feel sorry for what they’re missing.  

Whether or not they possess Buddha-nature, dogs are magic. We know this from no less an authority than the very Goddess of Magic, Hecate, another shameless dog enthusiast. History offers dozens of stories of dog Heroism (such as here and here.)

One of these inspiring stories is Ricochet’s. The video below tells her tale, one not just of Dog-good-ness, but also Doggedness:

Obviously, Ricochet’s wonderful gifts to the disabled kids she helps through the Adaptive Surfing Foundation owe a lot to her owner and doggy-mommy, Judy Fridono. But it’s hard to say whether Judy makes Ricochet possible, or vice-versa. In one interview, Judy pointed out, “Ricochet has taught me to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't.”

So today, get in touch with your Inner Puppy (what Feri calls the Fetch, Kabbalah Nephesh, and Huna Unihipili). Less talk, more walk--radiant Joy, without jabbering or artifice. Bark in warning, bark in love. Empower yourself, and by that, empower those around you.

Meanwhile, consider a donation to one of Ricochet’s many good causes, or maybe even giving a dog a loving home. You might save their life, and--who knows?--they might return the favor.

May we see the gates of Dog-good-ness, and perhaps make a home there.

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