To My Friend, RR


When you react to a situation that has not yet occurred, you violate a principle of Nature. Your mind should be like still water. This is the quality that makes one remain calm even in the worst of circumstances. It is a matter of training. The Japanese call it "miso no koro." It is a primary philosophy of Zen masters.

If a long-awaited package arrives at my doorstep, I wait a day before opening it. It drives my wife crazy. If I miss a doctor's call with the results of a test, I return the call the next day. It drives everyone crazy. However, in that manner of training myself to be patient, I only react to real threats in my life.

When we lived in New Hampshire, we always shared our lives with multiple dogs, at least four at a time, and lost many of them over the years. They were not pets, but family members to me.

Dusty was a lobster fisherman. He was a tough canine, who boarded a lobster boat with his master daily for five years. When the old man died, the dog lamented, and was scheduled to be put down. I rescued him, and we became best friends for many years. I could not leave the house without him jumping into my Jeep. He jumped onto my back seat one morning, and departed peacefully. He died at seventeen, and his collar sits upon my bookshelf within reach of where I am writing at the moment.

My Josey was a sweetheart. I took her to work with me daily. Everyone at the college knew her, and my students loved her. She died at age eight, when a woman left rat poison outside, and my sweetheart ate it. I forgave the woman, and I was thankful a child had been spared the lady’s negligence, but it is still difficult for me. When I teach, I continue to look for her as I exit the classroom. Her collar sits next to Dusty’s.

I have eleven collars on my bookshelf. Most of them would haunt me, if I let them. The worst was Austin Louie, who peered deeply into my eyes for fifteen minutes until he departed. I dream of him often, unpleasantly.

We all suffer pain, some more than others. That is part of life. The torture depends on how we deal with it.

When I finish this post, I am heading to the beach with my Lylah. She is six now, and one of the dogs I have been closest to in my lifetime. I enjoy her every move, every day. She is part of my life, and I refuse to diminish the relationship we have with the reality that someday her collar will rest upon my bookcase. Were I to do that, life itself would be painful. I will enjoy Miss Lylah every day of her life, without any negative thoughts. It is a matter of training.

Miso no koro.


  1. Thank you. I understand that this is your way of commenting on my post. Not only do I hear you, but I understand. This applies to my current situation... and the rest of my life. So, it would serve me well to begin to quiet my mind, and perhaps pick up a book on Zen philosophy. Sounds like I could use some stillness to combat all of the crazy going on in the world around me.

    I appreciated you sharing, not only your relationships with your dogs, but some insight into how you deal with your stress, and your anticipated things like packages. It was all helpful.

    You are a lovely friend.

  2. Robin: Thank you. I admire your courage.

  3. JJ, you know how much we love our dog children!!

  4. Judie: People who are not animal lovers just don't understand. Dogs are better than people!

  5. Dear JJ,
    Thank you. Dogs are always faithfull to us. I wish human beings were like dogs in this issue!

  6. Beautiful thoughts JJ. Yes, we must love what we have while we have it. And when it is gone we must be thankful for the happy memories.
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  7. Considering my professional background, I am no stranger to Miso no Koro. But when it comes to my own, professionalism is out the window. We lost our beloved Chloe' in 2004. My husband and I still get teary-eyed talking about her. I also kept her belongings, except her favorite toy that she was burried with. The only thing that gives me comfort is believing I will see her again one day.~Ames

  8. I do try very hard to avoid the thoughts of losing my beloved pets as they're lives are simply too short and we all know it. Sometimes I get caught up in wondering if a certain dog will still be here at this time next year, etc. I don't like to cheapen the relationship by doing this sort of thing. However, for me facing reality with some sort of rationale is important- especially when it comes to losing a family pet. Let's just say that in my growing up days it wasn't handled well. Since I am now facing losing my own beloved animal for the first time I want to be as thoughtful and loving as possible. Your message is a good one, even considering my desires to be rational in such a situation. It honors our lovely furry family and keeps their spirit alive by choosing not to prematurely mourn their demise.
    While I can't say truthfully that I would always be able to practice this 'miso no koro' in every situation (-my patience is imperfect and I'm a little impulsive in my true nature which has served me well. My sweet husband calls it 'decisive'.) it seems that for the big things in life your advice is spot on and you are so good to share it with our friend Robin.

  9. Hi JJ .. this is a lovely post remembering all your faithful pals - they are so much of us aren't they.

    The sound of your walk on the beach with Lylah will have been and will be wonderful in the future ... those times with their faithfulness.

    Just co-incidentally I wrote about the history of dogs - but here you've expressed your love for man's best friend ..

    Have a lovely family day cheers Hilary

  10. It only makes sense to me that the people I love to blog with regularly would be animal lovers. "Birds of a feather ..." Thank you.

  11. I'm reading a wonderful book now that you might enjoy--The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving. Sweet post. My Sadie is almost 14 and is in failing health. I'm trying to make this last stage of her life full of comfort and love.


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