Shandael Alaskan Malamutes


John & Maya

This Section is reserved for my companion dog Maya (who just ate the Art of Raising a Puppy).  Be forewarned: this is our personal little corner of the web site -- a place for random thoughts, observations and reflections about the meaning of life and a boy and his dog.  But you're certainly welcome to join us if you like. [And thus concludes my shameless and uncharacteristic excursion into anthropomorphism -- which I think obscures the true beauty and mystery of animals].  Still ... I must say that I am impressed by the range of her literary interests: she has also consumed Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf and Ram Dass' Grist for the Mill.  [Upon further consideration, there does seem to be a pattern to her selections from my library ...].

The photo above was taken some months ago, but those were the eyes I fell in love with -- that unfathonable exporession of noble sadness occasioned by my reaching into my pocket and taking out a spare battery for my Canon rather than the usual dog treat.  Still, I can't get past the fact that there seems to have been so much more to that moment than that -- hence Maya.

In the Book of Wiki it is written:

Maya may also be visualized as a guise or aspect of the Divine Mother (Devi), or Devi Mahamaya, concept of Hinduism.

In Hinduism, Maya is also seen as a form of Laksmi, a Divine Goddess. Her most famous explication is seen in the Devi Mahatmyam, where she is known as Mahamaya. Because of its association with the goddess, Maya is now a common girl's name in India and amongst the Indian diaspora around the world [4].

Essentially, Mahamaya (great Maya) both blinds us in delusion (moha) and has the power to free us from it. Maya, superimposed on Brahman, the one divine ground and essence of monist Hinduism, is envisioned as one with Laxmi, Durga, etc. A great modern (19th century) Hindu sage who often spoke of Maya as being the same as the Shakti principle of Hinduism was Shri Ramakrishna.

While we are not entirely in agreement, for the moment we will let that view of Maya suffice.  [You're not alone -- most people regret having asked].

A new year has begun ...  I have not progressed with this nearly quickly as I had intended ...

I should mention that Maya is the first companion dog I've ever had. When I was a child a I had wonderful terrier mix as a pet -- but a pet is not quite the same as a companion dog. Or perhaps it is -- perhaps the difference I'm trying to get at here is of the complexity of the human-canine relationship. In any case, I had threatened on many occasions to make one of our malamutes my companion dog -- but for one reason or another it just never happened. That it happened with Maya was, I believe, a combination of her unique personality and the constellation of my own life at the time she came along. [The phrase I was trying to avoid there was "the stage of my own life" -- but that, again, is a topic best left for another occasions].

We are now on our fifth generation of malamutes -- and I'd certainly like to think that I know a bit about dogs in general and malautes in particular. And of course I do -- just not as much as I imagined -- not nearly as much. And in some respects, I recognize that I have been genuinely oblivious to dogs -- that in some respects they have been, as Margaret put it, a pleasant background in my life -- something I enjoyed without ever really paying close attention to. In observing Maya over the pasts months, however, I've come to recognize that behaviorally, emotionally and cognitively, dogs are far more complex than I had ever realized, and that the nature of the social interactions are equally complex. The most surprising observation has been the time span over which behavior events can occur.

As in the case of many of the significant relationships in my life, there was with Maya a lucid -- and in this instance, eerie -- "bonding experience." Shortly after dusk on a summer evening we were out in the yard and cold wind suddenly came and definitely caught her attention. After a few moments of being very still, she walked over to me, sat close by my side and began sniffing the air. She seemed a quite different dog at that moment -- not at all puppy-like -- but rather, very serious, very intent on what she was doing. I reached down and petted her, and for the first and last time she seemed genuinely annoyed at being petting -- so I let her be and just tried to understand what she was experiencing. And then I realized that I could not comprehend her, and would never be able to -- that her cognitive space was too different from mine -- that as familiar as she seemed to me and despite the amount of affection we shared, she was alien being. That there were some things that we could share -- but only some. That in the end, we could only be alone together -- and that has to be enough.

And as I write this, this is resting under my desk looking up at me. If she only knew ....

[If you would like to add a comment, please send it to John & Maya]