Bijou 2013 – 2022
Bijou’s relatively short and often difficult life came to an end in April. Rev. Seikai adopted Bijou in December of 2014 and brought him up to the temple on Lockwood Valley Road, where he made an immediate change for the better. He had been on death row in the Ventura County Shelter for being a biter—we never found out who owned him originally—and from there an animal rescue group, Paw Works, took him to their location in Camarillo. In the shelter he was called Havoc, and at Paw Works was known as Bernie. Within a few days Rev. Seikai renamed him Bijou, meaning jewel or treasure.
Now that he had a person who loved him, trained him and was around most of the time, and with the freedom to run all over 45 acres of land, Bijou was in dog heaven. He was able to learn how to be a normal dog from Jasper, Rev. Phoebe’s wonderfully well-behaved dog. His nervous and aggressive behaviors diminished a lot but never 100%. Most likely he’d been put in a cage as a pup. His front teeth, top and bottom, had been worn down to nubs from gnawing and eventually had to be removed.
Bijou and Jasper spent many happy hours together on walks on the temple grounds, in the hills and all over the Ozena Valley. Temple guests would often comment on what a sweet and happy dog he seemed to be. He had about a half dozen really good years and then began to decline noticeably, much earlier than one would expect for an average-sized dog. In the past few years he would sometimes ditch out of dog walks and return to the Sangha House at the former temple.
Moving is hard on all beings, human and animal, and Bijou was no exception. Going from the freedom of the hills to being on a leash whenever he was out of the house was not an easy adjustment, although on the whole he seemed to be doing pretty well in his first few months in Santa Paula. Then his condition deteriorated and he started licking his hind quarters a lot, probably because he was in pain. He had trouble with the stairs in the new temple, and one day fell down and screamed very loudly. That was the beginning of the end, and he only lasted a couple more weeks after that.
Death is just one aspect of life. We know it’s coming and yet we still find it hard, particularly if the being is one we love very dearly. Bijou was clearly ready to die, and in his own way he showed immense gratitude in his last days. The sense of relief and joy were very strong as he moved from his dog life into whatever realm of existence he is in now.
Over the spring months we continued to make substantial progress on the new temple building, and have resumed regular meetings on Sundays. In the back yard, the small pond and its waterfall are working again, which creates a peaceful atmosphere; we also installed a large Buddha statue nearby, which presides over the back garden. Rev. Phoebe’s vegetable garden has been doing pretty well. She has been harvesting lettuce, cilantro, beets, zucchini, yellow squash, beans and basil—things that we could hardly imagine growing successfully in years past. We have had an abundance of flowers as well: zinnias, roses, lantana, geraniums, Peruvian lilies, jasmine, cactus flowers, salvia, Mexican sage, coreopsis daisies and a variety of succulents. We were given a generous donation of succulents from Jack Collings’ garden in Ventura. In a climate that is perfect for gardening, it is amazing what you can do!
Workmen rebuilt most of our rain gutter system, which was actually put to the test by a summer thunderstorm on June 22. So far, so good. We have signed a contract with a contractor to replace the temple’s windows later this summer. First they have to be manufactured, which will take a couple of months. Meanwhile, Rev. Seikai has been working away steadily at outfitting the garage as a workshop. He and Rev. Phoebe painted all the walls; work benches have been completed, and drawers built. A neighbor put five large drawers out on the street for anyone to take, and now four of them have been incorporated into one of the work benches. We have also scavenged several pieces of furniture from street offerings, yard sales and thrift stores. It took about four months to move in, unpack everything, find places for stuff, redo the floors and find the furniture we needed. The results are very pleasing.
We have been warmly welcomed to our neighborhood in Santa Paula by many of the residents. Our immediate neighbors are all very friendly, and people often stop to chat as they walk past on Loma Vista Place. We were invited by a couple a block away to a centennial celebration of their house, which afforded the opportunity to meet several more people from this area. Downtown Santa Paula, including the Farmer’s Market on Fridays, is walking distance from the temple. Although we loved being in the semi-wilderness of the back country for over 20 years, so far the move here has proved to be right move. We’re grateful to everyone who has helped make it possible, in so many ways.