I usually go up to him at eight-thirty in the evening to let him out for a couple of hours, for the last couple of months he'd have a quick roll around in his sand bath and then rush under a blanket and settle down between by ankles, burying his nose between the soles of my feet and staying there for two hours or so while I'd read or watch something on the box.
When I got upstairs Monday evening he'd braced his head under a wooden chew tower he had in his cage and wasn't moving. I scooped him out and put him on my lap guessing that he'd had another stroke/seizure but that this one was more serious than the previous two. He laid on my lap until M. came home and we called a taxi to take him to the vet, I really didn't want him to suffer. Just before the Taxi arrived he had another fit, stretched and stretched and slowly let out his last breath and was gone.
Let me tell you about my boy NietzscheI'd found him in a pet shop in Canterbury when I was a teaching assistant at UKC, in the Philosophy department. I hadn't planned on bringing him home, but what can you do, he was tiny and fluffy and, well , you know....
I borrowed a shopping trolley from Sainsburys on the way home and he stayed in that for the first few months. He was so tiny though that he somehow squeezed between the bars of the trolley and I would wake up to find him sitting on my head eating my hair.
He liked to squeeze himself into the tiniest spaces. Chinchillas tend to look pretty round but they seem to be able to flatten themselves pancake like. He'd squeeze himself under and behind bookcases and wardrobes and make his loud screeching sound, either to say "I bet you can't find me"or "Please find me because getting in here was one thing but....", was never quite sure which.
When we moved to Broadstairs, in a flat by the sea, I built him the biggest, tallest cage ever and would leave the door open all night. M. was up working on her Masters back then so they would keep each other company. In the morning he would be back in his cage. One morning however he wasn't there and we couldn't find him anywhere, after pretty much giving up we found him high up the side of the fridge freezer in a gap three centimetres wide.
So we started trying getting him back in his cage every night before we went to bed, this it seems was a fun game for him.... less so for us
Nietzsche was a pain....in fact I wanted to call him Che on account of his South America origins but he was such a pain in the backside and yet lovable that I called him Nietzsche instead, besides he had these long whiskers...
He would constantly try to eat any wires he'd hunted out ( can't tell you how many headphones I've been through, almost all of my books have Nietzsche bites) or seemingly just about anything and you constantly had to get up to move him on to something else. I bought a couple of water pistols and used to shoot a little water just above his head which would gently drop down on to his tail and he would quit whatever mischief he was up to. Unfortunately I forgot to tell M. the full plan and found out later that she had been shooting him head on and had become quite a good shot, was horrified : )
After M. finished her Masters she went back to Japan and I followed a little later. The vet didn't seem to know what he was and put him down as a rabbit and I managed to talk the pilot into letting me take him in the cabin with me. The flight attendants upgraded us to club so I could have a spare seat for his travel box and even bought him some freshly julienned carrots as an in-flight meal.
And there are tons of stories of course, one of my favourites though was actually somebody else's. M and I had gone away, for a week or two ( might have been our honeymoon in Hawaii) and left him in the care of a friend. One evening she found he had gone missing and guessed that he had got through the doors onto the balcony and basically gone over ( we were ten flights up), she was beside herself but then heard his little screeching noise. Seems he had squeezed under the partition and was hiding amongst assorted debris on the neighbours balcony. With little to no Japanese she had to go next door, and try to explain to them why she need to go out to their balcony. Oh did I mention that Nietzsche has never liked being picked up. I heard this story almost every day for a year as my friend used to teach English in the next cubical to me, her task was for her students to decide the best thing to tell me when I we got back from holiday, assuming he had gone over.
When we came back to the UK ten years ago he had to go into quarantine for six months and we would take turns going down to the centre to sit with him for a couple of hours, two or three times a week, he had better housing than we had, and almost as expensive too, was good day when he finally came back home for good.
Thank you to everyone who sent us condolences via fb yesterday.
M. took the day off and we ended up clearing his room ( a chinchillas room ends up with the walls covered in cardboard, things to amuse and entertain everywhere), that was tough, the messages coming in throughout the day helped get us through it a little more gently.
What to do with his room, I didn't want to end up avoiding it as well as memories of him so ended up embracing it instead and turned it into the new home shala.
I don't know that much about shala/meditation/puja room theory but I know a little.
It should be clean, neither too warm nor too cold, well ventilated. It should ideally, even if it's just a corner of another room, be just for the practice, whatever that is. You should never fight or argue with anyone in that space, it should only be associated with good thoughts, perhaps, ideally, have a devotional aspect of sorts.
This is where my boy was for five years and by association echoing back the eighteen years years he was with me, lots of good feelings in that room.
In loving kindness they suggest you begin your loving kindness meditation by directing it at your Mother, or yourself, a child or even a 'pet' (never really thought of him as a pet or as mine), you direct it somewhere with only warm, unselfish feelings of love, devotion etc. Then, as you go through the rest of that meditation directing it towards other members of family, friends teachers, community even up to your enemies you bring that feeling as a base note. I always began with Nietzsche, the feelings were warm, the sense of concern and care is basically unselfish devotion, no expectations for anything in return. That's a good place from which to start for a home shala.
May you be happy
may you be well
May you be safe
may you be peaceful
Maybe I think of him as some kind of Japanese, Shinto, Kami,
a protective spirit of the room, even if that spirit is only my feeling of affection that I place as boundaries around the room, for the room.
This practice can build up the ego rather than reducing it. One way to avoid that is to dedicate your practice, surrender it up, to use the S word I'm always so uncomfortable with. A picture of a teacher or a deity can be enough, a little shrine like space is a development of that. I've never had one but understand the benefits of rituals to put you into an appropriate frame of mind. Never believed in Astrology or Tarot etc. but kind of get the idea that all of the theatre involved in that can focus your thinking, your intuition, effectively.
And so I made a little 'shrine' for the shala made up of Nietzsche's old red blanket, his old well chewed house and mineral stones, some sticks, all gnawed up over the years. Also his food bowl is there and part of the ritual is to put a cranberry ( he loved cranberries) in the bowl. At the back are the little posters I made up of Krishnamachary's pictures from Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu. There too are Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala and Ramaswami's Vinyasa yoga book.
Got a bit carried away with the annotation, indulge me, feeling at a bit of a loose end in the evenings now
In Yoga for the Three Stages of Life Ramaswami mentions that before practice you should hold your teacher in your mind and then your deity in your heart. Before my practice I light a candle and offer my practice up to Krishnamacharya and Ramaswami if it's Vinyasa krama, Pattabhi Jois if it's Ashtanga, and now too, make an offering of a cranberry to the rooms Kami, my boy Nietzsche.
Sometimes only Ashtanga will do.
I Practiced full on hardcore, by the book Ashtanga Primary yesterday in the new home Shala. It gets hot in there and practice was hot and sweaty and floaty, best practice since I don't know when. Along with what detox sweating may or may not have there was also a detoxing of negative, emotions, feelings of guilt, regrets, misgivings that perhaps you could have done more, spent more time with him, been a little less stern at times, more attentive, more loving, kinder.
Perhaps the salt in the sweat can be seen as having a purifying effect, getting rid of any remnants of the negative stuff and setting the room, the home shala up nicely for the future.