This morning, my dog sitter dropped off Felix after he spent the day and night with him. My dog sitter is a 60 something gay man who lets Felix get on the couch and sleep on his bed. Felix always comes back tired and dirty, signs that he had a great time with Boddi, the resident dog and any other dogs spending the night.
My dog sitter is also an alcoholic. Sometimes he smells like alcohol. Sometimes his face is very red. He looks beat up, like an old boxer. He had cataract surgery this year which scared him and made him cry. He’s wrecked one car and got another. New cars which obviously carry packs of dogs. Ripped seats, dog hair and dog drool on the windows, duct tape on the arm rest.
I love my dog sitter. My very irregular job has required me to be away from the house at all hours, sometimes for many hours. He has come to get Felix and he keeps him for days sometimes. At the end of this month, I have a two week retreat scheduled and Felix will go to ‘dog camp’.
Last week my dog sitter didn’t come to get my dog on his scheduled day so Felix was in the house for many hours. I called my dog sitter but got no response. Then two days ago I got a text message from him. He apologized and said he was sorry and he would never drive with the dogs in the car if he was impaired. We have never talked about his drinking before. But this time he got very sick. He was ashamed.
When he dropped Felix off this morning, we did not make eye contact.
Last night at sangha, we talked about equanimity, upekkha. Equanimity is the fourth Brahma Vihara or Divine Abodes. Abode-dwelling place. Equanimity implies impermanence. It accepts impermanence as its foundation. All things change; climate, disasters, human life, all life continues to morph and die and evolve. Everything will dissolve. How to live on the rim of the floating world? We try to solidify what is not solid. We try to hold in place what is always shifting, however imperceptibly.
What has this to do this my drunken dog sitter. At one time, I was angry and judgmental with people who had substance abuse issues, like members of my family. With study and help from the Dharma, what has blossomed is a great kindness and compassion for that suffering. Family members have died from untreated mental health problems made worse by alcohol consumption. People I have loved. It is clear that we cannot change the behaviors of other. We are not responsible for the happiness or suffering others experience because of their actions. We are responsible for our own actions or as the sutta says, “we are heirs to our karma”.
Some of my friends have asked about finding another dog sitter for Felix. For now, I’m choosing to stay with the guy I have. First, I have to respond to his message. To tell him I love him. To suggest a meeting. To forgive what he can’t forgive in himself. And if I do hire someone else and fire him, it will be from a loving and kind place, not one of anger and fear.
If all is impermanent and we are powerless to change that, how do we choose to live each minute, each day? The heart says, with kindness and compassion.
May we all be free.