• Lijing Cobb


Almost 9 years ago I moved bins and bins of stuff out of my office at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania into my home in New Jersey. My plans were not clear then, so I held onto the bins in my basement and never really unpacked. Yesterday, in anticipation of company I started tidying up, and one thing led to another, all of a sudden I found myself spending hours sorting out the contents of some very dusty bins from so many years ago. When I was finished I thought, a weeded past. Among the things I kept was this wheat straw picture I must have gotten from one of my many conferences as a Chinese professor collecting Chinese artifacts. It’s a picture of a cat standing on its hind legs trying to reach a butterfly with its front paws.

I am not much of a pet person, but back in those days I rented a house and lived with a colleague who loved her cat. My colleague and I became fast friends, and her cat and I tolerated each other. But when my mom came to stay with me in that house, she was frightened of the cat, and they became bitter enemies. When I resigned from my position at the college and moved out of that house, I also lost a friend in my colleague. She never gave me an explanation, but simply cut me out of her life. I’ve wondered many a time what the reason was, but I suspect that it had something to do with the cat.

After eating last night we retired to the living room for some game time, and while the kids occupied themselves, my husband and our visitor played a board game, so I sat down next to my husband to watch. Our 11yo dog came over to me, so I invited him to sit with me. On and on he sat while I stroked his soft fur and scratched his chin. From time to time when I let my hand go idle he would lick my hand in turn, and turn his head to look at me in the eye, as if to say, this is really nice mom, we should do this more often. I felt his warmth on my leg, and although I knew his white fur would show up prominently on my brown pants, I didn’t mind at all. I loved it that he stayed with me. I loved it that he chose me.

Earlier in the day I had read this passage in Be Here Now, and I’ll quote it here. It’s long:

“You finally understand the message you communicate with another human being has nothing to do with what you say. It has nothing to do with the look on the musculature of your face. It’s much deeper than that. Much deeper! It’s the vibrations that emanate from you!

“If your vibrations are paranoid, that’s what’s being received. And when you’re around pets (birds or cats particularly), or very young children, or very flipped out psychotics, they will know you immediately. You can come and say, ‘hello dear, how are you?’ And the dog will growl… you can’t come on because they’re listening to the vibrations that hand is reaching out and sending. And you realize that every moment you are a full statement of your being. And you’re sending out vibrations that are affecting everything around you, which in turn is affecting everything that comes back. And when you meet somebody who is caught in the world of we and them and you are him to that person and you get caught in his mind net, you are both just intensifying one another’s paranoia.” (Dass, 26 & 27)

20 some years ago, I went back to China for a short visit. My parents had gotten a dog for the first time in their lives, and I’d never seen that dog prior to this visit. Apparently the dog would growl at every stranger that dared to be in the vicinity of the home I grew up in. My dad was enamored with that dog, and the dog was devoted to my dad.

My sister had picked me up from the airport, and as we turned the last corner and saw the door to my childhood home, the dog was guarding the door. A small brown thing my father had named Ah Bei, or little treasure. He was chained to the door, and of course recognized my sister. But to me, this complete stranger, he also kept quiet, and allowed me to pet him when I got closer to him.

My father came to the door and started talking excitedly about this new phenomenon. “Never once in his life did he ever not bark at a stranger! This is something. He must know you are one of us. We have the same smell! What a smart dog!”

When I was teaching in Texas, I rented an apartment and stayed by myself. Although my husband, then boyfriend, visited me as often as he could from New Jersey, and I had made new friends and was working a full schedule, sometimes I got terribly lonely. My boyfriend agreed to fly one of his dogs to Texas to live with me, and fly she did. For almost 2 years she was my loyal companion, but being the way I was, plagued by the demon inside me that sought outlet, that dog must have sensed lots of frightening vibrations from me at that time. Still, she became devoted to me, and every time we walked outside my apartment, I did not need to use a leash (she was an English setter. Chasing anything that moves is in their blood. I managed to override her genes with my terrible vibrations), but only my voice would call her back immediately when she got too far. My husband still talks about it as some sort of small miracle. One cannot walk an English setter without a leash, yet I did.

These 4 animals, mute though they were/are with words, received my vibrations and interpreted them intuitively and categorized me exactly as I was. My father’s dog knew me because my vibrations were similar to my father’s. My Texas companion had no choice but to adopt my vibrations as her own, and once synced, she was forever subjugated. My colleague’s cat tolerated me because I had vibrated on the same wave length on some level with his beloved owner, but my mom’s vibrations were all sorts of wrong for him. Since I had to choose my mother by default, my former friend chose her cat, and we went our separate ways.

Now my 11yo dog is another story. He’s received it all. What I said, what I did, what I felt, for as long as he has lived. The vibrations have been continuous, “every moment you are a full statement of your being.” When I was indifferent, so was he. When I was angry, he was terrified. A Jack Russell, a breed that’s known for their boisterous nature, he’s quiet and as reclusive as he could be whenever my husband is away. He stays on his bed all day long to wait for the good vibrations to come home to him. He doesn’t eat all day, but when there are good vibrations around he’d punch his food bowl furiously. He hides under the sink in our bathroom when a storm approaches, but when someone gets close to the ground at his level, he’s there to ask for love.

This same dog now asks me for water at 4 o’clock in the morning, perhaps because the vibrations tell him that he’ll get it. When the sun is shining and the deck looks warm and inviting, he’s at the door looking up at me, open the door mommy. And when I sit next to my husband on the couch, apparently he now prefers my lap over my husband’s. I see you, he says, and it’s all good.

I realize that in this dog I have a witness that cannot be fooled. And I realize that my former colleague/friend chose right to stand by her cat. “And you’re sending out vibrations that are affecting everything around you, which in turn is affecting everything that comes back.” Perhaps on the path to such enlightenment my vibrations will no longer force a good friend to choose between me and her cat.

Be the cat. Be the dog. Because in the world of vibrations, they win, every time.

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