By: Rob Leaver

Guest Contributor

I have achieved transcendence, satori, or enlightenment. So have you, but nobody told us. I have also played a role in a number of inexplicable healings. As have you. But no one knew it. The interesting thing is why no one knew it. As children, upon our arrival from nature into culture, we know energy can heal. We sense that we are not two, and we nurture our sibling creatures with our attention. But we’re discouraged from believing in it. We get taught language, abstraction, and the this-therefore-that reasoning that goes with language. Basically, we’re acculturated out of transcendent healing by our parents and teachers, who were talked out of it by the generations preceding them.

I was left pretty much alone before I started school. And certainly, after school, once I’d started. We lived out in the country and most afternoons I lit out into the woods with our dog, Benjamin DePeister Beagle III, aka Benny, and my pony, Thunder. We had a secret camp on a brook that ran across the original Boston Post Road, built for the stage coaches. We knew it was the Post Road because the carved stone marker was still in place. “New London, XIV miles.” Sitting in front of the lean-to with a campfire popping, I practiced non-verbal communication with my pals.

During the school day, I was taught and rewarded for playing the game of culture. I learned it well. I played at culture and school the same way I got Benny Beagle to come when I called, or my pony, Thunder, to let me catch her after she threw me. I paid attention.

In the ninth grade, I won a scholarship to an exclusive private school, from which I continued on to get degrees from a couple of Ivy League colleges. Over the next 15 years, I worked as an international banker, director of a private mental health clinic, and secondary school headmaster. In 1980, at 40, I decided it was time to stop running institutions, stop asserting altogether, sit down, shut up, and listen. I spent the next 10 years on a solitary retreat, working menial jobs while studying, writing and meditating.

This is a story about a healing that I was involved in, subsequent to my retreat. This healing wasn’t the first one I’d experienced. The first one occurred a few days after I decided to drop out. After the first one but before the one I’m writing about, there were others, enough so that I knew a few things about them. The first thing I’d learned was that healing is about energy. Not the energy you assert, but the energy you elicit. You don’t do something to the creature. Rather, you help the creature do something for itself. You elicit and nurture the creature’s capacity to heal itself. I call it unbiased listening.

The first time I helped a creature heal itself by listening to it, I concluded that unbiased listening is the essence of love. They don’t teach us that, at least not in America. In keeping with our dominant left brain, we like to effect things; we like transitive verbs. The New Oxford American Dictionary will tell you that the verbs to listen and to love are predominantly transitive verbs. But unbiased listening means opening to it ALL. And when I say unbiased listening is the essence of love, what I mean is that opening completely to another person or creature is the greatest, most affirming gift you can give them. But you can’t give it to anyone else until you’ve first given it to yourself. I learned to listen to myself when I dropped out.

The second thing I learned about healing is that you can’t intend to heal a creature. You can’t have healing as your motive because having a motive leads to measurement and left-brain analysis, and healing is about right-brain synthesis. Having healing as your motive contaminates your listening.

The third thing I came to understand is that while biased or distracted listening precludes healing, pure listening doesn’t guarantee it. The creature being healed is responsible for its own healing. If it’s distracted such that it isn’t aware of itself, of its injury, no matter how pure the attention of the one who’s modeling listening, it’s not going to spark the creature’s natural tendency to listen to itself. In a sense, healing is a collaboration between one creature listening to another, and the second creature, sparked by the example of the first, listening to itself.

There can be no ego involved. Anyone who claims to have healed is either deluded or deceiving you. “I healed” is a contradiction in terms. All you can do is listen, as purely as you’re able. You have to do as Gandhi advised, “Attend to the means and trust that the ends will take care of themselves, or not as the case may be.”

This story took place when I was living in Bradford, Vermont, back in 1998. We had a dog named Luke, whom my wife, Alex, had picked out when we’d lived on Cape Cod, 13 years before. Our neighbor at the time, a widow, had a foxy little Bassett hound who had run off for an assignation with a huge mongrel belonging to one of the homeless “wharf rats” in town. How the big lug and his short-legged sweetie consummated their love, we couldn’t imagine. But Bertie, the Bassett, and her roust-about paramour produced a litter of 8 puppies and Alex chose her favorite and named him Luke.

Luke was good sized, perhaps 50 pounds, with the markings of an Australian Husky. I’d taught him to run beside my bicycle when he was a puppy in Provincetown, Mass, and in Vermont, on back roads, I’d run him next to my car. He’d lope along ahead of me, on the right, at 12-15 miles per hour, and we might go 4-5 miles. One of our favorite runs was the 3 miles down the mountain from my friend Bruce’s house. I remember winter nights when it was dark and snowing, coming down the hill behind Luke and watching him in the headlights. I could tell from his gait that there was pure joy in his heart as he loped along the side of the road with his long, hound dog tongue hanging out, catching the cool flakes of snow. Dave Webster, Luke’s vet, once told me Luke had the lowest pulse rate of any dog he’d seen.

It was late one Sunday afternoon, in the fall. I was walking with him, and he was ranging out into a farmer’s freshly mowed cornfield beside the road. I was deep in thought when he caught up to me from behind.

When I turned to acknowledge him, not sure why he’d suddenly come in close, I saw that his right front foot was pulsing blood. Looking more closely, I saw that he’d sliced one of the larger front pads almost completely off.

