Children, by their very nature, are open to so much they find all around them, whether it is in the sky, in the air or under the sea. Whether in forests or cities, a young person can sense, feel and know so much. There is that magical capacity of a child that seems to absorb and learn – even though there is no obvious lesson around. Further, children know if people like them before there is any clear evidence one way or the other. All of this and so much more we experience around our children. Many of us lose some of these gifts as we grow older. I think we shift our experiences from the heart and senses to the head!
I have come to believe that dogs, in their own way, often have some of the abilities of a child. Those of us, who are so blessed to have lived with a dog, have many stories about amazing, unexpected behaviors on the part of our pets. They are stories of awareness, helping, responding, anticipating and apparently understanding and appreciating and so much more. There are many examples.
On the topic of how a dog has helped a person deal with grief and loss, there are numerous accounts and, frankly from an objective point of view, they are almost hard to believe. Yet I now know they are likely true. The presence of dogs among the elderly and infirm is an increasing phenomenon and for a good reason. Dogs can reach people where they find them, even if that person is suffering from dementia, severe handicaps or Alzheimer’s disease.
On more than one occasion, on request, I have brought Lily, my English Labrador retriever, into a hospice unit to comfort a dying patient. The situations were difficult: sounds, smells and many off-putting aspects of the scene. However, Lily, with my leading her, passed by all of this and any other distraction, to go to the suffering person and allowed herself to be patted – licking the hand of the terminally ill person. The effect was a joy to behold.
The more I live around dogs, and that certainly is easy to do in Charlestown, the more I am amazed and humbled by the beauty and gift of this animal. Increasingly, I realize that a pet, a living, breathing miracle of creation, is none other than one more of God’s wonders. When one lives with a dog for awhile, one can see and appreciate the wonder of God’s work of creation. And if one becomes too busy to notice all of this, in all likelihood a good dog will change that. When I have been working long hours and have not taken a break, Lily is in the habit of walking over to my desk and poking me with her snout – it is time to quit and go for a walk – and she is right!
I had an old uncle who once told me a wonderful Irish saying: “You can always tell a poor man, because he has a dog. You can always tell a very poor man, because he has two dogs!” When I look at Lily snoring on the other side of the office, I think, maybe I am not poor enough; and than I look again and know I am very rich.
~ Fr. Ronan ~
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time August 24/25, 2019
The Gospel reading today starts with a question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus offers only a simple reply: Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Many will try to enter and will not be able. Good stewards know there is only one, narrow gate. Not everything will fit. This narrow gate has no room for our accomplishments. No room for our money. No room for our possessions. No room for anything else but those who’ve been good stewards of the Gospel. We can’t custom build our own gates either. There is only one, narrow gate that happens to be open for a time, but for how long? What is our plan of action to get through that gate?