9 November 1998 – 27 November 2010:
 on this date a buddha was born



upon a time ago, after

living for a year and a half without a dog,

I got a call from my friend Lynelle.  She had been hiking on

Mt. Sanitas, run into a woman with two beautiful standard poodles,

asked where she’d gotten them, called the woman in Rock Creek who was

the source, and discovered that she had a litter of puppies ready

to go.  I phoned the woman, got directions to her home,

took Sofia out of school, and

drove there.


I used to believe,

having trained dogs when I was

younger, that I knew something about them.

When we got to Rock Creek, I started performing puppy tests,

in my mannish way, to sort out which was the best dog of the five available.

Sasha was the first dog I tested, the runt of the litter, and it took me all of a minute

or so to dispense with her.  I was on to the third or fourth puppy when

Sofia, who was sitting quietly against the fence with Sasha

in her lap, spoke softly.  “Dad, I think we

should take this one.”



“Really?!”, I said.

I’d been decidedly unimpressed with her.

But I always knew my daughter was smarter than me,

so that was the end of it.  We paid the woman

and went home with our

new dog.



It would be fairer

to say that Sasha raised Sofia than

that I did.  She slept with her every night,

napped with her every afternoon,

communed with her




When I lost

my daughter more than fifteen

 years ago, it was Sasha who carried me through it.

 In Tibetan culture dogs are regarded as the reincarnations

of high lamas, and are treated accordingly.  Sasha

taught me over the course of a dozen

years that this is fact,

not fancy.



To try

to recount all else that

Sasha carried me through, taught me,

helped me to bear, suffered or savored or celebrated with me

would require more space than the internet offers.  I realized early, as did

most everyone who knew her, that I was in the presence of a realized being —

pure grace, pure patience, pure humor, pure steadfastness.  I didn’t

always behave accordingly, though mostly I’d like to think I did,

at least in the way I held her, regarded her, treated her.

But I did always know what I was looking at

when I looked in those




When she was

diagnosed with melanoma

in 2008, they told me,

“Three months,





stayed twenty four,

through three surgeries, a bunch of

radiation, an experimental study at CSU.

Throughout she was as present, as loving, as kind

hearted as ever.  In early fall of 2010 I walked over to

Whole Foods with her for a cup of coffee to drink with my NY Times.

We sat down at the tables out front, and a middle-aged woman a couple of

tables away was talking, rather incessantly, with a young couple at a table on the

other side of her.  I could tell immediately that she was somewhat needy

and unhappy, describing her husband’s refusal to let her decorate

her home the way she liked, and things like that.  The couple

answered her politely, if unenthusiastically,

and left after a few minutes.


At that

point she turned to me and

 began asking questions.  I don’t love a lot of

conversation first thing in the morning, especially of a certain

kind, especially with strangers, and I answered in the best way I could

to get across the message, “I’m going to drink this coffee and quietly enjoy my

paper now.”  She understood and quieted down after a few questions, but

I could still feel her very real unhappiness just vibrating away.  After

a minute or two, Sasha got up, walked over to her table, and lay

at her feet.  She stayed there, soul-doctoring

in silence, until I left a half an

hour later.



This was Sasha

on the day she left her body.

One eye had stopped working a few days

earlier, the other was glassy, and she had a hard time

locating us if she was more than a few feet away.  But when

you put your face next to hers, or curled your body

around her, she was the same as she ever was.

She curled back into you and

radiated love.


I could never

summarize her and won’t try.

But I understand in my bones what bodhisattva

means because of Sasha, and also how Rumi stopped

searching for Shams because he came to

understand that Shams lived

inside him.



This is

the best friend and

 greatest teacher and purest love

I’ve ever known, on the 25th of July of 2010,

filling my home in Boulder with God.  Ibn al-Ghazali wrote

that “Prayers for the dead are on the same footing as gifts for the living.

The angel goes in to the dead with a tray of light, bearing a cloth of light,

and says, ‘This is a gift for you from your brother so-and-so,

from your relative so-and-so.’ And he delights in

it just as a living man rejoices

in a gift.”


Do me

a favor today and

send a tray of light to Sasha.

Trust me when I tell you that she is

never not sending one to each

and every one of



IMG_3523 sasha shadow canyon instagram


North star,

guiding light,