The beautiful animal above is Bahloo, the shepherd-labrador mix that belonged to one of my ex-girlfriends. I just learned that Bahloo recently passed away. He was a very healthy old dog, living till the ripe age of 14 –Methuselah’s age for a dog!
I’m not one for posting obituaries for dogs, but this one was pretty unique and interesting. For the first few weeks of knowing him, this fellow hated me. He was a natural alpha male and reflexive leader. It was only after being left alone with him on an island on a river somewhere in Quebec that I managed to earn his respect, pretty much by growling at him whenever he growled at me, and threatening him with my magical thumb.
Yes, my magical thumb. Whenever he got uppity (and believe me, a huge, masculine dog like that gets really scary when he gets uppity) I’d growl at him and point to my right thumb. Pretty fast, he grew to respect my thumb. I kid you not.
We got on pretty well after that. We were never pals. Whenever I walked him, it was more a case of a wary soldier providing an armed escort to a dangerous super villain than of a master walking a dog. The photo above was taken on my cell phone during one of our walks. It’s a miracle the camera actually worked and managed to pop out a decent photo; it never does ordinarily.
The thing about Bahloo is that he was not an affectionate dog. He wouldn’t snuggle with you if you gave him treats and took him for walks. You were expected to do those things, and your reward for doing them is that he would not look at you with disdain… or as if you were food. This was a dog with dignity. He was nobody’s bitch.
There was also something mystical about this animal. His owner had dreamed of him long before actually finding and adopting him. Myself, I often dream of him still. In fact, though I had not seen him nor his owner in years, I knew the moment he died. A switch went off inside me.
Why do I mention all of this? It’s an excuse to relate one of my favourite tales from the great Hindu epic The Mahabharata. In the end, the perfect emperor Yudisthira is old and alone, his kingship long done and his family long dead. Only he and his dog remain, and they are paupers walking in the wintery cold of the Himalayas.
Suddenly, a window opens from the clouds and a rope ladder hangs down before Yudishtira. A voice bellows, “Yudishtira, you have done all that you need do in your honourable life. Climb this ladder and enter bodily into heaven.”
Yudishtira answers, “But what of my dog?”
“There is no place for a dog in heaven,” the voice responds.
At this, Yudishtira decides that his loyalty to his dog is more important than his final celestial reward, and turns his back on the ladder. Just then, his dog magically transforms into the god Shiva, who tells Yudishtira that this was his final test, and the two ascend together into heaven.
Well, that’s my version of the story, in any case.