This blog started out as the story of Michelle Wing and her service dog Ripley. Michelle and Ripley had been a handler/service dog team for many years, living in California. Shortly after moving to New Mexico in January 2016, Ripley began showing clear signs of aging – arthritis in her front legs, cataracts which impacted her vision, a need for more sleep, and general slowing down. Most service dogs retire when they are about ten years old; Ripley turned eleven in May 2016. Michelle knew it was time to begin a hard transition, allowing Ripley to retire, and finding a new service dog.
In May 2016, Michelle teamed up with Rocky, and Ripley started adjusting to being simply “Dog,” instead of full-time”Service Dog.” This blog is both about the day-to-day joys, frustrations, challenges, and odd encounters that are all part of existing out in the world as a team, and about the complex emotions and real-life issues that arise when you are retiring your 24/7 partner and learning to work with a new one.
And why “Canine Bodhisattva”?
In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is defined as an enlightened being who compassionately refrains from entering nirvana (the end of suffering, desire and the effects of karma) in order to stay behind to help others attain enlightenment. In other words, the bodhisattva puts others before self.
The bodhisattva also lives by vow. Instead of being pulled here and there by desire, this being follows the path ahead of her, remaining true to her commitment.
In her first post, Michelle said, “Each morning, when I put the blue service vest on Ripley, my service dog, I watch this transformation happen. It is as if she has donned a uniform, even the robes of a monk. She stands straighter, aligns her shoulders, and waits alert at my side. Now, she says, I am ready. How can I be of service to you today?”
(Don’t have a good picture of the three of us yet; until then, these will have to do! The one of Michelle and Ripley is an old favorite, taken by photographer Jamie Clifford in 2013. Michelle is fatter now, Ripley is skinnier – isn’t that the way life goes? Rocky’s picture was taken by Michelle in 2016. Rocky’s not even three yet; energy beyond.)
For more about Michelle, see her website at michellewing.com.