If you have stuck with me through these 12 Blogs, thank you. I was not sure I had enough to say about the 12 Animals to write this series, but apparently, I do. These 12 Symbols are basic but very important. Remember, from the Chinese perspective, the lunar year you were born determines the most fundamental aspect of your Qi Character. And we arrive, finally, to the Dog.
Traditionally, the Dog is 11th in the series, but as you will recall, I started with Pig, at the “end,” in honor of Liu Ming, who was a Fire Pig. Since the Stem and Branch Cycle circles, there is no beginning or end, so it doesn’t matter where we begin/end. In many ways, I think the Dog is a good place to end.
I’ll admit it, I’m a cat person. I grew up with cats. I have always loved dogs, but I never lived with them until now. Since I moved to Portland, I have been living with two adorably lovable dogs, and I now understand why people are “dog people,” and this is because of the primary characteristic of Dog Qi—loyalty. Those goobers are just always excited to see me no matter who I am or what I do.
Humans have a had a long relationship with dogs, which, strangely enough, began in China. People everywhere have been with wolves for a very long time; human hunters lived near and followed wolves and learned from them how to hunt. But for most of this time, we were separate and respected the independent nature of the wolf pack. At some point, to help us with the hunt, we captured wolf puppies and kept them close, turning them slowly over time to our side (cats, on the other hand, domesticated themselves).
According to legend, the Chinese were the first people to domesticate the wolf, and so the first breed of dog was the Chinese Chow. All dogs come from wolves, which is hard to believe when you look at a chihuahua next to a mastiff. This shape-shifting quality also gives us a fundamental insight in to Dog Qi that we can call subordination or adaptability.
The first dogs were bred for hunting and war. Soldiers trained dog companions to follow them into the heat of battle. They trained them to attack on command and defend to the death. When a soldier died, their dog remained and guarded the body, another insight about the Dog we can call faithful.
Dogs were also bred in Daoist families to guard temples. The Daoist legend of tiāngǒu, a great deity in the form of a Black Dog the size of a meteor, said to eat the sun or moon during an eclipse, is revered as a great protector, who guards children and chases away harmful spirits and demons.
From the Daoist point of view, the Dog represents strong Yin and Yang qualities, Yin when faithful and devoted and Yang when acting as the fierce guardian. As we get into the Key Terms of Dog Qi, this Yin-Yang quality will become apparent, although we must say the Dog is a pure Yang Character.
Because our culture is obsessed with dogs, Dog Qi may be the easiest for us to understand. Tigers, too, for Tigers are basically house cats. The modern domesticated dog tells us everything we need to know. And we can say generally, that people born in the Dog Year have dog like characteristics. Energetically, Dog Qi is complex but quite simple, which is why dogs were chosen as symbols of this pattern of time. Remember, each of the Twelve Animals is a symbol describing a pattern of Time in a sequence.
In the sequence, Monkey turns to Rooster turns to Dog, which is where we are now. Next year will be the Year of the Earth Dog, so we can learn something of this sequence now. In other words, Monkey breaks up the stuffy Goat, offering fun, excitement, adventure, and a bit of chaos. Monkey makes a bit of a mess, and Rooster, our current Year, puts everything back in order, offering precision, logic, reasoning, and hierarchy.
We are all right now running around trying to figure out what the hell is going on and what the hell to do about everything, but we remain in a yin conceptual domain and are taking little action; we're mostly just arguing. So, Rooster needs Dog to help. Once Rooster sets everything to order, the Dog comes to take orders, protect, serve, guard, and love whatever the sequence of Time has created. Dog Qi does not care what has been produced—it follows orders and guards with its life no matter what.
Dog Hour, from 7 – 9 pm, is the time of day when everything is complete but still active. We are supposed to be home and secure. Imagine the family guard dog, vigilant at their post, while the family relaxes after a long day. The dog does not rest until everyone is safe, secure, at ease. Dog Hour should be spent with family, friends, those close to you, enjoying the company of those with whom you share the virtue of loyalty. My best friends Dad is a Wood Dog, and he always stays up late and will only go to sleep after everyone and everything is secure. If you were born between 7 and 9pm, then you are half Dog.
