WWYD: “What Would Yaga Do?”

I think I’m supposed to be using my bloggery-space today to talk about the death of Osama bin Laden. Eh. Nah. You’ve already heard it all and the great thing is that we live in a country where we’re all allowed to express whatever it is we think, be it triumph or bloodthirst or outrage or fear. For my perspective, I was raised in a house where a kind of frontier justice was the order of the day, so do with that as you will. Even still, today’s post then perhaps comes at a good time, where I decide to turn my old dog’s blissfully ignorant ways into a brand spanking new religious path. Please to enjoy.

The old religions just ain’t cutting it no more. And so I like to let my brain visit the territory of “new religions,” coming up with spiritual paths that have not yet before been seen, imagined, or followed. It’s like, I’ll run into the living room and I’ll yell to my wife: “Tacos! What about a religion based on tacos? It could be, I dunno, Tacoism, or, The Church of Fuck Yeah, Tacos. What do you think? We could write the holy book on a flour tortilla, the words written with grill marks!” And at that point she looks at me like the lunatic I am, and I run off to…well, probably chase moths or gum a light-switch if I know me.

And boy, do I know me.

This time, however, the idea for a religion was not mine, but rather, hers.

We were in the car a day or two after putting our old shepherd, Yaga, to sleep, and we were reminiscing: how she’d chase him around the living room, how he’d eat great muzzle-fuls of snow, how he’d lay under the table and get up suddenly and whack his head on the table without giving a shit. We joked, even with tears in our eyes, about how even though he was gone he’d never be gone because we will endlessly find piles of his hair in untold corners — they’ll blow in like tumbleweeds, a fuzzy reminder of the dog we had, the dog we loved. I even said, hey, if we really wanted, we could just collect some of that dog fur and tape it all together, then stick on a pair of googly eyes and we could have another Yaga — if not a doppelganger, then at least some kind of hairy idol, a graven image of the old beast.

Mostly, though, the talk orbited what a good, sweet, and dopey dog he was.

It was then that she said, “We should aspire to be more like him. Instead of What Would Jesus Do, it could be WWYD, What Would Yaga Do?” It seemed like a good idea. Our modern lives are filled with a number of woes and stresses that are largely manufactured for no other reason than to fill spaces: whether it’s getting angry in traffic or feeling self-conscious about X, Y or Z, we all have our own self-spun stressors.

So, I thought, hell with it. Let’s do it. Let’s print that shit. Let’s get a gospel together and throw together some tenets and — boo-bam — we have ourselves a religion. I always say that those we love gain immortality through our memories, right? Why not take it one step further and make a whole damn religion? That requires, though, that I come up with some precepts based on WWYD, and here they be.

Yagaism. The Gospel According To Goofball. WWYD?

Ignorance Is Truly Bliss

Yaga wasn’t dumb, though you’d think it, sometimes. He’d have this look on his face like… “What? Is something happening? Where am I?” Hell, other times you wouldn’t even glean a confused internal monologue: instead in that stare you’d hear crickets chirping, brooks babbling, a breeze shaking a field of wildflowers. But he wasn’t dumb. He figured things out all the time: doors, baby-gates, how to steal food when nobody was looking.

Instead, I prefer to think of him as blissfully unaware. Life was just easier when he could sit there and pant and stare. Doubly true when allowed to do so outside a car window.

The lesson: sometimes it’s good to turn your brain off. Shut that shit down. Take some time and tune out the noise: the news, social media, work, your nagging inner monologues.

Become the cricket chirp, the brook babble, the wind-in-the-wildflowers.

Pain Is Fleeting

At some point, Yaga must’ve gone from cat to cat and stolen their many lives. He was a stone’s throw from immortal, that dog. Rat poison, chocolate, onions, elk attack, Lyme disease, cancer of the paw, falling down steps, a ride in a cop car. And none of that speaks to the daily indiscretions of Yaga thunking his head on something. He’d stand up or look around and — bam — nail his head into the corner of a TV stand or the underside of a coffee table.

It never fazed him. Even the rat poison. (Not that I recommend feeding your dogs rat poison, mind you. He learned how to open a cabinet and ate a whole box of D-Con. See? He was smart. But also: ignorant.)

The lesson: Do not let pain and indignity affect you. Let it roll off you.

Endure the head-whacks, the elk-attacks, the bellies full of rat-killer.

