Ben was a gift, in many ways, but in the most simple terms, he was given to me by a dear friend. I have always been a dog person, so this was a good fit. Ben was easy going and pretty relaxed about most everything. For a time, we went everywhere together and enjoyed each other’s company.

One night I left him at home and went to a friend’s house for the evening. After some food and drinks, we gathered around a guest who was doing readings from a tarot deck. I had no experience before with a 5 or 7 card reading so I was a little interested. During my reading, it seems the cards referred to fire being part of my life. It referred to this hot burning element, 4 times in this one reading. I found this mildly interesting but did not take it too seriously.

Some hours later I returned home to find there was a fire in my apartment. The fire department had already come and gone and Ben was missing. I feared the worst. I quickly spotted the cause of the fire was a candle I left burning on top of a plastic record player cover. The candle burned down, the plastic melted and a great amount of toxic chemical smoke filled the apartment. Just then my neighbor stuck her head in holding Ben. He was okay. The firemen found him breathing the good air coming from under the front door. He was a pretty smart dog. And I have never had anything to do with any Tarot deck since. Just to be safe.

Eventually, I had to give Ben away as my life did not allow this luxury of owning a dog. I could not just give or sell him to anyone. He was a special dog and deserved a special person to welcome him into their life. As it turned out, my grandfather had a nurse’s aid to help him after his stroke, and she had a 10-year-old son who wanted to take Ben. I was glad and sad together. It sounded like a good fit for them both.

On the big day, I drove to my grandfather’s condo, Ben sensing something was up, in an unusual reaction to my opening the car door, jumped out and started running. He had no destination, he just wanted to get away. He was afraid and confused by the situation.

Along the road ran the inland waterway. Without any hesitation, Ben jumped into the water and started paddling away. At this point, it must have come to Ben’s awareness that he did not know where he was going. There were no obvious places to swim. He went first in one direction and then the other. I kept calling to him to come but he ignored me. After some minutes, it was clear he was beginning to tire and a look of panic crossed his face. He finally decided to come to where I was standing and calling his name. As he approached me and the crowd that had gathered from all the commotion, I realized the sea wall was too high above the water to reach Ben and lift him out. I spotted a lower section and went there and began calling Ben. He hurried over and I was able to lift him to safety.

I was now carrying this wet, exhausted, shivering, and scared dog upstairs to my grandfather’s apartment to give to the attendant. Once there, Ben could sense he was going to a good home with a boy who would love him, care for him, and play with him.

Over the next year, I got a few reports of Ben doing well and even his enjoyment at sometimes jumping the pool at the apartment where he lived.

Everything we are given has value. Even those things we do not like, understand or want. Often I am given gifts by students and friends. They have given the item with love and out of respect. Whether I can use the gift myself or not, it goes on my altar. The children sing a simple song which is a great reminder of how all this works. “All things come from God, All things go to God.”  My job is to receive and to use what is useful. What is not useful to me, will be useful to someone else. So I pass the gifts along to others. A more difficult task is to understand the gift of an experience we do not like or causes us distress. These also have value. This could be a good time to accept the challenge of finding the value in every experience in your life. Including the ones, you do not like.

Photo: This photo could be Ben in the water.