The Native Element of the Dog is Yang Earth, which it shares with the Dragon, its opposite. For the Dragon, Yang Earth represents flight, breaking away from the ground through explosive, upward movement. For the Dog, Yang Earth represents territory. The impulse of Dog Qi surveys and guards the Earth and can traverse territory quickly through explosive movement. The Dog’s keen senses cover the land and go for miles. Yang Earth for the Dog also represents the virtues of support, stability, groundedness, solidity, and alliances.
Although they share the same Native Element, Dragon and Dog are opposites. The Dragon is the ultimate leader and represents the Emperor in Chinese Cosmology. The Dog, on the other hand, is the ultimate follower, supporter, assistant, subordinate—they find their Qi through subordination. Samurai Bushido philosophy exemplifies the virtues of the Dog, to die on the battlefield protecting one’s Master.
In general, Dogs should not be in charge and are out of place in positions of leadership. Strangely enough, our current “president,” the Dumpster, is a Fire Dog, potentially the most territorial and aggressive of Dogs, and so is George W. Bush. Both exemplify the disaster that happens when Dogs are put in charge, and both are stunning examples of Dog Qi out of balance and misplaced. Fire Dogs (all Fire characters) need great discipline and without it they dig up the garden, pee on the carpet, and bark at everyone. But let’s stay away from politics.
Despite being followers, Dogs are often complex and unique individuals. I am amazed at how many Dogs are famous artists and/or musicians. Elvis, John Waters, David Bowie, Cher, Leonard Cohen, and Prince to name a few. Prince is a fitting example of Dog Qi. He was an amazingly complex individual, very private, a revolutionary artist, and yet a staunch and devoted Jehovah’s Witness who devoted his life to serving and subordinating to evangelism. In this culture, Dogs often devote themselves to principals or symbols if they cannot find family or friends to protect.
To understand the Dog, we must look at territoriality and loyalty. Like the Tiger, the Dog has an alternating quality that is related to “territory,” which is why they are in a trine. Dog Qi functions based on a deep and simple principal of trust. When we meet a dog (the animals) we encounter a defensive territorial stance, so we put out our hand, they sniff; we pet them, offer treats. If their human shows acceptance and lets you into their home, dogs can quickly switch from defensive to slobbering love machines. The Dog’s instinct is to protect no matter what, so it perceives everything as a potential threat to those in its territory. But at its core, Dog Qi is overwhelmingly loving. So, Dogs alternate from growling to rolling over and showing you their belly. They go from “I can kill you,” to “do me!”
Dogs can be incredibly threatening and dangerous animals, but if well trained, we can feel comfortable with a giant mastiff guarding a newborn baby. This tells us what we need to know about Dog Qi. Dogs thrive and get their power from having something to protect, from taking orders, from following. They are the great exemplars of the virtue of Loyalty.
Loyalty is greatly misunderstood in our culture. We think that people need to earn our loyalty and trust by being “worthy.” But your dog does not give a shit if you’re worthy. You can be a total jerk, and they will still love you. Of course, you need to feed them, take them for walks, throw the ball. But your worthiness as a person is meaningless to them. They love unconditionally and purely.
Your dog is having an awesome time being loyal, and this is true loyalty. Once you choose to dedicate yourself to something or someone, you protect and defend no matter what. This is the Samurai code. It doesn’t matter if your Master is corrupt; you die for them. There is wisdom in this, believe it or not. Many people change sides, defect, or drop loyalty at the first sign of corruption. We hold others to standards of perfection and then freak out and run away when they falter, mostly to protect ourselves, which can be useful at times. Of course, in today’s world, so many leaders, teachers, and people in positions of power have proven themselves “unworthy.” But the Loyalty of Dog Qi is not about who you serve or even why; it is about the transformative qualities of love, surrender, devotion, and service, not for others but for yourself. This is called Guru Yoga in Tantra.
You can open your heart to anything, and it will transform you, if you do so from a deep place of self-love and acceptance without the need for trust. Without self-possession, devotion and surrender invite abuse. When trust gets involved, we get hurt or betrayed. And dogs can be betrayed, but their instinct is to open their heart without reservation, to give completely. We can all learn something from this.