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Stop And Sniff Some Asses

Asses and crotches, actually. I was told that he was a mix between a Belgian Shepherd and a Chow-Chow, but you ask me, he was a hybrid designer pooch born of a certified Crotch-Hound and Ass-Terrier. Come to think of it, he also had a fondness for smelling the pee-spots of other pups, wherein he was clearly deciphering some secret message left behind by the Subversive Canine Network. I guess that means he was at least 33% German Piss-hund (aka “The Urine Spaniel”), right? Yeah. Point is, he always took time out of his day to suck in a stubborn noseful of urine, crotch, or dog butt.

The lesson: Take some time out of your day to enjoy the little pleasures.

Inhale the sacred pee-fumes, crotch-vapors, and nether-scents.

When In Doubt, Pee On It

Speaking of pee, Yaga frequently contributed his own “golden messages” to the world. Tree? Lawn chair? Shrub? Small child? He’d pee on it. You give him half a chance, he’d pee on the little dog, too — she’d be squatting down and he’d figure, “I’ll add my own secret message to the puddle!” except the only problem was, he was so eager, he’d start up before she was even finished, forcing her to dart out of the way of his incoming stream. Let’s just be thankful she was quick on her feet, yeah?

The lesson: One of two, choose your own.

Either, “Mark your territory and own what’s yours,” or, “Reality is determined by those things upon which you can urinate; if you cannot cast your urine upon it, then it does not exist.”

Behold the golden truth, the gleaming stream, the pee-pee dance of leg-lifting enlightenment.

Life Is Too Short To Poop In One Place

I just can’t stop talking about one’s bodily waste, can I? Well, this is terribleminds, after all. Hey, shut up, it’s relevant. See, Yaga was not a conventional pooper. Your normal dog, well, he’ll find that one magic place to poop and there shall he deposit his little contribution. Yaga, on the other hand, was not content to merely sit still. He walked when he pooped. That’s right. He did what you might term “The Dooky Shuffle,” or, as we sometimes called it, “The Circle of Love.” He’d poop and be all like, “Hey, I want to smell that flower over there,” and so he’d shimmy his way over toward the aforementioned flower, dropping the equivalent of an upended can of syrupy yams as he went. He did this all his life.

The lesson: Life is short so be like the shark (or Snow Shark) — poop forward, or drown. Embrace life and never stop moving. Put differently: don’t let your shit weigh your down.

Unfetter yourself of spatial anchors, heavy weights, needless waste.

Unconditional Love Will Get You Through The Day

Yaga was a beast made of love (and, well, 80 pounds of black, wispy hair that had the ability to choke even the most stalwart of vacuums). He loved anyone and everyone without fear, without condition. A serial killer could kick down the door wearing the skins of our neighbors and Yaga would greet him like that serial killer was a lost uncle deserving of only hand-licks and crotch-nuzzles. I’m sure many found Yaga’s unhindered love unsettling — our other dog, the Taco Terrier, is far more like us as humans. She’s distrustful and uncertain. You come at her with a free hand she’ll wonder what you plan to do with that hand. Something sinister? Probably. Thus it is deserving of scorn.

Yaga had no scorn. Hell, the little dog would sometimes bite his face and he was totally okay with that. Tail wagging even as she clamped down on his slobbery jowl. Because, y’know, man. Love. Sweet love.

The lesson: Love beyond the margins. Love unconditionally. Find trust. Don’t be so pissed off and suspicious all the time. Bliss out. Radiate dopey-faced happy-making kindness.

Exude love despite the facey-bitings, the interlopers, the heaps and mounds of cynicism and distrust.

The Best Thing You Can Do Is Be Near To The Ones You Love

Yaga’s number one goal in life: to be near to those he cared about. He was a Velcro Dog through and through. Wherever you were, well, that’s where he wanted to be. You feel bad now because, at the time, it feels annoying. “Hey, do you mind not being up my ass? I’m trying to do laundry.” “I love you.” “I know you love me, but I need to move and not trip and die.” “I love you so much.” “Fine, yes, I love you too.” “Okay.” He was the canine version of a six-shooter or colostomy bag: forever at your hip.

It was, I suspect, his greatest pleasure. He’d sleep by our door at night. He’d hew close if outside. You move from one room to the next, even in his last days, he’d slowly rouse his numb haunches and follow you.

The lesson: The ones you love and who love you in return are the ones who count.

Become Velcro, duct tape, and super-glue when love is on the line.


Some dude cuts you off in traffic? Ask yourself: WWYD? What Would Yaga Do? He’d love that guy unconditionally. Or pee on his car.

