Just when I thought I wasn't making any progress on compassion, it seems that I've had a breakthrough.
Last night, the sky opened up and dumped 4-5 inches of snow. I still needed to walk the dog, so I got all bundled up, collected everything that we needed, and started off on a short walk around the block. About a quarter of the way around the block, my dog was attacked by another dog; the man yelled for his dog but didn't attempt to go after it, and didn't chastise it after the incident. It was a white pit bull which blended in with the snow, and I didn't see it until it was too late. I carry pepper spray and tried to push down on the plunger, but it was cold and hard to depress – so I never got it to spray in time. I screamed, loudly. My dog was grabbed around the throat, shook a couple of times, then the dog ran off back into his yard.
I yelled: “Leash your fuckin’ dog!”
The guy replied that my dog was on his property; that he peed on a bush or something – as if that totally justifies a mauling.
I was terrified for the 10 minutes that it took for me to get home, replaying the incident in my mind, over and over. What if the dog had grabbed me? What if it went for my leg, or knocked me down and went for my throat? What if it had tried to kill my dog? What if? What if? What if?
When I got home, my heart was still pounding a mile a minute. I checked my dog for bites, and he was unharmed. I was aware that I was grasping, clinging to this terrible, shocking thing that just happened to us – while my dog, 5 seconds after the fact, was wagging his tail and trotting along happily, enjoying the novelty of the snow. I thought “this is no way to live” – and I immediately sat down to meditate, to focus on this feeling so that I could explore my reaction some more. (I used the Breath, Sound, Body Meditation HERE)
After a while, I came to the realization that yes, the man should have restrained his dog – but there’s nothing I can do about that now. I’ll just have to trust that he’ll be wiser in the future because of this incident. The dog itself was just doing what many dogs do: protecting its territory. Dogs don’t know that their owner’s property stops at the curb – they’re animals.
The breakthrough came when I realized that I felt bad about yelling at the guy. He was just minding his own business. It happened so fast; neither of us could react. But that’s over. Once words are spoken, you can never take them back.
I feel grateful for being able to stumble onto something so valuable. Someday, I hope to alter my clinging mental habits and make compassion my default mental state, but I’m aware that it will probably take much time and effort.
But I’m sure it’ll be worth it.