Today we visited an animal shelter for cats & dogs.
I’m beginning to see life as a series of crossings all sentient beings have to make. Some crossings are very hard. Besides providing food and care for animals, we might help them cross from sickness and fear to more auspicious states through our prayers and personal rituals.
So I brought sage leaves and prayer flags with me to the shelter in hope that they might be of service.
After wiping down the cats, I came to the end of the shelter corridor where a stupa stood on a metal trolley.
A stupa is sanskrit for a dome structure used for buddhist meditation or for holding sacred texts and relics. Stupas vary in size. Some are small enough to be placed on dashboards.
I think the stupa at Boudha in Kathmandu, Nepal, is probably the largest on the planet. Walking around it can cultivate wisdom and compassion. The stupa that needed cleaning today was about half my height.
As I was removing dust from the stupa with a wet cloth, a large orange cat suddenly hopped onto the trolley top. He began weaving around the stupa as if he was making a circumambulation with his body!
When I managed to peel him off the stupa, he wrapped his paws around my neck and started purring and rubbing his face against mine affectionately.
I lit a sprig of sage leaves and passed their white plumes of aromatic smoke over and around the stupa after the cleaning was done.
Then holding the burning sage, I walked down the length of the corridor and paused at each animal enclosure.
The cats were fascinated. Many came towards me and lingered at the wire mesh to be closer to the smoke blessings.
Even their 17 year old dog snoozing at the doorway got up and joined us.
At the section that housed the dogs, we were barked at. Then as their eyes followed the smoke and their ears picked up the prayers, many calmed down.
A girl dog with gentle eyes wagged her tail merrily at us and wouldn’t let us out of her sight.
As I prayed for the animals to be healthy and happy, and to be released from all causes of difficulties in life, I realised I was essentially praying for myself.
Towards late afternoon, my friend raised the prayer flags over the entrance to bless everyone.
We learnt that the shelter caregiver’s late mom had been wanting to get a set of prayer flags for their shelter since they moved here. But the daily upkeep of the place and looking after animals left them with little time or energy to go looking for prayer flags.
My friend initiated this shelter visit about 2 weeks ago. The sage leaves were given to me recently. The prayer flags were gifts from years ago. I learnt that today is the feast day of the archangels.
All these seemingly random occurrences have come together to facilitate my intentions to support animals and their caregivers. And it brings me comfort to know that the prayer flags put up today will be fluttering under the light of the mid-autumn full moon in a day’s time.
I first met Andy, the cream coloured paraplegic canine at Street Dog Care in the Boudha neighborhood on a full moon day in Dec 2016.
I remember how he let out nary a whimper as Junu applied medicines on his leg sores that had been rubbed raw by the abrasive contact between his skin and the metallic part of his wheels.
His wounds reminded me of the ones I got on the back of my leg from scrapping the metallic caliper that I wore in my childhood.
Much to my delight, we saw Andy again in 2017 and 2018 when we visited Nepal.
Back in Singapore, I would look out for my hero in wheels whenever the centre uploaded videos of their in-house residents.
When we visited their newly located centre in 2018, I remembered Andy making a bee line for hugs. He was very determined to monopolise all the cuddles. El assured me that nobody would dare bully my dear Andy because he was fully capable of defending himself on two legs.
Last night I received news of Andy’s passing. I knew that day might come sooner for him than for his healthier companions, but still.
While searching for a favourite photo of me and Andy to light a butter lamp, I chanced upon another photo that had been missing for so long that I thought I would never find it. It was a photo of a student and I in my younger days on a happy occasion.
Even in his passing, the little dog had helped me locate a long lost picture to remind me to keep smiling. ♥️🙏
May all the affection & care that precious Andy boy received from Street Dog Care in this lifetime facilitate his passage onto an auspicious realm. 🌈🐾
I used to carry pretty handbags. Now I carry dogs and cats, and some kibbles.
These days with the knowledge that anyone can carry virus, we’re also obliged to carry hand sanitizers and face masks whether we like to or not.
In fashion magazines there’s a frequent quote that goes, “Women can never have enough handbags, or shoes,” to justify constant buying and spending.
But perhaps this insatiable appetite for bags and shoes is a hidden quest to find out what we really want to carry, and where we would like to be headed during this lifetime.
