Sasha, the Cambio Yoga pup, passed away on August 30 after giving our community ten years of smiles, comfort, and hard-to-read signals (Does she actually want to be pet?). In her honor, all proceeds from our Yoga in the Park this Sunday, 9/19/21, 9-10 am, will go to One Dog at a Time. Sasha was not from this rescue, but she was a rescue dog, and we feel that it’s a beautiful way to remember her! If you are unable to attend, but would like to donate in Sasha's name, you can do so here.
If you’re inclined to read more about her and how our animal friends provide us an opportunity to deepen our yoga through the practice of unconditional love, here are some words from Amber, Sasha’s (and Cambio’s) mom.
John O’donohue said we should pray daily to be worthy of our responsibilities. I thought of this often with Sasha and what an honor it was to get to be her human mom. Caring for those who are sweeter and smaller than we are (to loosely quote Beasts of the Southern Wild), is something that we should do with a sense of what a sacred and privileged calling it is.
I see Sasha as a filament of light, who came to me in a dark time and, as time went on, only grew brighter. In the ten years she was in my life, she went from being a timid, traumatized dog, to being a sassy, sweet, funny, fly-chasing, teddy bear-getting pup who had no doubt about her own worth (and wouldn’t hesitate to remind me of it).
She started at the shelter, was passed from one chaotic home to another, until my lucky day when she did what she always did when she got poop caught on her butt—she bolted from her family. One week and many miles later, she found her way to me. (The timing was magical as were so many aspects of it. And, yes, I found her family and that’s another whole story.) She was not the dog I would have chosen—but thank goodness, she knew better and she chose me. She loved me fiercely from the start though I’d done nothing to earn it. She just gave her love freely to me and, at the time, I had no idea how bright her light would reveal itself to be.
Early on, she never wanted me to stop holding her while she was awake. (While this eased up over time, my shoulders are uneven from the ten years of frequent Sasha-holding with poor alignment!) I took her with me all over and, particularly at Cambio, she started to want down, to explore, to go up and sniff the friendly people.
Being the Cambio dog was one of the best thing for her confidence, and I’m so grateful to the many yogis over the years who showed her kindness, who delighted with, “Hey, there’s a dog!”(often heard from a bathroom stall). As you might know, she eventually was totally comfortable there, sometimes running free-spirited laps, maybe allowing a nice person to scratch her behind the ears, sneaking into classes, sleeping in her bed during teacher training, and scratching on the studio door if I went over class end-time by one single, solitary minute. For a decade, Cambio was hers. That our community was such a safe place for her, is something I appreciate more than I can say.
Her sassiness and stubbornness was legendary in my family, as was her ability to plan and plot in order to get her way. Maybe from the necessity of her street days, she was an absolute conniver (in the cutest sense of the word). When staying at my mom’s, she’d pretend she needed to go outside in the middle of the night. My mom’s dog would go out, as Sasha knew he would, and she’d stay in to steal his bed. In later years, she’d decide she wanted to go to bed around 5 pm. She’d go to the back door so that I would get up to let her out and then, right when I got there, she’d do a playful leap, and run excitedly to the bedroom, ears pulled back in that way happy dogs do. The list of her ruses goes on and on. And on. And is so funny and wonderful.
As she aged and developed arthritis, chronic kidney disease, and cataracts, being worthy of my responsibility to her was harder, better, and the sweetness of it, my gratitude for it, deepened. It filled my heart and wrung it continually. It turned my house into what I sometimes referred to as a residence for high quality senior canine living.
I grew up with the prayer of St. Francis, and it’s always reflected moral and spiritual ideals for me. It encapsulates what we are trying to do in yoga in so many ways. Sasha taught me more about my own capacity to live up to the ideals in this prayer than probably anything in life has. How to do things like instantly, completely forgive (was there ever anything to forgive with her? Nope.). To seek to love more than to be loved. I wanted to understand and comfort her—I didn’t care about receiving those things from her (though I did—this doesn’t even begin to mention what all she did for me over the years).
This grew more and more and more, so as she aged—I really felt that sense of what the Gita asks us to do—to let go of the fruit of our actions. It’s only been with her and other furry loved ones that I think I’ve come close to achieving glimpses of one of the central teachings of yoga—selflessness. And it’s from those glimpses that I try to bring it into other areas of my life. I can be more forgiving. I can be more loving. I know this because she taught me that I am capable of unconditional love. People come to this in all kinds of ways—via parenthood, caregiving, etc. But animals have been my best teachers. Sasha made me better.
My house is still full of ramps and dog beds. I’ve put away the pathway of yoga mats that was there so that she could get around without bumping into things. But I keep them in the closet for the next dog who might come to me old already. If not, they will hopefully grow old in my care. Caring for a senior animal is the often heart wrenching, always shining reward we get for our love and dedication to them. It is a beautiful obligation; a softening into the needs of another. They teach us to give love unconditionally and, really, what other ambition than to love—to really, really love—even matters?