My inner voice warned me not to, but I took him home anyway. He was a young adult dog a friend of mine had asked me to take because her mother said, “no-way are you bringing that thing in this house.” I ignored the voice and reasoned to myself that I was seventeen, almost an adult, and could make my own decisions, right? I imagined me and my dog spending many quality years together. Roaming through the grass, perfectly trained, he would fetch and return every time, roll over eagerly, and then jump into my arms! Ta dah! I could just see him in my mind, like the Sphinx of Egypt, he would sit regally on the front porch and wait for me to get home in the evenings. Well, that is how I imagined it.
Not too long after I got the dog home, it pooped on the carpet then ate it, ran away, constantly dug up all my mom’s roses then chewed up all the molding on the door frames. About four hundred dollars later in vet bills and damages to the house and my relationship with my mother, I realized I had a lot to learn about dogs. In fact, I had a great epiphany about life; that if I wanted to get ahead in anything I would need mitigate life’s obstacles, and part of that was not creating my own!
It was not till thirty years later, after I had given the dog back, that I attempted the dog ownership thing again. Now with the resources, a house of my own, and the time to devote to a dog, it became a completely dissimilar experience. Learning how dogs communicate was the very first thing I had to learn. Some books on the subject and a dog trainer helped with that. I became like Anne Sullivan Macy, the teacher of Helen Keller. It was Anne, who had to break into Helen’s deaf and mute world, not the other way around, this took patience, love, and kindness. For me and my relationship with my dog it was the same, I was the one who had to make the effort, if I wanted to communicate with this dog. The miracle of Helen’s life resulted in the world receiving some profound quotes such as:
“The only thing worse than being blind is having no vision.”
Helen and Anne’s thrilling story is beloved by all who know it because that watershed moment, when communication first happened, understanding took place. For Helen, it meant a whole new world became opened to her, and for Anne, she must have felt a massive upwelling of pride for doing something so good, beautiful, and true. As in the case of St. Francis, his ability to communicate with animals, especially birds is legendary he, in my opinion was the first to really shine a light on how beautiful communication can be when done right.
I have always been in awe of people who can talk to animals. How a person can make a killer whale jump in the air, an elephant bow, or a dog bark on command. It all boils down to the art of communication, and Saint Francis had it! That is why he is a saint. His love for God was so immense that he had love for all God’s creatures, people, birds and even wolves. Communication was so important to Francis that he even tried to negotiate peace between Christians and Muslims during the fifth Crusade.
St. Francis’s feast day was this past week. Our Deacon performed a Blessing of the Animals ceremony, and I brought my dog Sallie. She sat regally like a Sphynx while she got blessed with Holy water, and later we went to the park where she fetched and returned every time. We have spent many happy years together, now a middle-aged cattle dog, we have some years left to journey this life together and communicate patience, love, and kindness as Francis would want it.