I recall Ms Jane Goodall having only a small trolley bag and a backpack to hold everything she needs on her cross continental lecture trips to speak for primates. And yet at every event, she manages to look so polished and new. 😊
Bit by bit when I learn to carry what really matters, the old baggage of self doubt and “what would people think of me,” steadily dissolves.
I still like beautiful things, as people born under the zodiac sign of the Hare are known for. My heart still burst with affection at the primary school girls holding their glittery magic pony bags.
But the compulsion to own pretty things is losing its grip on me as my understanding of what I’m meant to carry in this lifetime gains clarity.
In mid April 2020, in the midst of lockdowns and stockpiling frenzy, a friend’s beloved dog passed away in the Middle East.
In her grief, my friend found lighting tealights, butter lamps and candles deeply comforting. She was also a little concerned that her supply was running low. Travel restrictions and curfews also made it hard for her to make purchases.
On 23 April I mailed her a box of butter lamps. My intention was for them to lift her spirit from the darkness of loss and to light a path for her departed Nepalese dog child.
It took a long time for the parcel of light to reach her. It had to first leave Singapore to go to the USA, and from there, it then made its way to the Middle East.
Two days ago, more than a month later, the butter lamps finally arrived at my friend’s home in the desert.
When she opened the parcel, it was also Day 49 of her dog’s passing.
Today on full moon eve and on the Tibetan holy day of Saka Dawa, my friend in the Middle East raises one butter lamp from Singapore for her Nepalese dog son. She puts it in a holder that has followed them from his country of birth.
I like to think that the butter lamps that I sent out on account of a humble dog must have blessed many postal workers and handlers as they passed oceans and deserts in time for his 49th day observation.
And I couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious timing for my friend’s gloom to be lifted as she celebrates her beloved companion’s entry into the full moon and into Saka Dawa.
May we continue to be Bearers of Light for one another, regardless of what forms we take and what kind of crossings we make.
Last week, after a dinner of porridge, we stopped by a neighbourhood housing estate to buy some fruits.
An elderly lady came by with her happy little Jack Russell on leash. I smiled at her & greeted her dog to show that I had no issue with her dog brushing against me as we crossed path.
As they walked ahead, I heard shrieks. They were from 3 young children who seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere.
In unbridled delight, the Little Humans huddled around the Jack Russell as the owner stopped in her track to let her dog meet his/her fans. Parents followed to supervise their offspring’s canine interaction .
While the adults chatted, the kids looked adoringly at the dog, each seeking for a cuddle with the Jack Russell.
After the Jack Russell, we chanced upon a Red Poodle sitting pretty like a toy in traditional wedding shop. Her tiny yelps alerted her owner, who was mending a quilt, to our presence. Not to be outdone, Red Poodle’s little sister, Snowy, joined in the barking.
We laughed in amusement at the cuddly burglar alarms taking their guarding duty so earnestly.
Seeing that we were not afraid of her dogs, the proprietress of the wedding shop, Ms Clara Pay, invited us in.
The Red Poodle took an immediate liking to El and had eyes only for him throughout our time there.
Snowy was a bit more selective and hesitated before leaving her basket to check us out.
Meanwhile, our eyes feasted on the splashes of red & gold of the traditional bridal paraphernalia in the shop. They had an energising effect on the viewers, and facilitated the flow of conversation between us and the shop owner.
In between asking her dogs to stop barking, Clara shared her interest in handicrafts with us and spoke candidly about her overseas travels. She visited traditional craft fairs where she learnt new skills and came home inspired.
A Malay couple passing by paused outside the shop to smile at the poodle sisters. They waved back when we waved at them.
El asked about the lacquered baskets on the top shelves and learnt that they were antique wedding baskets. Some of these black, red & gold pieces painted with auspicious symbols had found their way to Clara after their original owners who had lived a long & rich life passed on.
She restores the baskets if needed, displays them and safe keeps them till these heralds of joy find new owners who can appreciate them all over again.
On the surface, Clara may seem like an ordinary Singaporean woman running a traditional bridal shop in an ordinary housing board estate in the west.
But to me she’s an important custodian of heirlooms of people unrelated to her. Her shop holds pieces of someone else’s personal histories & memories, much like how she mends and stitches together the tears on the old quilt on her glass counter top.
So even as life can be fragile and uncertain, there are people not necessarily medically trained, such as little children who gush over a Jack Russell, and Clara, who runs a bridal shop, affirming life in their own exuberant and quiet ways all the time.