Liu Ming used to say that trust is basically stupid. Everything will let you down because everything is impermanent, unstable, and everyone has their own complex karma to work out. If we put too much trust in others not to hurt us, we will be let down. Laozi said to trust the untrustworthy, which means give up the notion that trust is something valuable. This does not mean that you should mistrust people. On the contrary, it means accepting all people as valuable and worthy of your loyalty because they’re human. What would it be like to accept and love those who betray you unconditionally without creating resentment? This is the virtue of Dog Qi.
Those born in the Year of the Dog have all these virtues as instinct. The impulse of Dog Qi is to protect, guard, follow, serve, and love without giving up their individuality. Dogs are complete people but find their power through subordination.
So, again, the first key term for the Dog is Loyalty. Dogs are fantastic friends, partners, and family members. They often have close select circles, people they have let in to their world. When it comes to family, Dogs are loyal to the end. When it comes to friends, Dogs often have a process of choosing, sniffing out if you will, but once they accept you they are great companions and bond very deeply in relationship.
If relationships or friendships end, Dogs tend to carry the bond with them forever and may feel hurt for a long time. They can recognize “old friends” instantly and are sometimes too eager to jump into things. People can be overwhelmed with how quickly a Dog seems to know and accept you. Or, they can be put off by a Dog’s standoffishness or guard dog stance.
This loyalty is by nature protective. Dogs protect. They serve. This may take the form of protecting a younger sibling, a child, a boss, a teacher, a partner. Or, Dogs can protect ideas, teachings, or principles. Dogs very naturally express the Bodhisattva Ideal so cherished in Mahayana Buddhism. The great Tibetan teacher Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a Metal Dog, and if you watch footage of him, you will see that he served the Dharma and thousands of students but never put on shows about being a great master. He bowed to and honor everyone who came to him, and his love was vast and open.
Dogs naturally want to follow something or someone. Without this, their lives have no direction, no meaning. They often jump into devotion without forethought. Because of this, Dogs can stay in tough and even abusive situations for a long time out of misplaced loyalty; Pigs do this too, and so do Ox. Once they are devoted, that’s it. And it is hard for a Dog to break their bonds. They fear relationships, jobs, and community situations ending, for they may not know who they are outside these contexts. Dogs must cultivate strong boundaries and a sense of self, otherwise their loyalty can put them into danger.
Another flipside of this loyalty and protectiveness is territoriality, a kind of rigid quality. If Dogs have trauma or wounds they have not integrated, if their loyalty was not nurtured early on, they can tend to growl. Dogs can put up enormous walls and feel very rigid to others. Of course, behind this rigidness, Dogs are gushing with love. But, like attack dogs, their loyalty can be selective; they guard their territory. This territory can be people, ideas, beliefs, and so on. They can lash out and hurt others in defense of someone or something if they think they’re right or justified. Sometimes, this is necessary; sometimes people need protection and someone must be able to fight. Violence is available in the Dog. Dogs must, then, cultivate how to use their Yang aggressive qualities in appropriate ways—when is strong action necessary and when is it paranoid?
Dog Qi cares very deeply. Whatever they do, in whomever they invest, in wherever they choose to direct their Qi, Dogs give everything. The give too much. This caring quality can be unconditional in its true form. Of course, few people can actualize unconditional love and care, but Dogs are apt to accept people wholly. I am amazed when I look into the eyes of dogs (the animals) and see nothing but pure love, and Dog Qi has this abundance available.
Despite this quality of caring devotion, Dogs are by nature very private individuals. Every Dog has in them a touch of the lone wolf, which may be accentuated or understated depending on the individual. Dogs tend to have powerful private lives and love to be alone, which then alternates with their fierce companionship. When expressing their wolf side, Dogs feel at home in solitude. The flipside of this private individuality can be excessive vanity and concern with cultivating a unique self/appearance to give themselves power.
They tend to be very congenial and quiet, respectful of others. They keep to themselves. For this reason, they fit in very well into situations where there is a chain of command, like the military. It is natural for them to slide into a role, take orders, guard their platoon. They thrive in service oriented professions and make great waiters, social workers, police officers, assistants, anything where they put their energy into subordinating to a greater cause. Dogs are naturally very just and like righting wrongs.
