Friday, January 1, 2010

The Bat

When I was a little girl. I loved animals. I got bit and scratched quite a bit. One day when I was 8 or so, my mother who had just found out the boa constrictor that I had been playing with had been diagnosed with lice, had about enough, and she told me not to pet strange animals because I could get rabies or lice.

The lice did not concern me. I loved insects as well with the exception of spiders. I looked up rabies in the encyclopedia, and from what was there I took the idea that people who got rabies generally died of thirst. So if I played with a dog I would drink large amounts of water just in case. On seeing this extreme thirst, my mother would take me to the doctor, convinced that I had diabetes or a fever or something worse. I never did tell her that the "thirst" was because I had been playing with a dog.

In those days if a child was bit by a dog the child was often punished for going into someone's yard or bothering an animal when it was eating or sleeping. It was a crime right up there with if you were seen crossing the street without looking both ways or playing chicken on the railroad tracks with the Bessemer and Lake Erie trains. The animal was rarely put down if it bit someone.

Decades later, in 1998 when I was getting ready to go to Satyaloka there was a good 6 months of preparatory cleansing of traumas and looking within at what was there and working through illogical childhood decisions. The monk who was helping us to get readty said the 42 day process at Satyaloka would be like putting a jet engine into a Volkswagen so we had to prepare. None of us really knew what would happen.

Some made wills, others prepared survival kits in case they needed to "escape" into the mountains. The rest of us were so in touch with the existential suffering of man that we were well beyond caring what happened. This type of spiritual suffering comes with a deep sense of meaninglessness. It is the sadness of the dream realized, the man who wins a coveted award on Tuesday and thinks "So What?" on Wednesday. It is the day after Christmas for the child of 6. It is perhaps the darkest riddle of the Universe-the existential suffering of man. Others were just trying to get past the predawn cold showers followed by hours of chanting and sadhanas, the celibacy, the fasting. We called each other from coast to coast for support. sometimes at 4:00 AM. For the most part we just suffered through it, and did the recommended predawn cold showers and sadhanas, fasted and hoped the water was warmer at Satyaloka.

At a preliminary meeting with a monk when the event was announced, the room at the Kalki Temple was quite full. He announced that we would reach states as high or higher than that which was given to a Christ or a Buddha or they would carry our dead bodies out of there. Some gasped. Others rolled their eyes. A woman laughed and she was told if she could not take it seriously she should leave-that he meant it. On the next meeting the group dwindled to just a few. Even less came to the third once the required list of sadhanas was passed out. Only 5 went from the Pittsburgh group yet we were among 8 Americans only who completed the 42 day retreat and took teacher training, dikshas (spiritual initiations and vows at Satyaloka. We were to take over the teacher responsibilities for the monks and were to still adhere to the sadhanas.

Upon arriving at Satyaloka I immediately bonded with a brown dog I called Chuck. His front paw was smashed and deformed. His toenail was growing into the pad, causing a wound and he could not walk on it. I took some nail clippers, cut his nail and pulled the sharp end of the claw out of the pad. Then he bit me.

Just then a monk walked by and said, "You must not pet the dogs. You could get rabies." An old uneasiness rose.

During the time of preparation for Satyaloka I did not pay much attention to this particular childhood fear of rabies, but it was still there. I guess you could say there was some hydrophobiaphobia still lurking about.

I had been doing alternative therapy consultations for vets and farmers and knew that 10 days was the average incubation period in a dog so figured I would just keep an eye on Chuck for ten days. Chuck, now using all four legs at least with every other step, took of for the village. I watched him disappear into the trees.

So I took my gallon water bottle and did what I had always done when bit by a dog. I went to the tap and filled it and drank and drank and drank. A lady asked me if I had been checked for diabetes.

Chuck returned off and on during the 9 week stay-usually at meal time. He seemed to be fine. I forgot about rabies. Some nights he slept on the steps outside of the women's quarters. We slept on mats on clay floors, a certain number with our heads to the East and a certain number with our heads to the North. The sleeping spaces had been chalked out on the floor. Some of the women did not like Chuck and they would kick him or throw sandals at him. We were not supposed to have outside food as the monks cooked for us nor was there to be talking yet some ate and chattered almost non stop.

When we would leave the building Chuck and the other dogs would sometimes sneak in and take their food and mark someone's sleeping bag. So some took to hanging their food from the rafters over their mats with rope or twine. At night a big spotted threadbare looking rat would cross the rafters, climb down the rope and eat part of the bread, cookies or potato chips, swinging like a bizarre pendulum over a sleeping woman's head.