Today I wore my necklace of turquoise stones from Nepal to an animal shelter in Singapore. My friend had invited me to join her for some volunteering work there.
Turquoise is called the Sky Stone by Tibetans. It has many healing properties. By having turquoise on me, I wanted to remind myself to constantly project vibes of health & vitality, and not pity on the animals that I saw or touched. And of course I also wanted to look good and dress up for the cats and dogs.
Like most animal shelters, this one is located in a fairly remote part of Sg. Volunteering is a commitment that requires planning, time and travelling.
Not one to take such an opportunity lightly, we decided to dedicate today’s work at the shelter to my friend’s late brother. He had set an example of kindness to animals for his younger sister during their growing up years.
When he was studying in JC (Junior College), he rescued a kitten. He was the first in her family to persuade their parents to adopt a dog. And because of him, their home has become a refuge for a number of animals over the years.
Upon our arrival at the shelter we met a young man who was there on his own. Daryl had just completed JC and wanted to spend his time helping animals.
So the morning went by with us unwrapping metal frames, hooking them to each enclosure to increase vertical space for the cats, and slipping pillow cases over the frames to form beddings for the feline occupants to sleep comfortably above ground.
A few were trying to climb onto their midair contraptions even as their “housekeepers” were still making their beds.
When the beddings were secured, the cats took to their mini airmocks with gratitude.
Meanwhile, the rain came, followed by the glorious sun.
Towards tea time, every single cat that was visible to us was acknowledged. Eye contact, smiles, head rubs, cuddles and wishes of healing were given & received.
And the kitties in hiding would have felt our goodwill, for the whole shelter was bathed in a golden afternoon light when our mission was completed.
After the shelter, we stopped by a cafe for some needed hydration & reflection. The cafe was located in a garden nursery with very strong balinese landscape features.
We took pictures with the balinese stone carvings of dancers and frangipani, and the Rainbow showed up to join us. Of course there are scientific and technical explanation for its appearance in the photos. But we were thrilled with the unexpectedness of it all, as if we had been bestowed some divine blessings even as we were simply having fun.
When I got home later in the evening I checked a text that was sent from Nepal during our time at the shelter.
The text came with a picture.
It showed my Nepali host, Reena, holding on her palm, one half of the turquoise earrings that matched the necklace I wore today. I had lost that earring last December in Nepal.
And just this morning I was wondering if I would ever see the missing half of my earrings again.
The surprise emergence of a little turquoise after being lost for months seemed to be showing me that what is spoken or thought of with love can never be completely lost.
And this thought encourages me to dedicate whatever remaining time and energy I have to seemingly “lost” causes.
It also strengthens my habit of performing deeds of relief in the name of people and animals that have left this earthly realm.
Like the Rainbow that arches over us, we are constantly held and supported by the sacred presence of those we love.
Yesterday I hosted my first ever canine guest in the Year of the Rat at my home.
Overnight a little pink flower bloomed.
With the heavy rain all day today, I’m not sure if the flower can take the cold.
And yet amidst news of contagions & quarantines this lil’ wisp of a flower has chosen to unfold.
As tiny as she is, this delicate messenger has petals which she unrolls bit by bit, without haste and almost unnoticeable, giving me hope that the simplest prayers that we make for healing and reconciliation with Nature will be heard & answered. 🙏
My friend brought her adopted dog to my home for Chinese New Year visit today.
Dog approves of cny cake.
At only 8 month old and of a slight built, Nicki Ning-en strutted about my home, sniffed around and made sonorous barks at the cats. Her 20 black nails and kohl-lined eyes gave her a touch of gothic vibes.
Oliver the Cat hid behind the washing machine, wondering when this lanky girl would leave. Behind the glass door of the cat room, plump Hakim sat cross-pawed, daring Niki Ning-en to come closer.
Satisfied with her exploration, the girl dog lay down contentedly on the floor by the altar while raising her head briefly to look up at Avalokithesvara (Compassion) and Ganesha (Wisdom).
She had also chosen to relax on the same spot where Shoya, my dog, transited into Light in 5 years ago.
I smiled at the way she seemed so at ease resting on Shoya’s space.
Perhaps being born on an industrial site, losing her own mother, taken to the pound and living so close to death had given this dog an extra ability to sense peace.
As I gave Nicki Ning-en her Chinese New Year red packet, I wished her good health and a long life to accompany her human mommy for a long time.🌈🐾