Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


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Soul Friend, Old Friend, Fur Friend, Three Years On

The ancient Celts kept in touch with their Creator by touching creation. All of nature breathed in and breathed out –the very breath of God  — and all the world was soaked in the Spirit. The Celtic Creator dwelt in ancient trees and streams and holy wells.

Immersed in their pagan past, Celtic Christians called their God, “Lord of the Elements”. Christian monasteries sprang up on druid holy grounds —  in the midst of oak groves and sacred springs.

The Celts had a quiet care for all living things. And the saints had a particular affinity for all creatures great and small. St. Kevin sheltered a black bird’s nest in his outstretched arms. St. Ciarain befriended a boar who cleared his land. And St. Columba’s white horse wept at his master’s death.

And then there is the story of St Mungo and the Hound, as told by Robert Van de Weyer in “Celtic Fire”.

“Mungo knew that God was calling him to found a new monastery amongst his tribesman to bear witness to the love of Christ. So he set out from home in search of a suitable place.”

“Soon a wild hound appeared and began to lead him. The hound took him over steep mountains, into deep valleys, and through dark forests. Each night Mungo and the hound lay down next to one another; and before they fell asleep they talked to each other, Mungo speaking in words, and the hound replying with barks and growls”

“Together they arrived at a beautiful lush valley, with a clear blue river running through it. And around the valley they could see little columns of smoke with many people living there The hound stopped near the river bank, and began scratching the ground with his feet, tearing up tufts of grass. Mungo fell to his knees in prayer asking God if this was truly the place to build the monastery.”

“Kissed by a robin on the cheek, welcomed by the birds Mungo knew this was the place. The hound went off to collect branches, and the bird brought leaves and grass, and soon Mungo had built himself a hut.”

“Then the hound came up to Mungo and growled loudly, bowing its head asking Mungo for a blessing. So Mungo laid his hand on his head and prayed for God’s guidance on it. The hound went off and in the following days and months and sent others to join Mungo. And the brothers came to found this new place. And the robin and the hound helped each brother to build himself a hut”.

“And the community grew, the local people came wanting to see their new neighbors. Mungo and his brothers gladly welcomed the sick into the community, nursing them back to health, and shared their simple food with hungry travellers. And soon the monastery was renowned for its generosity and kindness to all in need. And many people embraced the gospel which inspired that unassuming love.”

Mungo’s monastery was founded where now Glasgow Cathedral stands. Founded by three brothers: the monk, the robin, and the hound.

You may think this a fairy story, a whimsical tale of long ago and far away, Maybe a Disney feature with cartoon creatures. I am not sure that history will witness to its truth.

Bailey

Bailey Peacock 2000 – 2015

But I can. I can because of a certain hound of renown whose name was Bailey.

A decade ago, divorced and alone, I sold my little bungalow and set out to find a new home of my very own — and Bailey led the way. Bailey was Jacob’s, my youngest son’s dog, Part retriever, part shepherd, he was not much of either. But he was as gentle and companionable as the day is long. And stupid, yes stupid. He barely knew his name.

 

All three of my children have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone. But Bailey always stayed and never went. So I am the one who walked him, and fed him, and took care of him. And he has been my solitary roommate this decade long.

And like all roommates Bailey and I did not always get along. This roommate peed on my carpet, stole underwear out of the hamper, chewed up paper towels, drooled all over the couch, and ransacked the trash. We had our arguments and I admit losing my temper and calling him awful names. He would hide under the dining room table and come out when the coast was clear. Sweet dog that he was he never held it against me.

In my condo community Bailey took me walking several times a day. And the older he got, he took me walking several, several times a day. It was Bailey who introduced me to my neighbors: the three girls down stairs with first their French poodle and now a German Shepherd; the lady next door with the persnickety cats; the great big jock with the tiny little Yorkie; and the lady right below me who never learned Bailey’s name. But now I know theirs — all because of Bailey.

