While we struggle with the challenges of this Covid crisis, I think the dogs in our lives feel like their lives are better than ever. My dog, Rocky, has been run, walked and fetched until he cannot keep his eyes open from pure, joyous exhaustion. Considering his experience of this pandemic, recalled to my mind this reflection I wrote a few years ago after he had just entered our lives.
I love having a dog once again. Rocky entered our life 4 months ago after a 7 year non-dog hiatus. Aside from the puppy-kind of land mines one might expect, our lives have been filled with the kind of love that one experience from having a dog in the household.
I took Rocky earlier this week for his first hike in the mountains. He is new to hiking and he loved it – especially, the veritable cornucopia of scents to smell, bugs to chase and sticks to carry. It made the hike go at a different pace than I had anticipated — especially the sticks to carry. There were so many sticks to pick up, transport and nibble. And when he finally chose one for the next part of the journey, I was more than ready to get moving again. I queried him (as you do): What are you going to with that stick? You know that we are not stopping again so that you can chew that one … this one is too big … that one has too many twigs. And all the while there was Rocky gleefully marching along with his new stick. I swear there was a little extra bounce in his step when he had one of those damned sticks in his mouth. He was not worried about its size, its mass or even what he was going to do with it. Rocky was just content to be carrying the stick that happened to be in his mouth.
And then there came moment that instead of my consternation of the how’s, what’s and why’s of the stick … I became acutely aware of his abundant joy. That dog became my ‘rebbe’ for a moment and embodied a classic chasidic teaching: “Joy breaks all boundaries.” Accepting the joy of performing each task before us – no matter how mundane; no matter of the toil involved; no matter the complications and complexity that may follow – is a powerful tool.
We are engaged this time of year in the work of evaluating the kinds of boundaries that inhibit or limit our growth. If this premise rings true – no matter if the boundaries are ones the world puts upon or those we put upon ourselves – then mastering this joy holds an important key to our success. With such boundaries broken, we liberate ourselves to feeling, experiencing and encountering more. It is in the best interests of our Teshuvah to get our heads and hearts around this formula of joy.
Or from Reb Rocky’s perspective: Just be happy carrying your stick!