Applying the Principle of Ahimsa

My first event took place on March 21st at Matthews/Winters Park. I was at the end of my 4-hour shift and met a man getting ready for a jog at the trailhead and his dog was roaming around the area loose. I identified myself and asked if he had a leash for the dog noting it was Jefferson County law that all dogs must be leashed and under their owners control at all times in the park. There are also hazards in the parks from wild animals to other dogs to plant spores that would burrow into the skin if his dog brushes by them. He said he had one in his car. I was going to my car to put away my hiking equipment and leave and could not help but notice that the man had looked in his trunk with no leash in sight and was now standing beside his car eating a snack. He kept on looking my way as well. His dog was currently in the car. My assumption was that he was waiting for me to drive off so he could let the dog out to run loose. My job there was done. I could call a ranger if I wanted to aggravate the situation, but there was a forest fire going on in Golden so this would not be a high priority unless perhaps the dog was attacking people. So here was my challenge, loiter around to deliberately throw him off his schedule and me off of mine or leave and deal with my feelings later. I left the park. Practicing Ahimsa for the dog was easy. Pets count on their owners to keep them safe. I’ve had pets for most of my life. As for the owner, it was more difficult. Hearing about wild animal attacks on pets in their own backyard, or the annual winter news stories of loose dogs falling through thin ice at a lake or reservoir, it is easy for me to question a person’s love and loyalty to their pet while witnessing or hearing about this reckless behavior over and over again. Unless they live in a cave, they have no excuse not to know the risks involved.

The second event took place on March 29, 2011 at Mt. Falcon Park before I even got out of my car. I was driving into the parking lot when a loose dog darted in front of my car. I barely missed hitting it. I was seething. I managed a composed voice when I asked the people lingering in the parking lot whose dog it was. It turned out that none of them owned the dog. It apparently was a neighborhood dog that someone let run or it got out of a yard nearby. By the time I got a leash to try to corral the dog, it was gone. This provided a unique challenge since I had no actual person to attach my feelings to. Like my first example, this was similar to the emotions I feel when hearing about a pet injured or killed in an attack or the falling through thin ice scenario. So I sent Ahimsa toward the dog to make it home safe and practiced some yogic breath exercises to settle my mind. I also practiced Ahimsa toward myself not to let this event influence my mind for the next four hours of my volunteer shift. Ahimsa to the faceless owner was difficult again. Later in the shift, I encountered a gentleman with his grandchildren and a poodle sized dog off its leash. I identified myself and informed him of the county law. I also started to talk about the coyotes frequenting this park and he basically finished my speech for me saying he didn’t want his dog being someone’s lunch. I left the encounter in good spirits that I helped the visitor with information to make the right decision and saw them later on the trail with the dog still on its leash. So I think the Ahimsa toward myself helped me keep a level head and treat the second contact as a separate event and not pile on to the previous unpleasantness when I first came to the park. The Ahimsa practice is still a work in progress for me.