Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.  – Anatole France

I did not have a dog when I was growing up. I didn’t get the whole “ Man’s best friend” thing. I liked dogs, I just didn’t have a need to have one in my house.

My children campaigned for over two years for a dog. I had all the usual excuses, I didn’t want another body to take care of, I was not going to walk a dog in the rain and snow (or at 5:00 am). I didn’t want a dog shedding all over my house.

It all changed one weekend when my family was invited to my friend’s beach house for the weekend. At the time my friend had a full-time job, four children (all of whom played more than one sport), and she was getting her master’s degree at night.  She was and is one of the busiest people I know. She makes it look easy and she has a dog. A big one.

Throughout the weekend, she and I would take her dog for walks, when we were sitting in the back yard, that dog didn’t leave our, (really, her) side.  When we woke up, the dog was there to greet us. This dog was amazing.

I was folding like a cheap tent.

A couple months after this weekend at the beach, I told my husband I was considering getting a dog. He said “I had a dog as a child, they are nothing but work.” Then he repeated all the concerns I’ve shared over the years. But after watching my friend manage everything she has going on and take care of this dog, I thought, “maybe it’s time for me to have a dog.” My husband’s response, “Ok, but you are on your own.” I told him I appreciated his honesty. I promised him and myself that I would accept the responsibility (how hard could it be, I already have two kids that I have managed to take care of?)

We ended up rescuing a dog who was a mixture of black lab and Australian shepherd. We named her Bacon. Why? Because everybody loves Bacon. (I was going to set this dog up to win the heart of everyone she encountered.)

With the help of my cousin, a dog lover/owner since the age of five, it took about a month to potty train and teach Bacon what she was allowed to chew and not chew. In the training of Bacon, I started to realize, this dog is pretty smart. She quickly learned which visitors liked dogs and which ones didn’t. She quickly learned that if she rang the bell on the door, she would be let outside to do her business (and she would get a treat for following the house rules). Bacon became the connector for our family. Everyday we reveled in the new tricks she mastered. I watched my kids teach her tricks, learn how to walk a dog, and lovingly incorporate a new family member into our home.

I should point out that my worst nightmares came true. I’m with Bacon the most, I am her primary food source, in that I am the only one who feeds her and keeps her water bowl full, I walk her everyday (rain or shine), and if dog hair was money, I would be a millionaire with all the shedding this dog does.

Through it all, I am grateful for it all because this hairy little dog has become my spiritual teacher. I have never had a better example of unconditional love than from Bacon. No matter what, she is in love with me. She sits on my feet while I watch tv, she waits out side the bathroom door while I shower, when I come home from a long day, she makes me feel like I’m a rock star.

The Tao Of Bacon

Be brave: I was walking her when we were approached by two pit bulls who were clearly interested in finding out if Bacon actually tasted like Bacon. I screamed for the owner who thankfully came running out side and got the dogs off Bacon. No one was hurt, but I promise you he is clear that he will never leave that gate open again. Bacon came running over to me with her tail wagging, she was ready to play. It was a while before I could breathe, but we eventually did get to play.

Find time to play: When I’m writing or working on my laptop for too long (according to the Bacon time scale), I will find a tennis ball dropped on my laptop or at my feet. As I look up I am greeted with raised ears, big eyes and a wagging tail. Time to play.

Start your day with a butt shake: When Bacon wakes up in the morning, she stretches gracefully into a downward dog with perfect form. Then she looks for me. She comes to my side of the bed, (which is really her side; we share), she is now standing over my husband and me with her tail wagging so fast, it shakes the whole bed. She then runs from room to room to greet my children. It’s as if she is shocked and amazed that it happened again; her eyes opened and we are all here with her. Imagine if we woke up like this every day. Can you imagine being so happy that you wag your tail till your butt shakes?  (Hair is now all over the floor, I get the sweeper.)

Keep the Peace: When my family is in the middle of a heated argument, Bacon will sit there, right in the middle of the chaos. She is not defending, taking sides or casting judgement. She just sits waiting patiently for someone to pay attention to her. Is a little scratch on the head too much to ask?

Invariably, someone notices her and scratches her head.  As each family member shifts their focus to  Bacon, the argument isn’t so important anymore. Tempers calm, a furry little head is covered with fingers scratching….   peace is restored (hair is all over the floor, I get the sweeper.)

Ask for what you need: There is nothing like a good belly scratch.  At least that’s what Bacon seems to think. She has our whole family trained. If she lays down next to any of us and rolls on her back; we know it’s time to scratch her belly. (Hair, floor, sweeper.) She knows what she needs to feel loved and she’s not afraid to ask for it.

What do you need to feel loved? Do you ask for it? @lockeym (Click to Tweet!)

No man left behind: Every night my husband and I go up to bed at the same time. At least we set out to go upstairs at the same time. While Bacon and I walk around locking doors and turning off lights, my husband goes into the kitchen to get a drink of water. Every night Bacon is faced with a choice.

Just as I get to the bottom of the steps, my husband is still in the kitchen. Bacon pauses; unsure of what to do next. You see, we are not walking up the stairs at the same time. Bacon will not come upstairs until everyone is up there. So she waits for my husband, which prompts me to wait for him. We then go up the steps together.

One night recently almost sent her into a frenzy. Just as my husband and I were about to walk up the steps, my son came downstairs to get a drink of water. Bacon literally walked back and forth across the foot of the stairs, not sure what to do. She couldn’t choose, so she didn’t. She sat and waited until my son came upstairs.

She is watching out for her tribe. No man (woman or child) will be left behind on Bacon’s watch. I can only hope that Bacon knows how much we will never leave her behind either.

Loyalty: I had a nasty migraine for three days. I literally could not move. I just laid there with my eyes closed asking everyone around me to keep the lights down low and the TV volume as low as possible. Understandably, no one wanted to be around me, I was not very pleasant in body or mind, (full disclosure, showering was not an option either.)

But you know who stayed by my side for the entire three days? Bacon. She was there, she would come and check on me by allowing me to give her a scratch. She let me be sick. She let me be upset. She let me snap at her when she accidentally rolled over on me. And she never left my side.

When I finally found relief, Bacon was thrilled. She was excited to have me back, and she let me know by following me around the house, sitting when I sat and waiting outside the bathroom door while I showered. She was happy we were back to normal.

My son even remarked “Mom must be better, Bacon is up and walking around.”

Who knew that I would find a spiritual teacher, companion, yoga and running partner in a sweet, hairy little puppy? Who is your unlikely spiritual teacher, there to teach you life lessons when you least expect?

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Lockey Maisonneuve is the founder of  the Let It Go Workshop. This workshop is a combination of yoga, discussion, journaling and meditation. Upcoming workshops in Ca., NJ. Click here for workshop registration. Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio. Print: Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, and Yoga Mantra + Health Magazine. For more information about Lockey and to sign up for her weekly Tao of Bacon, go to www.lockeymaisonneuve.com.