To Mebar, With Love

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift…What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?”

― Mary Oliver, Dog Songs

Part I

I walked into the living room where Amchi was weaving the next piece of her Sesho (silk) kira. Dropping my backpack on the floor, I showed her the black lump of fur that I had, in its entirety, on my left palm.

“What is that?” she exclaimed

“Terton Pema Lingpa’s soelra (gift)” I answered. “Her name is Mebar

And then, I went outside to unload the rest of my belongings from the trunk of the car: my suitcase, bottle of honey-infused ara, blocks of gouda cheese, change of shoes and my favorite homemade strawberry jam from Wangdicholing resort. As I entered in the house, Amchi was already on a video call with my mother,

“Look what your son has brought back from Bumthang. There isn’t a shred of doubt that he is Pema Udon’s son”

Photo: Amchi removes ticks from Mebar

Of course that is how my family met Mebar. When I met Mebar, she was a piece of black cloth slowly drifting towards me whilst simultaneously transmuting, so that as she was within an eyesight distance, she had taken the full form of a furry pup on the rock surface of Naring Drak; or was it the magically pre-disposed state of my psyche that had made it seem so? In any case, I crossed the wooden bridge adorned with multi-colored lung dhars (prayer flags) and stepped onto Naring Drak. The only other thing in direct competition with the fluttering of the flags was the fluttering of Mebar’s tail which could not have been even the length of my pinky finger. I marveled at the ingenuity of creation; since she cannot fight to ensure her survival, she instinctively uses a force more powerful than rage, love. Only months later did I realize that she had an even greater superpower: Mebar, the shoe shredder!

Nangsel was right behind me throughout this entire time and while I was trying to immerse myself in the heavily spiritual place where Terton Pema Lingpa had not only made his first leap of faith but also the successive one that dispelled all doubts from the hearts of the village folk, Mebar was busy bouncing back and forth between us like a charged pinball. While Nangsel sat on the rock face offering her nyendar, Mebar crept onto her lap. Seconds later, as I sat and offered my prayer, Mebar found her place on mine as well. Little did I know that she had already found her place inside both of our hearts as well.

Nangsel and I were on Naring Drak till darkness began to envelop us, debating what to do with this tiny canine, with the same fervor that villagers of Tang and Choekhor must have, 470 years ago at the exact same place regarding Pema Lingpa’s authenticity. I checked the surrounding thoroughly and saw no traces of Mebar’s mother or siblings. We couldn’t just leave her because she might be in danger from wild animals that could come from the thick forest beyond. We had to think of the arduous car ride back to Thimphu which Mebar would have to suffer through. I had to think of the jealousy that Mebar’s dramatic entrance would inspire in my lifelong love, Zameen, who had already enjoyed the uncontested privilege and love of being the only indoor family dog for the past thirteen years. All of these considerations were answers to ‘Why we should take Mebar?’

We reached a consensus when we realized we had been asking the wrong question this entire time. The right question to ask was ‘Why shouldn’t we take Mebar?’ and we both realized that the only answer that mattered had been in that question this entire time.

“So, what should we name her?” I asked Nangsel. “Maybe Lingpa? or Peling?”

“I think Mebar sounds cute” Nangsel replied.

Mebar, from Mebar tsho. I like it!” and it was decided.

Part II

“Okay Mebar, I need you to stay quietly in the box and not make a sound when I take you past the staff into the guesthouse okay?” I earnestly requested her. “If not, we’ll all be in trouble”

I put Mebar in the same cardboard box along with three cans of tuna fish that we had purchased to feed her for the night and through the next day. Whether by sheer luck or some act of divine comprehension, Mebar was as silent as the piece of black cloth which she was when I first met her. We gave her a warm bath, dried her and fed her a whole can of tuna, unsure of when she had had her previous meal. Keeping the panel heater on, we set up the cardboard box next to it, placing it on its side so that Mebar could move around if she needed during the night. That decision and the entire can of tuna would be the biggest mistake that we would make.

We woke up at the repeated insistence of the alarm, only to find out that Mebar had engaged in a nocturnal mission to show us the incredible magic trick of converting a can of tuna into two cans worth of puppy poop; and she had not rested until she had covered the entirety of the room in her markings. We spent an entire hour battling our mistakes like cutting off the heads of the hydra: where we finished one, two more seemed to spring up in its place. Half a perfume bottle and an entire roll of toilet paper later, we were finally on our way back to Thimphu.

Part III

“It must just have been a person who dropped off Mebar at Mebar lake, to capitalize on the jinpa (merit-accumulating) mood that pilgrims would already be inclined towards” Amchi told me

“Maybe” I answered

“Or Terton Pema Lingpa might have granted us a ter” I thought to myself. There is really no way of knowing for sure. Those of us who believe that the miracles of Terton Pema Lingpa, who jumped from Naring Drak into the lake and emerged back up with the butter lamp still lit and with the terma of Guru Rinpochhe, is a story not much different from those we read in fairy tales, would never ever believe that Mebar could have been gifted to us by this quintessential Bhutanese master. Those that try and put themselves in the shoes of those villagers who witnessed such a miracle and feel the equal parts awe and fear that we call “faith” which the villagers might have felt, just might still be open that Mebar could have been gifted by Terton Pema Lingpa. Either way, we will never know. For now, we will make do with resting on that process of dwelling on life’s unanswerable questions.

For now, Mebar has grown from using the sink as her bathtub to actually using my bathtub for her weekend baths. We could have raised her as an indoor member of the family, but Zameen wouldn’t allow it. We also agreed that Zameen has enjoyed the monopoly on love so much, that it would be too cruel to force her to adjust when she is already so old. Also, I realized Mebar is a dog so, why not let her be one? Especially in an age where we obsess over foreign breeds and collect them, no different from so many of our other gadgets and items to raise our own self image and exert control over.

Mebar enjoys double the meals; once from us, once from the neighbors working on a construction nearby. Mebar is a daily reminder to our family that love only exists in interdependence: one to receive it and the other to give it. Make no mistake! Mebar is the provider in this exchange. We only give her food; she makes us understand what ‘unconditional’ means.

I try to teach her how to play fetch. She listens when she’s in the mood. Mebar tries to befriend our cats despite the fact that she must have a world record in rejections by now. She is still trying to get on Zameen’s good side, hopelessly, unsuccessfully. She takes out all of her frustrations on our shoes and slippers. Most importantly she wags her tail with the same fervor, as though she was the same little pup on Naring Drak competing with the fluttering of the prayer flags.


What is terma (or ter)?

It is a hidden treasure concealed by Guru Rinpoche to be revealed at a time when the circumstances are right or when faith and love erodes from one’s heart and one runs into the danger of returning into a state of forgetfulness.

Photo: Khandroling Papers / Jacqueline Gens

Since Buddhism is cyclical, not linear, I’ll end with the poet that I began with, Mary Oliver, although with a small adjustment:

This is a blog about Mebar.
This is a blog about more than Mebar.
Think about it.


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