Lose your job? Smash your toe on a house robot? Suffer a breakup? WWYD, motherfucker. He’d ignore the pain. He’d pretend everything was all good. No questions asked, buddy.

Not sure where to go? What to do? Confused? Dub-Dub-Why-Dee. Yaga wouldn’t think twice. He’d just void his bowels and keep on trucking. Long as he’s near the ones he loves, it’ll all work out in the end.

All hail the mighty slack-jawed tongue-wagging prophet.

All hail, Priests of Yagaism.

All sing the hymn of the question, What Would Yaga Do?

Amen, so say we all, and woof-woof.


  • I had a black lab mutt who was a poop-walker. He did all kinds of crazy stuff, too. He once ate through my grandma’s purse to get to a candy bar, and snacked on her prozac along the way.

    As a puppy, he ate a bar of soap, which landed him at the vet. He was the only pet there after-hours, and they pampered him. After that, he loved going to the vet. “Judy! Lookin’ good! Suzanne! Have you lost weight? Marty, hey! Let me sniff your ass.”

    He died a year ago in March. After eleven years together, it was tough. When we finally moved out of that house almost a year later, we still had dog-hair tumbleweeds, and we were still picking dog hairs out of food.

    Yagaism sounds like a religion I can get behind.

    Woof woof!

  • Yaga was a good one, that’s for sure. The unconditional love bit (even if the person is a serial killer, wearing the skin of your neighbor’s) was hilarious. My neighbor’s golden retriever is like she. She LOVES me. Every time she spots me, she bounds across their lawn, as fast as her puppy feet can carry her, and comes for a pet and a hug. It is the cutest thing ever. That dog doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but is a heap of wonder, love, and a ridiculously thick coat.

    And yes, I *do* hug the neighbor’s animals. I’m only a little bit Elmyra. *grin* Great post, C.

  • A nice set of philosophies to live by. If more people did even half of these, we’d all be better off. Go Yagga! (Okay, since it is 5/4 Star Wars Day I just had a vision of Yagga in Jedi Robes. Must be kizzmet, karma, or just Yagga Dagga Do!)
    Show the love, ya’ll!

  • Such an excellent post. Dogs are masters at being in the moment, not thinking, just being, and sniffing what the wind brings. The moment is good.

    It’s funny when they think. You can see them doing it, and it looks strange on them.

    Hope this writing brings you some peace re dog loss.

    ps I totally love Lois McMaster Bujold’s Quintarian religion. Makes complete sense to me.

  • Being a gentle giant isn’t hard when you’re around nice folks; even the bitchy little sister has good days.

    But I once knew a woman, older than me, who might as well have been wearing a KICK ME sign. Her various husbands were mean to her, her kids were mean to her, co-workers were mean to her, her neighbors were mean to her, she was even sexually assulted by neighbors. Because they could.

    She was intelligent enough, and I tried to get through to her. “Can you toughen up?”

    “No,” she answered sincerely with wide blue eyes, “it’s not in my nature at all.”

    I tried to cover her back at work, but that wasn’t much.

    I do believe that LOVE CONQUERS ALL. Eventually. But what happens in the meantime? Suffering until Lady Karma (or God) gets mad and gets involved? Perhaps that’s it.

  • I loved this. I have a belgian sheperd and God, this made me want to go outside and hug him.
    But it’s two in the morning over here, so I’ll wait tomorrow. Better go to sleep now.

    Unconditional Love to all!

  • Our last MBF (man’s-best -friend) was a puppy chihuahua mix from an animal adoption agency, and he eventually grew to be 50 pounds . . . no wonder that place went out of business (chihuahua, my ass). Nevertheless, he became our security system and dish-pre-washer. Never met a fresh walnut, snowball, sprinkler or kickball he didn’t like. Was regularly harassed by our cat. Turned his nose up at dogfood, but performed Houdini-level magic tricks to get at garbage. Leaked fluids of all types, at any time.

    Had to make the final vet trip a year and a half ago. Sometime I still imagine seeing him curled in his chair, or showing up at the door. Prozac with fur.

  • I have a border collie and now I want to go hug that little fluff ball. I was laughing so hard I started crying, and then I was so sad I started crying. I never even met your dog and haven’t been reading your blog long enough to get a sense for him, but any dog death is a cause for tears. Yaga sounds like a wonderful dog. May he be chewing on the robes of your guardian angel. Unconditional love to all!

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