I remember thinking that some of the ladies probably should not be so hard on poor Chuck as when he slept on the welcome mat at the front door he kept the snakes out of the dorm. I wondered if the ladies would be so quick to run him off if they knew about the cobra that stayed under the porch. All in all Chuck provided a very good service.
The next summer as I was preparing to return to Satyaloka and was doing a preparatory predawn sadhana, I heard a whirring noise in the laundry room. It sounded like the cat caught a cicada. I ignored it for quite some time.

Later I saw it was not a cicada but a bat. I had no idea that they could make that kind of sound. The bat was very frightened and angry. The cat had left a cut on his head. I grabbed the cat and took her out of the room. The bat looked at me, bared his teeth and hissed. I opened the front door and he did a terrible flopping swimming motion across the living room floor, and out the door. The he then climbed up the siding, turned upside down and hissed.

I went back in the house and sat down. The cat climbed up on my lap and bit me hard. It was only then that I remembered that she was behind on her rabies shot. I called the vet and woke him up.

He said, "Bring her in in the morning for her shot, she will probably be just fine, just don't let her bite you." And he laughed.

My blood ran cold. I pour a large glass of water and then another.

I was leaving for India in 5 days. Would I become rabid At Satyaloka? Just what they needed. What if someone drank from my glass? The medical article said incubation could be 5 years in a human and i had read that Edgar Allen Poe had possibly died of rabies. I began to beat myself up thinking I should not have let the bat go. I should have captured it for testing. Then I would know for sure and end all this worry. How foolish I was.

I called a monk in the morning and explained what happened and asked if I should stay home and get rabies shots in case. She said to just come, that it was a just childhood fear stirring up trouble. I told the pet sitter about the cat and the bat. She was unconcerned as well.

That night, still worried, I prayed that I would be able to find the bat and have it tested. "Please give me a second chance." I begged.

Around 3 AM I heard a whirring cicada sort of noise The cat had the bat in the bathroom one more. I recognized him by the gash on his head. I was elated. God answered a prayer!

I grabbed a coffee can, poked holes in the plastic lid and captured the bat. I was so happy that my prayer was answered. I would not need to be worried now. Then a dark thought came. Testing would mean death for the bat. They would sent his head only to the lab. I opened the lid and looked at him. He was just laying there with his wings out like a little fallen angel on the cold metal. He raised his head and hissed half heartedly-the picture of misery. He was doomed. I felt his heart. What it was to soar about in an ocean of sound in the night sky. To sleep upside down with the sun.

" I can't do this." I thought.

I carried the coffee can to the front porch and opened it on the concrete. The bat crawled out and did his creepy swimming motion across the porch and climbed up the siding on the farmhouse, turned upside down and hissed. I went back in, turned off the porch light.

When I went back outside with some peroxide for his head wound, he was gone.

I left for India in 3 days.

After that there were no thoughts of rabies.

They left with the bat.

Prosperity Pets

Dogs can change your fortune-you can adopt a dog and have a shift in finances.

Kaala Bhairava, a manifestation of Lord Shiva, is the God of Time. Feeding and taking care of dogs is a way of showing devotion. If you do this well time will be on your side. You will always have time to do what you need to do.

I have experienced a amazing shifts in time since getting my own dog, a mixed breed who showed up, hungry and bruised at a machinery shop in the desert as a puppy. She has a little head, a big round body, thin legs, a bristly squirrel ticked coat, yet her head is as soft as velvet. On her front leg is lightening bolt scar from learning about rattlesnakes the hard way.

I was not looking for a dog when she came to me. She was in need of a home as the shop where she lived was closing. I am very fortunate to have her and will say she has brought me luck and the most valuable thing of all- Time.

I thought I did not have time to take care of a dog, but since she moved in there has been more time. And money. I have observed it is very beneficial to feed and take care of your dog very sacredly (meaning "with purpose") and respectfully. Serve him or her as you would tend to your alter or a welcome guest and miracles will happen as the love between you grows. If the realization is there that the dog (time) is serving you by being there, rather than the dog owes you its keep, that is when the miracles start. To take an animal in an not treat it well-to chain it to a post or abuse it may have the opposite effect.

I have particularly noticed that for the most part, even if I leave for the airport or an appointment late, I get there in plenty of time-against all odds. If I have allotted 4 hours for a task it is done in 1-2 hours. I am rarely tired or stressed, as thanks to the relationship with my dog, I always have enough time.

Last week I saw a homeless man sitting under a tree. He had a sign and a cup for money. He also had a big shaggy dog in very good condition. People (myself included) were actually pulling over and getting out of their cars to give him money and food. It's like that.

Visit your local shelter. Save a life that will ultimately transform yours.

Ancient Asian legends say that black and white cats bring good luck and fortune.