Downward Facing Dog

Every once in a while, something will come along that throws everything you thought you knew about a subject right out the ol' window.

I had one of those moments today. Apparently, in spite of having been around dogs my whole life, I have been misinterpreting dog behavior. According to a couple of new books out this season, pooches are apparently fairly spiritual creatures that practice… yoga.

The authors of the books observed their dogs stretching when they woke up or after a run and noticed similarities to classical yoga postures. They also observed that a lot of canine qualities – ability to be in the moment, tranquility of mind, and overall contented outlook – are very yogic things. Masters of the techniques are being called – I swear -Dogis.

Now I'm positive that these books will hit the daytime TV circuit, so they must be true. This means that my dogs spent their years with me in a constant state of spiritual frustration, because I didn't understand their faith. For example:

Watching squirrels: I always thought that my dogs had just one thought in mind when they spent hours observing the backyard squirrels: Lunch! However, it may be that the dogs were really contemplating the squirrelness of being.

Sitting in the rain: I used to believe that our dogs sat out in the rain for ages for house destruction purposes. I once calculated that the average fur coat can hold 18.6 litres of water, which, when shaken off, travels average distance of 43 metres at about 50 kph; at least five litres will hit the nearest human being. Clearly however, the dogs were simply using the cold, wet rain as a metaphor for the suffering in the world – taking it in themselves and making sure I was reminded of this. Frequently.

Cross-legged hopping: Silly me. I figured that when my dogs did this it meant that they had to go outside really, really badly. Obviously they were just attempting transcendental meditation.

The empty bowl: Another misapprehension. In my naivete I thought that when the dogs brought me their empty food dishes, it meant they were hungry. They must have just been demonstrating the emptiness of the universe, and their place in it.

Chasing cars: When my dog used to chase cars by running along the front fence and straight into the side fence, I always thought he was being, well, dumb. This must have been his way of telling me about the futility of pursuing material goods.

I suppose it could have been worse. Dogs could have been into voodoo, although I suppose had they made a habit of sticking pins in little dog owner dolls all these years, they would have lost their Man's Best Friend status fairly rapidly.

However this discovery begs the question, what faiths do our other pets practice? I think the cat's answer to this is fairly obvious: they don't worship anything. They expect to be worshipped.

Rodents are harder to peg. I think guinea pigs probably worship Hartz, the manufacturer of other small things that squeak. Hamsters and gerbils probably believe very firmly in their water bottles, which must seem like a bar that never goes dry. I'm not sure goldfish are bright enough to contemplate supreme beings, but they probably have very warm thoughts reserved for the box labelled FISH FLAKES which mysteriously rises into the sky every day and rains food down into the bowl.

On the other hand, dogs might not really be yogic. They could be Zen. You know how the joke goes: If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills, if you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains, if you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles, if you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it, if you can relax without liquor, if you can sleep without the aid of drugs, if you can do all these things…

Then you are probably the family dog.

To read more of Chandra's work, visit

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage