By Amber Polo –

Some time ago I interviewed Sri Guruji Lionheart, the world famous cat destined to serve at Sedona’s 7 Centers Yoga Art’s Temple Cat. Now Jackson, the Temple Dog, has granted me an interview about his path from Shelter Pup to Temple Dog.

Path to Temple Dog
In 2015 Jackson found Ruth Hartung, better known as Sraddhasagar, Director of 7 Centers Yoga Arts. A renter who was staying in Sraddha’s garden apartment adopted a seven-month-old pup from the Humane Society of Sedona. The pup had been in the shelter since he’d been four months old. The renter (supposedly) was told the dog, already medium-sized, would grow into a small to medium sized-dog. As things that are meant to be happen, Sraddha began walking the dog named Jackson. The tenant left. Jackson stayed. And became 7 Centers’ Temple Dog.

Seven Centers was established in 1998 on 89A near Airport Road and moved to its present location on Mountain Road in 2003. The building owned by the late Joe Beeler, the famous Western artist, was used as his art studio and foundry. Beeler agreed to rent to a yoga studio after learning more about yoga, appreciating his space would be used for their mutual goals of education and healing.

The Life of a Temple Dog
Jackson waits at the front door ready to start his work day which begins with driving to the center at 7 a.m. When there is a training or workshop in session, he lines up with the students for breakfast ever hopeful that Uta, the Center’s Ayurvedic Chef has set aside a hard-boiled egg for him. More about his diet later.

Next, students are given karma yoga tasks which often include everyday chores to prepare the space for the day’s activities. Karma yoga is the spiritual practice of selfless action performed for the benefit of others and community. One lucky student is chosen to take Jackson for a walk, a popular and coveted assignment. Or rather Jackson’s karma yoga is to walk a student. It is his first chance on his beat to check out the Sunset neighborhood Park to be sure there are no javelina, jackrabbits, or squirrels to chase off.

Returning to the Center, it’s time for yoga. Jackson has his own yoga mat, however he finds it’s more fun to lie on students mats for Sun Salutations. He has learned from Lionheart that his place is in the center of any circle of students and has been known to snore during classes. He is calm and laid back as fits his role particularly when his tummy is rubbed. However in his youthful days he was only allowed to stay in classes for an hour before he was sent home. His energy was a bit high, and students could be so easily distracted.

Later, he’ll gets a longer afternoon walk. Jackson loves walking, though, like other high-minded dogs, he can be stubborn and opinionated and may refuse to go on a boring walk. He has a social schedule and is taken to the dog park weekly where the he meets many special buddies and girlfriends. Jackson also loves excursions to PetSmart since he gets to go inside on a leash. He enjoys smelling all the toys and treats, doing tricks for the staff for a biscuit, and sometimes goes home with a stuffed animal.

Duties of a Temple Dog
Temple Dogs are considered calm, patient, and aloof. Their temple duties include Sentry, Protector, and Ambassador.

As the Center’s sentry Jackson takes his job seriously. He happily interrupts classes to announce the arrival a FedEx or UPS truck. He opens the door, runs out, and jumps into the truck to search for biscuits. Although Jackson loves wild animals, he takes exception to squirrels. During a recent squirrel infestation Jackson vigorously protected all cars in the parking lot from those damaging creatures who jumped onto hoods. Jackson takes his job as diplomatic greeter seriously and is a friendly mentor to other dogs as long as they understand their place in the hierarchy.

Jackson and Other Creatures
Jackson respects all sentient life (except squirrels). He adoringly chases Temple Cat Lionheart, and competes with his sister Xena, Junior Temple Cat, for attention. Sweetums, a black domestic bunny, is a special friend and puts up with his adoring kisses. Jackson must have some terrier in his genes, for he loves to dig. He listens for gophers and digs to find them. Following the practice of ahimsa (do no harm), he considers it a game of catch and release.

He’s a great swimmer and loves to swim in the Creek, especially during the summer heat. The Creek is an excellent place to observe Sedona’s wildlife. There, Jackson joyfully chases jack rabbits, coyotes, javelina, and deer, though he seems disappointed that few enjoy the game as much as he does. He has been skunked but didn’t find the odor on him objectionable.

I’ve heard that Temple Dogs and guardians of Buddhist monasteries are often Tibetan Mastiffs, the most ancient breed of dogs, whose genetic heritage is most closely linked to grey wolves. Many temple dogs are huge, some weigh up to 220 pounds. Jackson once weighed 96 pounds which though impressive, was the result of too many UPS cookies and special treats from his large number of friends. He, after treatment for environmental allergies with a raw diet, is now looking good at a healthy 72 pounds and celebrated his sixth birthday on January 28,

Asked about Jackson, Sraddha says, “Often students come to 7 Centers from around the globe leaving behind family, friends, and pets as they embark on a personal journey of growth through the yoga teacher trainings. Everyday Jackson enthusiastically greets every one, ready for the day, and to play, to walk, to eat, to do yoga nidra. These simple joys bring one into the present moment. This is Jackson’s greatest gift as a temple dog.”

7 Centers Yoga Arts
2115 Mountain Road, Sedona