Saturday, March 13, 2010


In the mid 70s it seemed like all my music heroes were on some kind of spiritual journey.

Pete Townshend followed the teachings of Meher Baba, the “Don’t worry, be happy” guy. His teachings were the basis of Townsend's famous unfinished Lifehouse project that resulted in Who’s Next? and more importantly for me, Who Came First?. Baba reminded me of the fat “Laughing” Buddha.

Cat Stevens became a follower of Islam. He did incredible work for children during the Bosnian War. Unfortunately it was all overshadowed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s death sentence against Salman Rushdie when Stevens was forced to voice his opinion. I believe he was politically between a rock and a hard place.

Probably the greatest guitarist of all time Mahavishnu Orchestra’s John McLaughlin followed the teachings of Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy turned out to be a child molesting control freak.

Robert Fripp was a follower of G.I. Gurdjieff. For me he was, by far, the most interesting of these philosophers. There’s way too much about him to go into here but if you get a chance Google him. I almost forgot---Fripp left the music biz and lived in a Monastery for 2 years. Brian Eno finally talked him into coming out of retirement to lay the guitar tracks for David Bowie's Heroes record.

This is all an incredibly round about way to get to my subject this week, animals. One of Gurdjieff’s ideas was that children should have pets to practice love with. I absolutely agree!

Last week I mentioned love between species. We are social animals and pets’ love is unconditional. This can be almost impossible to find between humans.

I grow so close to my pets that I’ve sworn never to have another. The pain from losing them cuts too deep.

I think I already mentioned when my girlfriend Pam moved to Milwaukee, to join an acting company, she left her cat Aslan.

I guess the sudden loneliness made me grow even closer to the cat. He was kind of like a dog. We played fetch. He loved retrieving wadded up cigarette packs.

Aslan became very sick and I had to learn to give him injections. I practiced on an orange. He recovered.

I was alone with my cat when my friend Sharon suggested I move in with her ex roommate Nancy. I’ve done posts on both.

I’d never moved in with a total stranger before and I felt a little like an intruder. We became very close fast.

After about a week of living there we were sitting at the kitchen table talking. Suddenly Nancy shrieked. I turned to see Aslan walk into the room with Nancy’s parakeet dangling from his teeth. We saved the bird but a week later Aslan got sick again.

He got kitty leukemia. After doing everything possible including blood transfusions, Aslan died.

I’d gotten into the habit of waking in the morning, opening the back door and calling Aslan to come in for breakfast. The morning after he died I did that and Nancy came in. I saw a tear well up in her eye. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.

Years later when I was living in Florissant with 2 kids. My daughter, who wasn’t quite 3 yet, wanted an orange cat. That Christmas morning 2 cats appeared in the house. Her orange cat was a fully grown tabby that was about as butch as a cat could look. Chloe fell in love with him instantly. “Butterfly!” she exclaimed.

An old couple lived across the street. I saw the old man laugh as he caught me yelling, “Butterfly----- Stinky!” one morning.

This was the old guy who shot himself in the head in his back yard that year. It was big news at the time.

Anyway, after a few years it happened again. Butterfly got kitty leukemia. I should have known better than to let the cats go outside. Leukemia is very contagious between cats. I’ve since learned there’s a vaccine. We were all heartbroken.

Last week I went to my studio at my friend Fojammi’s convent home. Their mastiff Max had stopped eating. It appeared he’d had a stroke. He hadn’t eaten in a couple of days. I got him to eat a bowl of food but he was in pain. Danny decided Max was suffering too much. We tried to lift Max but his back legs hurt so much, he snapped at us. When he did finally get up he dragged his back legs.

Danny had saved Max from an abusive owner. For years Max didn’t trust people and he bit me twice as I tried to become friends with him. As the years went by Max became an old softy and eventually was great around all our kids.

As we were driving to the vet to have Max put down, I turned to Danny and said, “My heart’s become cold, I don’t feel it anymore.”

I stayed in the waiting room as Danny, his wife Laura, and their daughter Chauntasia, took him in for his last trip to the vet.

When they came out Chaunnie was in tears. I saw Danny wipe his eyes. There’s nothing that hits you like seeing a grown man cry.

Anyway, as much as I try to avoid pets I keep inheriting them. When Valerie and I got together she had 3 cats. Now we’re down to Charlie and he’s 15.

Charlie in his window, Nancy and me in the 80s, G. I. Gurdjieff.


...Sharon said...

Your warm and very real sentiment couldn't be expressed unless you had fallen for these creatures, Doggie.

It's okay to take a break every now and then and its heartbreaking that their life expectancy is so much shorter than ours. But it is and it won't change any time soon. They need us. It's a pattern of life that should not stop at one. We need them too. It keeps us humane.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't give yourself a better name....Your pets have more divinity than you.
How can you speak so ill of the greatests Spiritual Teachers of our time. FYI Mahavishnu is still very respectful of this discipline...

Doggie said...

Yeah, ask the children that grew up in that environment. Where you there?

Dorothy said... Anyone who cares to follow up on the 2nd comment may want to see the above link. It is a heartbreaking thing to be disillusioned by a spiritual leader, take it from me I'm Catholic! The pedophilia and abuse in the priesthood is abominable. Still, I would not reject the church because of the actions of these people. No one of us is perfect. Everyone of us is wise to acknowledge the darkness within ourselves. Not acknowledging it is the root of hate. The Eastern teachings have very much to offer, despite the shortcomings and outright hypocrisy of SOME of it's proponents. One thing I'd like to say right here, even Sri Chimnoy at his worst could find a friend in Jesus. I'll sit at his table with ANYONE!!!!

Doggie said...

Thanks for the link Dede, I was very disappointed when I learned about Chinmoy. One person's take at the site was this dark side really belied a natural side of people that's repressed. I think the church's view on abstinence and homosexuality is part of the problem. As for Jesus take a look at the contrast between Mark and Luke. The Gospels are individual points of view. I wish Christians would look at the message instead of idolizing the messenger.

Anonymous said...

To get back to cherished pets and the utter and lingering devastation of losing one in an unhappy way, there is the Udell family dog, Sinbad. I personally will never recover from his loss.

Your Mom

Anonymous said...

i have lost many pets in my life also, but, like friends and relatives, it isn't the losing of them but the loving of them while they are alive that's really important. Both aspects are a part of growing that is inevitable. Geo