National Dog Day, held every August, is a time to honor these animals and the shelters and humane organizations that work for their welfare. The event's organizers hope to raise awareness about the thousands of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and also to pay homage to the unconditional love, companionship and bravery that dogs bring to us on a daily basis.
"Everyone needs a spiritual guide: a minister, rabbi, counselor, wise friend, or therapist," writes Gary Kowalski in The Souls of Animals. "My own wise friend is my dog. He has deep knowledge to impart. He makes friends easily and doesn't hold a grudge. He enjoys simple pleasures and takes each day as it comes. Like a true Zen master he eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's tired. He's not hung up about sex. Best of all, he befriends me with an unconditional love that human beings would do well to imitate."
Isn't that just the truth! Dogs are more than our best friends; they are companions on our spiritual journeys. We would do well to follow the example of indigenous peoples who don't recognize separating walls between the human and the animal kingdoms.
Whether you have a dog or just wish you did, you can show your support for these beings on their special day. Here are some ways to celebrate suggestions from www.NationalDogDay.com. Read our collections of quotes and teaching stories and book recommendations. Or pick up the DVD of one of these dog films — our 25 favorite films about the soulful side of canines.
- "A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing."
— Mary Oliver quoted in Creating the Imaginative Life by Michael Jones
- "I have learned more from my dog than from all the great books I have read."
— Gary Spencer quoted in Rummaging for God by Melannie Svoboda
- "Having a good dog is the closest some of us will ever come to knowing the direct love of a mother, or God."
— Anne Lamott in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
- "The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher said: 'Happy would it be for thousands of people if they could stand at last before the Judgment Seat and say "I have loved as truly and I have lived as decently as my dog," ' "
— Judy Carman in Peace to All Beings
- "One day Jesus was walking with his disciples when they saw a dead dog up ahead. The disciples wanted to pass on the other side, since the dog was considered unclean. But Jesus made them stop in front of it and look. Then he commented: 'Look how beautifully white its teeth are!' Here Jesus forces his students to ignore meaningless superstition and find something totally unexpected — the reflection of divine light — in what they would otherwise have avoided."
— Neil Douglas-Klotz in The Sufi Book of Life
- "Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah told this tale. A man felt very thirsty as he was walking along. He arrived at a well, went down into it and drank from its water. When he came out he noticed a dog that was panting and licking the mud because it was thirsty. The man said to himself: 'The dog is suffering what I was suffering a short while ago.' He went back into the well, filled his shoes with water and, holding them in his mouth, climbed up and gave the water to the dog to drink. Allah approved of his action and forgave his sins. The Companions asked: 'Shall we be rewarded for being kind to animals?' The Prophet answered: 'In every refreshed being there is reward.' "
— Imam al-Bukhari in Moral Teachings of Islam
- "The proper Christian question is not — will my dog go to heaven? but — will I bring heaven to my dog? In other words, 'Does my faith manifest itself in such a way that not only my fellow human beings but animals as well can tell the difference?'
— Bruce Bawer quoted in A Tremor of Bliss by Paul Elie
- "It is said that a long time ago, a Mahayana Buddhist master was teaching about Bodhicitta in ancient India, when his words were interrupted by the barking of a dog. The loud insistent barking so annoyed one man in the crowd that he threw a rock at the dog, striking him on the left side. At that instant, the master fell to the ground and cried out in pain. Later, when his worried disciples asked what had happened, they saw that on the teacher's left side there was a large bruise. The dog's pain had so touched this teacher's noble and tender heart that it became his pain. He took it on himself."
— Lama Surya Das in Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps To Enlightenment
- " 'All creatures work in the universe,' Fox explained as we drove into downtown Oakland. 'Every galaxy is working, every star is working, all the grasses, the whales, the dogs, the animals, they're all doing their work. The only ones who are "out of work" are humans! We've invented it! We invented unemployment. The problem with our species is that we don't know who we are yet. Whereas Tristan is a dog — and he's good at it! He's close to the earth, he knows he's interdependent with it. He's kinda proud just to be here. These are all lessons he teaches me.' " 'What's his 'work'?' " " 'His work is to hang around the house and sniff.' "
— Matthew Fox quoted in Saints and Sinners by Lawrence Wright
Plus, one of our favorite excerpts from Spiritual Literacy on what we can learn from a dog: Gunilla Norris's tribute to her dog Putnam.
- In Animals as Teachers and Healers: True Stories and Reflections, Susan Chernak McElroy tells a dramatic tale about a German Shepherd who saved a child's life by cocooning it during a household fire.
- In Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals, Rupert Sheldrake explores the abilities of these pets in terms of direction-finding, telepathy, and precognition.
- In The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability to Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy, Marty Becker shows how dogs get people moving and this is a very good thing.
- In Zen Dog, Judith Adler and Toni Tucker present dogs as teachers of attention in a series of black-and-white photographs paired with quotations.
- See our 25 favorite films about dogs with soul.