Does a Dog Have Buddha Nature?

Bingo on the Labyrinth

Bingo in the courtyard labyrinth at my home parish, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Townsend.

I like my routines. Our dog Bingo likes his routines, too.

He wants us to do the same stuff every morning—say hello, take a walk, eat breakfast, settle into the day.

It’s just that Bingo wants to do these things as if we really mean it.

Margaret’s morning routine:

  • Wake up, check the time, doze off.
  • Wake up, check the time, doze off. Repeat until 6:15 or so.
  • Wake up, check the time, swing legs out of bed.
  • Before standing up, slip into the Birkenstocks that I wear around the house. (A few years ago, a nasty episode of plantar fasciitis changed my whole attitude toward my feet. Now I’m kind to my feet, God bless them. And my feet are kind to me.)
  • Get dressed.
  • Ten minutes stretching + calisthenics.
  • Twenty minutes centering prayer.
  • Let Bingo out of his kennel.
  • Sit on the bottom step in the foyer, take off Birkenstocks, and reach for my walking shoes.

Bingo’s morning routine:

  • Wake up, doze off.
  • Wake up, doze off. Repeat until Margaret opens kennel door.
  • * * * Emerge into the day!  * *  Happy! * *  Greet Margaret! * * *

… and back to Margaret, sitting on the bottom steps with her walking shoes:

  • Put on right shoe.


I’m trying to put on my right shoe when Bingo’s black doggy head shoves under my hand and boinks it away, toward Bingo.

“Bingo! Quit it!” I return to the task at hand.


Bingo weighs only about twenty-five pounds. But at this precise moment, all twenty-five of them are focused, determined, and mighty.

“Bingo! Let me put my shoes on first. Then I’ll pet you, okay?”


Now, Bingo knows he won’t get out the door until my shoes are on my feet. And he is all in favor of the morning walk.

But before that joy can happen, before the fresh morning air, intriguing smells, and well-aimed whizzes, Bingo also knows that we need to say hello to each other. And that we need to do it with our whole hearts.

If I try to get away with half-conscious, one-handed pats while the other hand continues to fumble with a shoe—and believe me, I have tried it—then boink, boink, boink, Bingo’s determined little head tells me, No, that won’t do the job.

Come out of the fog, Margaret. Come to life. Here’s how we do it.

Morning after morning Bingo lifts me into consciousness. A patient teacher, he reminds me again of the part we each must play for our morning reunion to become communion.

My part is to scratch behind Bingo’s ears and under his chin, and to pet him from end to end. More than once. I am to perform my role mindfully, aware of the soft texture of his curly coat, the warmth of blood under his skin.

Bingo’s role is to be mindful and fully present throughout the scratches and pets. And to wag his tail, and to drink in my delicious scent.

Once we greet each other properly, Bingo is perfectly happy for me to put on my shoes. It gives him a chance to have a good stretch in preparation for the morning walk.

And if, perhaps, the next time I greet my husband David … or a friend … or any stranger … if, at the moment of greeting, I’m boinked into greater awareness by the memory of a determined doggy head, and if that greater awareness helps me to create a room in time where this other person and I can, momentarily, actually see each other, and get a whiff, perhaps of a larger connection—well, I have a small black dog to thank for it.

Bingo runs the labyrinth

Bingo running the labyrinth

And if I want to express my thanks, Bingo would welcome a long walk on the beach.

So. Does a dog have Buddha nature?


blessings on all your paths,


About Margaret D. McGee


  1. Marybeth Bland says:

    Love your morning routine.

    My dog, Nickel, has taught me to take time and smell the flowers as we say. Being a service dog, he goes everywhere,. He likes to go out to do his business when we first awake,. I like him to go back out before we leave the house, . This time though I am in a rush but nickel wants to smell, eat grass, check out his hole he dugged and maybe play with a toy. He wants to sit and observe before we leave and not hurry. He is my zen master reminding me to take time and be present.

  2. Clare Monnin says:

    How sweet to hear of your morning routine. I think all of us with pets can relate.
    My pets have truly been some of my greatest teachers.
    It started me thinking of so many things that are part of my daily routine that are boinking me on the head over and over again and I just seem to be oblivious to it. I was noticing while I was reading you blog this morning the annoying cawing of crows in the back yard. I am vaguely aware that this has been going on every morning for years. I simply no longer hear it. What a shame. To bad for me.
    All that boinking and cawing and I simply can not be reached. Rushing around trying to get myself out of the house on time. Concentrating on what needs to be done today,blah,blah, blah.
    While reading I started to really listen. I suddenly remembered what those crows mean and represent to me. Crows are part of my totem. They are also in my partner Sue’s totem and my son’s totem. On my 1st date with Sue we sat on the beach talking for hours and the whole time, there where 2 crows hopping around us. It seems that where ever Sue and I go 2 crows follow.
    We shared with you on our visit that we were thinking the name of our retreat center could be Two Crows Farm B&G Bed and Grub. I just could not decide if I wanted to commit to that name. Today I will be filing our pre permit application with Jefferson County to start our project. After reading your blog and hearing my beloved crows this morning I am aware,awake,and grateful to all the masters in my life.
    The name shall be “Two Crows Farm”
    B & G
    Bed & Grub

    • Clare, I love the name “Two Crows Farm” B & G Bed & Grub!

      CONGRATULATIONS on swallowing hard & filing the permit application. You go, girls!

      Looking forward to facilitating & attending retreats, and to walking labyrinth paths at Two Crows Farm … yours, Margaret

      • Clare Monnin says:

        Oh Margaret:
        I am laughing at myself. It is suppose to be Bunk and Grub. LOL
        But the important part about today was the Two Crows Farm.
        Thanks for the encouragement . I hope you know that I consider you when of the mastesr in my life.
        I have been wanting to tell you how much I loved our visit. Just being around is calming and encouraging. Keep up the good work that you do. I love it.

      • Two Crows Farm B&G Bunk and Grub
        Love it.
        I also enjoyed our visit & look forward to more.

  3. Joe Proctor says:

    After the centering prayer and walk what’s left for the rest of the day is secondary.

  4. c. temte says:

    My cat, Maddielion, spent hours sitting with husband during his final months of life. Within hours of his death, Maddie stopped eating and drinking. She dehydrated quickly and required emergency veterinary care and hospitalization. Nothing physically could be found wrong with her. It was the general concensus that Maddie was grieving for my husband.
    When she did not improve in a few days, her doctor said it might be best to take her home and try to take care of her until I could decide what I wanted for her.
    I brought her home and followed the suggestion that I put an article of his clothing down where she could sleep on it. I took his bathrobe, which she had loved and put it on our bed. She plopped her body on it immediately. With much cajoling and patience (not my strong point) on my part, I got her to drink and finally to eat.
    For months she slept on the robe on my bed. Finally I put her bed with the robe in it on my bed. Slowly, I moved her bed with her in it for a few hours on the floor where it was always kept. She was always welcome to hop in bed with me. After months of caring diligently for her, she was back to her old self.
    I am amazed at the bond that was established between her and me during that time. She is my reason for getting up and if I forget that she has her not so subtle ways of reminding me. We know each other’s moods and needs. Sometimes we just rub noses so that we each know all is okay with our world.