She's just a puppy, right?
She's my birthday present, an irresistible six month old creature with long eye lashes, true grit and loving personality all wrapped up in a package that looks like shredded coconut.
Profound lessons are already coming from our short acquaintance. We've visited and she's met Winston, my 12 year old corgi/terrier. They like each other a lot, thank goodness. She takes up permanent residence in my home tomorrow morning.
You might ask, how can a cute puppy bring profound lessons?
Okay. I easily met all the physical challenges of preparing for her. I have a fenced in garden, dog equipment, a cozy cave crate bed for her and plenty of food. I'm ready to love. But ....I didn't know her name.
I went through popular girls names of the past eleven decades listed on the Internet. The names fell off. I went to goddess names. They fell off too. Suggestions from friends and family were too cute. I brought my problem to my Facebook friends. I think I got 50 comments with name offerings plus wonderful pet stories and one photo. But no name was hers.
My criteria for her: Best if it's one or two syllables. I want a substantial name to balance off her cuteness so she is treated with respect. She won't always be a puppy, so no Snowball or Puff or anything that ends in ie like Sweetie. I want a name that begins with a consonant because that' makes it easier for a dog to recognize the sound.
My criteria for me: I will live with this dog for many years. I will say her name several times or many times a day. So her name is an affirmation or a mantra or a consciousness shaping name or all three. I want a name that nourishes me and teaches me or inspires me or reminds me of something important and lasting.
When I gave up on finding a name I thought I would name her after someone I loved. Inga, short for Ingaborg, occurred to me. I loved this woman with all my heart. She is now dead. I thought of Hedda. I love this woman with all my heart. She is 102.
But then I thought, those names would carry me certainly into love and wisdom, but they would also carry me into the past and into wisdom I've already absorbed. I would be bringing already learned inspiration from the past to my present.
What, I wondered, would be a name that led me to the future? Future? That's no name for a dog. And then I thought of Maitreya, the Buddha to come. Maitreya is usually portrayed as male, but Buddhism, when studied carefully, allows that the appearance of this being can be in either gender.
"At this time of great political, economic and social crisis Maitreya will inspire humanity to see itself as one family, and create a civilization based on sharing, economic and social justice, and global cooperation."
Could I call a dog Maitreya? No. Too awkward. Too long. Too grandiose. As I rolled the name around in my mind I saw her name. Treya. What a lovely name for this little girl. And I would know it meant Maitreya, a coming future of promise for us all. What better form for this name to take than in a loving young life who is entering a family full of love for one another and her?
I feel more positive tonight about my life and the future for all of us with this lesson of love, hope, generosity and kindness coming in. I know that the work required to build a future worth living is not easy. And for all Treya's adorable qualities and cuteness, raising a puppy isn't easy either.
I'm prepared for mischief, crying in the night, hole digging for escape routes (already started), pee and poo, some breakage, my needing to change my schedule and habits a bit (or more than a bit) and certainly I'll have more time with the veterinarian for whatever physical issues she may have.
But aren't these the issues we need to accept in any situation where we are building toward a better future?
This blog I write is about eating disorder recovery so I'd better make the connection before I close.
If you have an eating disorder, you are in the present living with an illness. If you can envision a future without an eating disorder, even if you can't see the details or know the time or place of your recovery or what it will be like to live free, you can still have your vision.
If you can feel in your heart that a better future is coming, then you can start preparing. That preparation means recovery work. And yes, you too will deal with the mischief of the unexpected, crying in the night, hole digging for escape routes, pee and poo disruptions, some breakage (objects, relationships, old worn out and fallacious beliefs). You'll need to change your schedule and habits a bit (or more than a bit) and certainly spend time with mental and physical health clinicians for whatever mental and physical issues you may have at any time.
Can you love yourself as much as you would love a puppy? Can you commit to your well-being as you would to a puppy you love?
Just a puppy? Not any more. Now she is Treya, guiding us all to a better future. She is certain of good in this world and that she can have it.That's quite a profound lesson for a puppy to teach. Can you let yourself share her total commitment to being in the present, with a certainty that all will be well? Can you join me in preparing the present so the good future will come for her, for me, for you, for all of us?
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Los Angeles psychotherapist