Love First - Eat Later!

Aug 22, 2022

by Chela Duke

My family’s raised eleven dogs: eight Guide Dogs for the Blind, and three family dogs. Dogs don’t have egos impacting their actions. They act without inhibitions, without holding back their joy or enthusiasm. Over the years, I was fortunate to watch many of our dogs uninhibitedly express themselves in ways from which humans can learn.

They’ve also all been food-motivated. I mean big time food-motivated! Even though our dogs are trained to politely “wait” until “released” before meals, they drool while sitting in their wait command, shaking with anticipation, barely able to contain their desire. Once they’re “released” to eat... stand back! Politely put - they have amazing focus - you don’t want to get in their way. I’ve heard there are dogs without attachments to food, but we’ve never had one!

But we have observed an amazing quality in our dogs that actually supersedes their intense food-drive; unconditional love.

If you have a dog, you probably understand their enormous capacity to uninhibitedly express love towards their humans. Or maybe you’ve seen videos of soldiers returning from war being greeted by their dogs with overflowing joy and devotion. Or maybe you’ve seen or read about dogs helping children, or dogs rescuing other animals.

Last night our dog, Ellie, demonstrated an uninhibited ability to give love that highlighted my own shortcomings and made me pause to think about my own actions. 

Ellie is an exuberant, loving, 8-year-old rescued terrier with zero pedigree, bowed back legs, and who walks like a cowboy. Last night she was routinely devouring her dinner after being released from her “wait” command. While she was eating, my husband’s car pulled in the driveway within her field of view. I’ve never seen this before, but I watched in amazement as Ellie taught me a great lesson. Food obsessed little Ellie stopped eating. I watched her weigh the options for about three seconds before she decided to abandon her dinner at the mercy of our larger, voracious dog who did not think twice about eating Ellie’s meal.

Ellie bolted out the front door to greet my husband with an inspiring display of love and enthusiasm; tail wagging, entire rear end wiggling, whimpering with joy, running circles around him.

Did I get up and run to my husband? Did I get up and walk to him? Did I even get out of my chair? What made me stay put? I was thinking about myself. Whether I was tired or for other reasons, I stayed put, expressing very little outward energy.

Ellie left me in the dust - with a clear lesson as a gift. How much better would my husband, or a friend feel if I greeted them more energetically? I don’t need to run out the door, but I can make someone feel great joy at seeing them.

Swami Kriyananda spoke often about our need to perform all actions with high energy, enthusiasm, and joy, and without ego’s inhibitions about what others might think. The love and joy we give, we will receive in return. Alternatively, interacting with people using less than full, positive energy doesn’t create a dynamic upward magnetism within us or attract the greatest love to ourselves.

But how do we change? How do we give more, and magnetize more great love to ourselves? It’s easier than we think and begins with simple, small responses. We don’t need to perfect everything at once, we only need to directionally change our intention, beginning with small changes we can manage successfully. By directionally leaning into the high ideals of love, joy, enthusiasm, kindness, service, and patience we change our own magnetism, affecting our relationship with the world as we change ourselves. By increasingly giving more heart and energy to all we do, we begin magnetically attracting higher qualities of Divine Love. These changes from within not only influence what happens outwardly but change everything from our own health to the reactions of others around us.

The ultimate destiny of every soul is to become the embodiment of unconditional love and joy. We have free will to rail against that and we’ve successfully done so for eons. We also have free will to begin evolving right now, experiencing a positive change in our relationship with everything and everyone. As Swami Kriyananda said, “To perfect love is to know the secrets of the universe.”

P.S. Ellie did not go dinner-less.