Dogs tend to be very direct, blunt, and honest. This comes from a natural responsiveness which reacts very directly to the present situation. Often, these reactions can be sudden and taken without consideration, like a dog barking at the mailman.
When depleted, these qualities can become stubborn, stingy, and spiteful. Dogs can be excessively critical of others based on quick feelings and judgments. This blunt straight forward attitude can appear to others as egotistical and argumentative. Dogs can get into barking matches if they think they need to defend themselves or a situation they are invested in protecting.
The ears and the snout are an important part of the Dog symbol. The keen senses of the dog represent a kind of intuition and expansiveness. Dog Qi is very sensitive and picks up on even the slightest changes in the atmosphere. We have all noticed a dog laying on the ground, then all the sudden her ears twitch and she is up and barking before the humans realize anything has happened. This intuition feels the nature of situations, people, and environments in a sensory, embodied way. However, Dogs don’t often know what to do with their intuition and look to others for guidance and direction. But a Dog can smell danger coming a mile away.
Their observant quality produces great insight, and Dogs often have a lot to offer in terms of seeing things from multiple angles and through multiple dimensions. When everyone is stuck, they can offer a new way to “smell” rather than just see. Often their energetic sensory insights are right on without overthinking. Someone may appear a certain way, but if they don’t smell right, the Dog knows something is off.
The warrior nature of the Dog is always ready to jump into battle. They feel at home in danger and chaos and act as sturdy pillars of calm. They are cool under fire. When everything goes to shit, Dogs are usually relaxed and ready to jump in and do what is necessary to help. Their senses and intuition come alive in high intensity situations, which is great for sports and high stress jobs.
When depleted, or without training, Dogs can become rigid and frozen with anxiety, especially when emotions are on high. Dogs take in the energy of the environment, and if it is too much, they tremble, quake, and shiver with fear, unable to move, like a deer in the headlights. For this reason, Dogs need training and benefit greatly from the disciplined cultivation of sports, martial arts, debate, and so on, so that when they get into the heat of battle, their instincts can take over so they don’t get frozen with fear. This frozen nature may translate into an inability to make life decisions or have tough conversations. When balance, however, Dogs make quick decisions from the gut and don’t second guess things.
Dog Qi at its core has many virtues, and we go into this next year, which is why the Dog is a suitable place to end this series. Next Year will be an Earth Dog Year, which is the natural Dog. The auspice of the Dog year hinges on what we make of this one. Whatever plan the Fire Rooster comes up with, the Earth Dog will carry out the orders. Let’s hope it’s a good plan.
Considering the Five Dogs—Wood Dog is Puppy Qi, youthful, responsive, but naughty, may tear up the sofa, i.e. drain or ruin its good karma/resources. The Fire Dog can be trouble; forceful, vigorous, no fear of confrontation; without disciple, they will hurt others; with it—they make fierce and loyal guardians. The Earth Dog is stable, sturdy, dependable but likely to get stuck in patterns of stagnation. Metal Dogs possess the keenest senses, intellects, and intuitions, but are prone towards being too sensitive and potentially fixed in their loyalties. Water Dogs are the most emotional, generous, and kind but tend towards devotion driven by sentiment and will devote themselves to hopeless causes.
I hope you have enjoyed this exposition of Dog Qi, which completes our study of the Twelve Characters of Destiny. I encourage you to study your Year and Hour and also to remember that we can all express all Twelve Characters; these symbols are meant to cover the whole range of human behavior through time and have no rigid boundaries.
I hope you have found my take on the Animal Symbols helpful. Remember, Astrology is a tool for self-reflection that should make us gentle people. It should help us accept ourselves and others. Astrology is not a tool to escape or buffer from reality or exalt ourselves over others. May whatever insight this blog has produced be used for personal growth and spiritual realization for the benefit of all beings!
Due to the demand of school, I may not write for a while. Next, I hope to explore the 36 stars of the Polestar System and dive deeper into Tantrik and Daoist practice and cosmology—how do we integrate Astrology into the Dharma?
Thank you very much!
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
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