Beloveds, I’m afraid I do not have good news to share (though there is a little at the end).
Early this afternoon, I got a call from our little puppy’s veterinarian. She reported that while the 90 minutes of surgery went fine, all vitals normal, just as they were awakening her from the anesthesia, her heart inexplicably started to weaken and fail. Nothing they did to stimulate it, including CPR, had any positive effect and she died.
I’m enough of a “pro” to hold myself together and do the appropriate prayers on her behalf. But as is my habit, most of the rest of the time I’ve been guilt-ridden, reviewing the situation again and again from every angle to see what mistakes I made that contributed to the death of another. This is the second time we’ve brought a street dog in for surgery and she’s died on the table.
The motivation was OK, I think. She didn’t exhibit signs of illness, not even elevated temperature, and I relied on the opinions of professionals in deciding to do the procedures. The vet explained afterward that distemper and worms, both common in street dogs, can sometimes evade immediate detection, and the animal will mask its constitutional weakness as a survival instinct. We talked, and decided if there was a flaw in our approach, it was in being too hasty and not going slower and observing the dog more carefully over several days, her appetite, stool, other indicators.
Was I impatient to be the Savior, and display it in front of all of you, as the self-congratulatory tone of the previous post indicates? Maybe so, and it’s a harsh lesson, but now I’ve learned it. Patience and care in all things.
I’ve sent individual messages to the contributors for the vet expenses, in order to reimburse their very kind donations.
In happier developments in our animal welfare efforts, yesterday an article on our temple’s parrot rescue project, Garuda Aviary, was featured on the front page of The Washington Post’s Metro Section. Again, if you had had the virtuous thought to contribute, this is a very, very worthy cause. I can tell you that caring for the parrots is a time-consuming, expensive gig, and they do it with such love.
To put all this in some perspective I offer you the well-known story of Kisa Gotami from the time of the Buddha, as told in the Dhammapada:
“Kisa Gotami lived in Savatthi. She was known as Kisa Gotami because of her slim body. She married a rich young man and a son was born to them. The son died when he was a toddler and Kisa Gotami was stricken with grief. Carrying her dead son, she went everywhere asking for medicine to restore her son to life. People thought she had gone mad. But a wise man seeing her pathetic condition, decided to send her to the Buddha.
“He advised her: ‘Sister, the Buddha is the person you should approach. He has the medicine you want. Go to him.’
“Thus she went to the Buddha and asked him to give her the medicine that would restore her dead son to life. The Buddha told her to get some mustard seeds from a home where there had been no death. Overjoyed at the prospect of having her son restored to life, Kisa Gotami ran from house to house, begging for some mustard seeds. Everyone was willing to help but she could not find a single home where death had not occurred. The people were only too willing to part with their mustard seeds, but they could not claim to have not lost a dear one in death. As the day dragged on, she realized hers was not the only family that had faced death and that there were more people dead than living. As soon as she realized this, her attitude towards her dead son changed; she was no longer attached to the dead body of her son and she realized how simply the Buddha had taught her a most important lesson: that everything that is born must eventually die.
“She buried her dead son and told the Buddha that she could find no family where death had not occurred. Then the Buddha said: ‘Gotami, you should not think that you are the only one who has lost a son. As you have now realized, death comes to all beings. Before their desires are satiated death takes them away.’
“Perceiving the fleeting nature and impermanency of life, Kisa Gotami decided to renounce the worldly life. She requested the Enlightened One to admit her to the Order of bhikkhunis. Accordingly, the Buddha sent her to the community of nuns where she was admitted as Bhikkhuni Kisa Gotami.
“She was hardworking and always mindful and conscientious of her religious duties, and strove diligently for her spiritual development to purify her mind of all mental defilements.
“One night, she lighted some oil lamps and sat down a short distance away. Then she started looking at the flames. She noticed while some flames flared up, others flickered out. With her mind concentrating on the flames, she meditated as follows: ‘Even as it is with these flames, so also is it with living beings in this world: Some flare up, while others flicker out; only those who have attained Nibbana are no longer seen.’
“The Buddha, through his supernormal power, saw Kisa Gotami from the Jetavana Monastery. He sent forth his radiance and exhorted her to continue meditating on the impermanent nature of all component things. The Buddha also commented: ‘One who lives a hundred years without perceiving the Deathless State; a life of one day is better if one has perceived the Deathless State.’
“After the discourse, Kisa Gotami attained Arahanthood.”