By Allen Anderson, Minnesota
Standing in line at a sprawling grocery store, I placed five bags of large sweet potatoes on the conveyer belt. A mature cashier with a kind, smiling face (I’ll call her Stacy) enthusiastically said, “Leaf’s food!”
Startled, I looked up. Although I’d been in Stacy’s line a couple of times, she wasn’t usually the cashier who rang up my weekly haul of sweet potatoes. And I didn’t recall ever telling her my cocker spaniel’s name.
Stacy enthusiastically explained. “We sometimes talk in the break room about Sweet-Potato Man,” she said. “Every week he buys bags and bags of sweet potatoes so he can cook food for his dog’s special diet. One of the cashiers told us at a store-employee meeting that the dog’s name is Leaf.”
I was very surprised that anyone remembered my purchases, much less my dog’s name. In the past, a cashier might say, “My, you must really like sweet potatoes,” or “Are you making sweet-potato pie?” or “Are you having a party?”
I would say, “We make home-cooked food for my dog. He has pancreatitis.” Often this explanation triggered a story about the cashier’s pet.
I realized I must have mentioned Leaf’s name to one of the other cashiers. “Wow!” I said to Stacy. “You have a great memory, considering all the people you see every week going through the line.”
Stacy glanced down at the bags of sweet potatoes covering her station. “You’re memorable,” she replied.
Leaf’s Special Recipe
We adopted Leaf from an animal shelter when he was about a year old. Although he’d suffered abandonment and abuse, he was generally in good health. When he was seven, he became dangerously ill with pancreatitis and repeatedly needed emergency veterinary care. After a few years of the disease, he was no longer able to tolerate prescription dog food. We were facing serious trouble. To save his life, we had to find a solution.
My wife Linda and I are ECKists. We appreciate the blessing of having a spiritual teacher, the Mahanta, who inwardly helps us find solutions to problems. We’ve learned how to use our creativity to make better lives for ourselves and the family of pets in our care.
After finding out about Leaf’s condition, Linda and I each went into contemplation and used a spiritual exercise to focus our attention on his health. We sang HU, a sacred mantra that opens our hearts to the love within all life. The contemplation time I spend, often with Leaf in my lap, is key to a fuller expression of love, including the love he and I have for each other. This quiet time doing a spiritual exercise also allows me to see practical solutions to problems such as what would help Leaf become healthier.
Although the spiritual exercises didn’t immediately reveal what would reduce Leaf’s pain, our inner guidance was to take him back to his veterinarian for further consultation. We were relieved that our vet contacted a veterinary dietitian. This animal health-care specialist created recipes for Leaf’s breed, weight, and medical condition. His food options became limited due to all he couldn’t eat, but they expanded into human food mixed with prescribed minerals.
We were on the road to improved quality of life and longevity for our little dog.
A Labor of Love
Leaf quickly let us know which of the recipes he preferred. One called for green beans. We found a stack of them next to his food bowl. He had carefully removed each green bean and only eaten the rest of the ingredients. However, we noticed he gobbled down the food that included lots of sweet potatoes.
Who would have thought the process of selecting sweet potatoes every weekend would give me joy? I picked them out of a giant pile near the grocery-store entrance and carefully placed ten “perfect” potatoes in each of five bags. While examining each potato, I experienced quiet happiness from knowing this was for Leaf.
Other customers noticed my routine and the bags of sweet potatoes in my cart. Some were curious, maybe picking up on my joy, and asked why I bought so many. I gladly told them. Out of courtesy for their time I kept my answer short, but I was always greeted by smiles and bright eyes. After hearing Leaf’s story, many shoppers looked happier. Maybe they were thinking about their special animal companions.
After buying Leaf’s sweet potatoes each weekend, I cleaned, peeled, chopped, and cooked them before mixing the bite-sized pieces into the recipe. Then Linda and I portioned the batch into twenty-one single servings. We put the week’s supply into containers and stored them in our freezer and refrigerator.
Although buying and making Leaf’s food was a labor-intensive, time-consuming process, I was rewarded with the attention of my doggy supervisor. He squatted next to me in anticipation that I’d drop pieces of sweet potato onto the floor. (I did.) The preparation proceeded with great care for a little fellow who brought so much love into our lives.
Even though his three meals were the same every day, he devoured them with gusto. It was as if he’d never tasted anything so delicious in his entire life. Every day was a new day for this dog. He exemplified the happiness of Soul living in the present.
When Stacy told me about the grocery employees’ nickname for me and how Leaf and I were a topic of staff conversations, I said, “Other stores only have small amounts and small potatoes. This store stocks a lot, and the sweet potatoes are big, so I don’t have to peel as many.”
Stacy leaned over the counter and whispered, “The people who keep up our inventory make sure there is a fresh batch of big sweet potatoes for you every weekend.”
My experiences at the grocery store and at home have shown me the spiritual value of Leaf’s sweet potatoes. Through the spiritual exercises I’ve learned in Eckankar, I’d been guided to find solutions for our dog’s survival. Leaf and I are two individuals going through life’s ups and downs together and helping each other as comrades. Fulfilling his needs was based on our mutual love and respect. Our love expanded to draw in the customers I met as well as the store employees. Together we’ve maintained Leaf’s health, but we’ve also shared so much more.
Leaf, as a spiritual team, we always have each other’s back.
Leaf, this grocery store has your back.
Leaf, the Mahanta has your back.
A Contemplation Seed
Do you notice ripple effects from the love between you and an animal? Is the spiritual bond of your relationship spreading love wherever you go?
—First photo by Kristy Walker, second photo by Allen Anderson