I pulled my red bandana out of my hip pocket, folded the pad in, and wrapped the foot as tightly as I could - to slow the bleeding without completely cutting off the circulation. Talking to him the entire time, I gently gathered him up, stretched him across my shoulders in a dead man’s carry, and started home. We were a mile or so from the house. As I walked, I sang him a lullaby my first wife had sung to our sons as babies, “Lukey’s ship’s a silver dream…”

When we got home, I laid him on the living room floor and called Dave. He told me he couldn’t make it then, but he’d meet us at his office first thing the next morning. I hung up and got Luke some water, then heated up a pizza for myself and gave him the crusts, which he especially liked.

When we finished eating, I grabbed a pillow off the sofa and laid down on the floor, spooning with his curled body. After a while, he lowered his head and lay still. I told him about our 8 AM appointment. He wasn’t bleeding as much as he had been. My bandana was still wet, but no longer dripping.

Without thinking of the time, I stayed with him the whole night. For a long time, I talked to him. I reminded him of the time during one of our daily walks out on the frozen Connecticut River, when I’d seen and he’d smelled a wolf loping up the far shore, upwind from us. Recalling how alpha-male the wolf’s energy had been visually, I teased Luke about how he’d cowered in fear.

Then I reminded him of the time Lucy, our cat, had come in wet, and how he’d clamored to go out, and how, when I let him out, he’d dispatched the two Nutria rats who’d pulled Lucy into the river that ran by our house. I can still remember how proud Luke had been when he’d come back in the house. I laughed as I related the story to him. The Nutria rats were said to have migrated up from Texas, and they were big and fearsome, despite their beautiful coats. I’d found both rat’s bodies on the lower lawn the next morning. I’d assumed Luke had used his woodchuck move on them – a move he’d demonstrated a number of times on our walks across farmers’ fields, grabbing them and slamming them to the ground in a way that broke their backs. Lucy rubbed up against her superhero.

I’d drift off occasionally. Eliciting Luke’s healing energy was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to comfort him, calm him so he wouldn’t get up and try to walk on the foot. I rubbed his ear occasionally, or cupped and rubbed his closed eye, or ran my hand down his side.

We got up around 7, went out and did our business. He was limping, but not badly. His bandana bandage, still tight, was dry to the touch. When the time came to leave, he was able to jump up onto the back seat of the car.

Dave was already at his office in the old train station when we got there. The parking lot and steps were rough and unfamiliar ground for Luke so I hiked him up on my shoulders and carried him in.

“Put him right up on the table,” Dave greeted us. I laid Luke on his side on the steel examination table and Dave stroked and calmed him. “Hi, Luke, how you doing, boy? Hurt yourself, eh?” Luke always liked his visits to Dave. When Luke laid his face down on the cool steel, Dave gently touched his foot, then began undoing my bandana.

I stood back, not wanting to distract. Dave unwrapped the bandage and put it aside, then reached behind himself to the counter and brought back a bowl of solution and a hand towel. Ever so delicately, he began to wash Luke’s foot. He was deliberate and gentle, so the cleansing took a while.

When he was finished, he returned the bowl and cloth to the counter behind him, patted Luke’s shoulder, and looked up at me. “I think you might want to see this,” he said solemnly.

I took Luke’s foot and began to look at it. It was very clean. When I couldn’t see the wound, I thought maybe I'd missed it and gently spread his pads to look between them. Still nothing. “What the hell,” I said. “Where’s the wound?”

Dave smiled and nodded.

“What do you mean?” I demanded. “You saw the bloody bandage! He was hemorrhaging blood! He couldn’t walk on it! He was still limping this morning! What’s going on here?!?”

Dave looked me in the eye, nodded again, and said, “I’ll tell you this. I’ve been a Vermont veterinarian for forty years. Most of my clients are second or third generation farmers. They depend on and love their animals." And then, after a brief pause, "This is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing.”

Most of Dave’s farmers are alone with their animals most of the time. Especially when the animals are giving birth, being born, or injured. They listen to their animals, the more intently when the animal is distressed. The unbiased attention is normal nurturance for the farmers and their charges. Analyzing scientists may not understand it, but synthesizing mothers and nurses do. Loving attention gives the recipient the secure space in which to be itself, and part of being ourselves is healing ourselves.


Commentary by Dr. Dodman on Rob Leaver’s article:

I met Mr. Robert Leaver on a dog walk, and he is a delightful, educated, and interesting man. He told me the story about his dog’s “miraculous” foot pad healing at that time and asked if he could share it on our website. Of course, I agreed because I thought it might inspire others to come forward with tales of hope and healing – maybe even a new section for our website. With that said, I was and still am somewhat incredulous of the facts underlying his interpretation of events. As a predominantly left-brained, logical thinker I could not allow my more whimsical, creative right brain to usurp all my training, knowledge, and experience. I believed what Mr. Leaver witnessed seemed real to him, but was it what happened? Cut pads bleed like stuck pigs (please excuse the horrifying analogy) perhaps giving him the impression that the pad had nearly been severed. (I would have liked to see a photograph). The overnight pressure wrap was the correct treatment and effectively stemmed bleeding while the clotting cascade sprang into action, showering the area with blood platelets and generating adhesive fibrin. Thus, once bleeding has been stemmed, physiological processes occur that seal the wound with what is sometimes referred to as “tissue glue.” Gentle washing or cleaning the cut surfaces 24 hours later may not break this early seal giving the appearance of rapid healing. That is my interpretation of what Mr. Leaver witnessed. Disappointingly matter of fact, I’m afraid. We all see things at times that are unusual to us and seem to defy anything apart from some ethereal explanation. In my experience though, there is always a rather boring more-matter-of fact explanation for all our human experiences.