Two weeks ago, I adopted a dog.

Ten-years-old, she is a tri-color Tree Hound/Beagle mix. Found as a stray in Lewisburg, WV, she was brought to Hagerstown, MD, by an organization called For Otis Sake. The adoption agency felt she would have a better chance of finding a permanent home farther north where hounds are not “a dime a dozen.”

It has been over forty years since I owned a dog, Dolly, and seven plus years since I last had a pet—Mooch, a 26-pound ginger tabby cat, love blob. Both easily stole my heart and left me a broken mess when they made the journey across the ‘rainbow bridge.’

Polly is her name or at least the name given to her by her foster parents. I have asked Polly what her true name is—the one given to her at birth–but she has yet to confide in me.

She is super sweet, very gentle, a real cuddle bug; and oh, my goodness, she has the softest ears!

Oh, I have tried to teach her a few commands, but at 70 some in human years, she is pretty set in her ways—the quintessential “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” dog. In fact, I think I am learning way more from her than she is from me.

A heightened sense of smell makes life an adventure for her. As soon as we step outside for a walk, her nose immediately goes to ground, sniffing away. Tail wagging, butt waddling, she meanders back and forth across my path as we walk. Stubbornly stopping from time to time to do a nasal appraisal of what must be an intoxicating odor or determinedly tugging me forward because her snout caught a delicious distant scent; she is the walker and I the walkee.

I thought I lived in a relatively quiet neighborhood … that is until Polly moved in. Due to her keen hearing, I am now regularly alerted to apparent sounds and activities to which I either did not pay attention, took for granted or simply did not hear.

These notifications come in the form of howling, barking and baying. With hair literally standing on edge, head back, nose up, and craning neck, her warbles send me into hysterical fits of laughter. Once the perceived “danger” has passed, she puts her paws on my lap or at my waist and I tell her what a good girl she is as I gently and calmly stroke her ears and sides. Her wagging tail lets me know she is happy she protected me. She seized the moment—carpe diem!

Some of my favorite moments are when she is seated in my lap and leans back exposing her belly for a rub; or when I am crying, she is patiently and peacefully present with me. She is utter awareness.

What have I learned from her?

“… for in him we live and move and have our being …“ Acts 17:28

Of this mindfulness, she is my daily reminder

Whatever I do, wherever I go, all that I am, is IN awareness. At least I do the best I can to remain mindful of this most important precept because it is where everything begins and ends. There is no separation, only belief that I could be separate; that we could be separate.

Spending time with family or friends or in solitude; reading a book, baking cookies, doing chores; walking the dog, exercising, practicing yoga; watching the news, staying abreast of politics, social media; caring for the least, the last, the lost and the lonely; church activities, work, hobbies/sports; traveling, conversing, writing, praying, meditating … there isn’t anything we do that isn’t IN the Divine.

“Lo, I am with you always.”