If you have been to Bhakti Temple in the past 2 1/2 years, then you have probably met Ezra, the Temple Dharma Dog. Ezra is a 10lb Miniature Pinscher, who was my Covid rescue. Like many people, I rescued a dog during the Covid shut down, helping to fill the void of what seemed to be endless isolation and uncertainty. He is a constant companion, and a permanent fixture here in this sacred space. I diligently trained him to not bark, show aggression, or otherwise show any neediness to me or my guests while I am working. When I am not working, he is always in my lap.
A Dharma Dog, is a dog that exists in Buddha nature, that is, simply to be a dog. He is not confused about his role as a dog, getting constantly distracted by changing mental states. It is not his job to protect me, to correct other humans in my space, or to show his dominance to others in my space. His job is to just be DOG. To be calm and not take on the energies around him, but to JUST BE. You may notice I have you follow a certain protocol when you arrive, a small pattern. To come inside, hugs, remove shoes, then have a seat in a particular chair. This pattern remains the same no matter how many times I have seen you. Utilizing this repetition, I have taught Ezra that I am in charge, in control , and there is no need for him to be nervous, confused or confrontational. He always knows what is happening, allowing him to feel secure. Before you come in, I will tell him we have company coming. That is his first cue to behave. That's why it is important you text me before walking up to my space. So I can let him know what is happening. Cues and signals are important in training, and they are constantly reinforced. Him trusting in me to keep him safe is also why I don't let anyone pet or engage with him upon arrival. He may come up to give you a sniff. This is not an invitation. Just ignore him.
If you are lucky, and usually when you are getting ready to leave, he may come over and invite you to pet him. A Dharma Dog never begs or barks to get your attention. Instead, he will simply sit directly in front of you with his back to you. This lets you know he trusts you enough to do that. At this point, feel free to scratch his back, or along the side of his neck. Never on the head please. And if you don't want to pet him, that's ok too. He wont take it personally. :)