Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good Boy: A Fine Teaching

Today I have a story and some thoughts about one of my greatest teachers, George.


George is not well. For some time, we have been noticing a change in his ability to track and chase a tennis ball--his favorite occupation. When we're down in Laguna Beach, we take him up to a park where he can run to his heart's content off-leash, and we can throw the ball a good distance for him to fetch. Up here in LA, we're fortunate to have a long garden where he can do much the same. He has a specific time of day, later morning and mid-afternoon, when he has come to expect this opportunity to stretch his legs and romp about a bit.

It was a few weeks ago that we first noticed that he was no longer tracking the ball as well. He would start out following in the direction it was thrown, then losing it and circling around time and again until he finally found it. Then, while the family were here, the problem seemed to aggravate, and he seemed at times disoriented--something we attributed to the trauma of having so many people around and so much happening...

Sunday, though, I noticed he started actually bumping into things, and taking fright when coming upon obstacles unexpectedly. A curb, for example, which he would normally see in advance, seemed to loom suddenly in his vision and scare him. Clearly, there was something seriously wrong with his eyesight, and a visit to the doctor was in order. We called first thing yesterday morning for an appointment with our Laguna Beach vet on our way back to the city.

The doctor's examination revealed what he called a "central corneal ulcer"--a wound in the center of the eye that could have been caused by chasing into the bushes after a mis-thrown ball. George suffered nobly through the indignities of the examination, including a series of drops to expose the extent of the wound--and hopefully to begin the healing. We came home with two small bottles from which to administer eye drops several times a day.

It's distressing to see George in such a state. Yesterday, he was virtually blind. He clearly does not like having the drops put in his eyes...


After each administration, he gets a reward in the form of a piece of dog biscuit, and he appreciates the treat; he sits like a good dog and holds his nose up in eager anticipation...


... but it's clear that he doesn't see the cookie even when it's held right in front of him. Move it left and right and his head doesn't move.

Poor George! He has to visit a new vet here in Los Angeles tomorrow for what we're told is an important follow-up examination, one that can't wait until we're next down in Laguna. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the damage is not permanent. He does seem a little better this morning...

In all this suffering, he maintains a kind of nobility from which we could all learn. The vet tells us that the ulcer is very painful, and we have noticed how George has been batting at his eye with a paw or rubbing it against the carpet in the attempt, presumably, to relieve the irritation. But he doesn't complain, and does not appear to feel sorry for himself. Is this only because he lacks the words with which we humans would likely be moaning and groaning about our misery and indulging in self-pity? I don't know. But I think George is a better Buddhist than I am in his ability to maintain equanimity and to refrain from attaching to the suffering. I'm actually more attached to it than he is! George just breathes, and sleeps, and waits for things to improve. And responds to loving attention with his usual return of love for love. An admirable creature!

There's surely no nobility in suffering, per se. The nobility, I think, is in knowing how to suffer with equanimity.


6 comments:

mandt said...

We've been going through exactly the same thing with Bodhi. In his case it was scratching his ears that caused the damage. So, from now on everyday we must put drops in his eyes. He can still see, but it is impaired. Oh, poor George. Bodhi says to give him an extra dog treat for him.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sending warmest wishes for George's speedy recovery. He's a truly great dog!

CHI SPHERE said...

How distressing Peter and the nobel George persists
without a compliant! Its troubling to see and know about his pain. All my warmest wishes for a speedy recovery to him and please do give him the treat all dogs love most, a belly rub and some beef jerky!

PeterAtLarge said...

mandt, George sends a good tail-wag to Bodhi and wishes him well in his recovery. Treats... of course!

Heart, thanks for the heart-felt wishes! George says hi. Like me, he can;t see you, but he knows you're there...

Gary, don't worry about the belly rubs, he gets those in plenty. He has not yet, though, tried beef jerky. A treat in store...

Anonymous said...

wishing George, you and Ellie well...Stuart

robin andrea said...

So sorry to read about George's eye problem. I hope the medication does the trick and his suffering is quickly over. He's quite a sweetheart of a dog.