Seeing Beyond Form: Lessons from a Fluffy Guru

(This post is written by Alison Lee, my beloved and traveling companion through life.)

The crows arrived. It was August 1st of last year. They congregated in our yard, one standing on the BBQ, others grouped together on the patio table. They were on the fence and sidewalk curb around our house. Their incessant cawing, then releasing into silent watch. I was concerned they had claimed our house as their own. It was a passing thought as my space was occupied with other matters that day.

Simon and I were still not sure what to do that morning. Tobi had declined considerably over the past week; struggling to walk, sleeping in the hot sun, and not eating. It’s a decision that all pet owners know they have to face but never want to think about. It was like that with Tobi; he was forever young, not like other dogs, surely, he would stay with us for a lot longer.

Apparently, he had other plans.

Just over 7 years ago, I met Tobi and Simon. So much of Simon just didn’t make sense to me – the way he dressed, how eclectic he was, spiritual mixed with hmmm, kind of indescribable. The dog. If you know Simon, you understand what I’m saying.

He attended a workshop I assisted with the incredible Gail Larsen. Gail, aka Midwife of the Soul, was trying to set me up. “If I was younger, I’d snatch him up in a heartbeat.”, she said in her Mid-Western drawl. She strategically invited a few participants for drinks after class so I could meet him, which spontaneously changed to dinner plans. Simon needed to see if someone could look after his dog. I was interested in spending more time with him and felt slightly annoyed that a dog may prevent him from coming. Kind of like a, “WTF?”

Fast forward a few weeks, Simon invites me on a walk to get to know each other. A walk, I thought, “Ok, I would have preferred a nice dinner somewhere, but a walk – ok, I can do that.” We met at the UBC endowment lands where Tobi could walk off leash. Next date, Bowen Island…with Tobi. And that was the beginning, Simon, Tobi, me. Almost always Simon with Tobi. And me. On repeat.

I didn’t understand the relationship at all. I had all sorts of judgments – what’s the deal with the dog? And then friends waded in, “What’s the deal with the dog?” Simon’s life centered around Tobi and subsequently all our plans. My Small, Needy One had lots to say on the subject, feeling unseen. “What about me??” she’d whine, longing to capture this man’s full attention. It never happened.

I recall a moment when I was still single, sitting on my living room couch, talking to God and having an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment. “You know I don’t ask that much of you,” I said. “But if you could find a man who’s single, straight and no children (or children that are grown), that would be ideal. Oh…and please, can you send him before I hit menopause?” I was delivered exactly what I asked for – kind of. I never thought about mentioning four-legged children.

Finally, through an energy workshop, I began to understand Tobi. I placed my hands on him, tuned in and instantly saw why he was here. He was here for Simon and Simon alone. Working tirelessly and relentlessly; an angel sent in physical form to watch over him. Every waking moment, he was to provide unconditional love, acceptance and companionship, something an only child, that was born to an abusive father (and never learned what love was), so desperately needed. In that moment, I understood.

I learned to expand my definition of relationship, accept the interdependence of these two and open my heart to his quiet, fluffy presence. I began to love him like my own child, anticipate his needs, interpret his silent communication with me and began to hear his messages that Simon sometimes didn’t hear. I began to see him not just as a dog.

In February 2017, Simon was away in India and Tobi had a mini stroke. I found it ironic he chose to have one when Simon wasn’t home. He was telling me his body was aging and we needed to face reality. It was too hard for him to tell Papa directly.

And so it went for the next few months, Simon resisted seeing what was inevitably happening, holding onto his firm belief that Tobi would last much longer than his almost 14 years. Until a message came loud and clear from one of our most trusted friends, that it was time. Tobi had told him he needed to go but couldn’t until Papa was ready.

Simon arrived home that day and we had the conversation. We knew the truth. We cried as Tobi sat watching us in silence. He was unmoving, even in that moment. He was simply waiting for Simon.

On August 1st, I took him out for a morning pee and he didn’t go. He just stood on the sidewalk and looked out in the direction of the vet, not wanting to go back in the house. He greeted his dog walker when she came for a visit with enthusiasm and ate the treats she gave him, only to throw them all up after she left. He was telling us. The difficult phone call was made.

We had my daughter Asia and her partner Liam, our friend Patrick and Heidi my spiritual teacher and friend (who just 30 minutes ago arrived from India) gathered around for support. We wanted to be surrounded by sacred company. He greeted each one with his wagging tail – as if to say, “Did you come to join our party?” This did not look like a dog that was about to transition.

The vet arrived. We encouraged him to get off the couch and lie on the floor for the process but he refused to. Tobi, in his weakened state was still dictating how this was going to go, as he did his entire life. Finally, he sat up, wobbling, put his front legs on the floor, stretching slowly and yawning. He jumped off the couch, standing on the floor but refused to lie down.  We looked at each other and, for a moment, thought he was telling us it wasn’t time.

After a few moments, he turned, and walked towards our friends. He stood in front of each of them, paused, and leaned his head against their chests, one by one. We gasped, “He’s saying goodbye,” as tears rolled down our faces. He then jumped up like a spry youth back onto his spot on the couch and laid down as if to say, “I’m ready!” Simon spooned him from behind. The sedation went into his body and we felt his spirit leave. Just like that. There was no fear. No resistance. He chose death just as he chose life, with ease and nobility.

The crows left that evening. I didn’t know at the time that crows are the harbingers that guides souls from the realm of the living into the afterlife. It was so unbelievable yet so fitting.

I was still sitting on the couch after the vet left and closed my eyes. I saw him instantly as a light beam bouncing around in infinite space.  He was joyfully saying to me, “Look Mama, I was always This!” I saw that who we are doesn’t die. Our form passes but this “God” consciousness continues to exist. In Tobi’s case, it just so happened to express itself through his fluffy form. Tobi, the ever-wise Tobi, in the moment of his death, decided to impart one more lesson on me – that death is nothing to fear because our form is simply not all that we are.

I do not know how I became fortunate enough to walk six years with this noble Being. One year later, I can see that he left just at the right time.  I feel immense gratitude, awe, wonder and love for him. And in the midst of all that is the grief; I can still feel his fur under my fingers, his cold nose, his gentle licks, the smell of his paws and his body breathing against mine.

Many people ask us, “Will you get another dog?” It’s a hard thing to explain. To most people, Tobi looked like a dog. Some, who can perceive at a more subtle level saw that, really, he wasn’t a dog. He was an old, mature soul who happened to be given a dog’s body. He put up with ‘dog’ things. He lived in service to all beings that needed unconditional love and support. He wasn’t dog-like unless there was water, balls or towel fights. But even then, those activities were simply a way to exert pent up energy and also, to play with Little Simon. He knew his Papa needed to play.

So, whenever we hear that question now, we simply shrug. There will never be another form like Tobi. He was Tobi, one-of-a-kind Tobi, Grand Master Tobi, irreplaceable Tobi.

Tobi, the Fluffy Guru. And now, ever-present, pure, free and forever.

Simon Goland