Bailey was not much of a watchdog. There was never a stranger, a delivery person, or a postman, or a friend at my door that he did not think was his friend too. I believe even a robber would have found Bailey to be his true and helpful friend, — following him all around the house while he robbed me blind. But Bailey did have a protective streak in him from time to time. When a certain male friend would visit, Bailey always jumped up on the couch between us. I am not sure what he thought he was protecting me from, but protect me he did.

And I had a strange and lovely attachment to this dog for 15 years. But he was just a dog, right? And now Bailey is gone.

102 people years-old Bailey could barely hear and barely see and barely walk and barely get up and down the stairs anymore. Sweet dog, all my children over the 2014 holidays got to spend time with him. And we all talked about how it was getting to be “Bailey’s time”.  And then January 16th, 2015 Bailey’s time came.

And I knew it would be sad and knew I would shed a few tears and I thought I would get through it just fine — collect myself, climb back in the car and head back home. Just a dog right?

Sitting on the blanket with Bailey as he drifted into his last deep sleep, I cried like a baby. Stroking his fur and holding his paw, I kept repeating, “All dogs go to heaven. All dogs go to heaven.”

I sobbed on the way home. I sobbed with two of my three of my children on the phone. And though Bailey rarely barked, my house was strangely quiet today. When I woke up this morning I had a dull empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t go away.

I lost the soul friend I never knew I had.

Anam is the Gaelic word for soul. Cara is the Gaelic word for friend. Bailey was my Anam Cara. In the Celtic Church an Anam Cara was a confessor, a confidante and a spiritual companion. With such a soul friend you can share your inmost self, mind, and heart. Everyone needs a soul friend who knows you and understands you just as you are – and loves you anyway. John O’Donohue says that where we are understood — we are home.

Many of us may have an Anam Cara of whom we are not aware. Blinded by busyness we do not see the soul friend standing right in front of us. And it is only in their absence that we ache for and recognize the blessing of their presence.

And now I know dear Bailey, that you were my Anam Cara. Now I know, sweet, sweet dog you were a soul friend to me.

All dogs go to heaven.

Soli Deo Gratias

JoaniSign


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“All things bright and beautiful”…and then there was Bailey

Bailey, the stupid therapy dog

Bailey, the stupid therapy dog

The Feast of the Friendly Beasts is just around the corner, October the fourth.

Saint Francis I am not.

One of my favorite hymns may not be familiar to you. I am sure you will recognize the tune but not the sacrilegious text – written by none other than Eric Idle of Monty Python. It goes something like this:

“All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The Lord God made the lot”

And it gets better …

“Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom
He made their horrid wings”

Monty Python takes a sweet and childlike hymn and rips it’s heart out. Not very godly, huh?

This was not always my favorite version. Back in the 70’s I was entranced by “All Creatures Great and Small”– not from the hymn but the BBC series of the same name. Based on the quaint stories by the country vet, James Herriot, each episode featured the good doctor birthing a calf, setting a broken stallion’s leg, inoculating sheep, or chasing down chickens. Idyllic and bucolic, this pastoral little BBC program boasted some pretty green grass — grass much greener than the stuff that grew in my backyard.

When I was a child, my mom firmly believed that animals belonged outside. At my house there were no such things as “house pets”. We did have a dog, a Dalmatian named Molly, but she lived in the backyard. Not particularly well trained, she bit one of the neighbor kids. My dad in canine parlance pronounced her a “bitch” and off Molly went to live at “the farm upstate.”

Then at about the age of seven, I came home with a stray cat. I was mesmerized by its green eyes, but even more so I marveled at its miraculous ability to always land on it’s feet. I named it “Twinkle Toes”. With my mom’s red nail polish, I painted my new cat’s name on a cardboard box and lined it with dish towels. My mom called Animal Rescue and the dog catcher came and took my cat away.

I vaguely remember a gold fish or two after that floating at the top of their bowl. Followed of course by a quick prayer and a flush of the toilet.

But then I saw All Creatures Great and Small, a virtual revelation to this teenager. Inspired, I worked two part time jobs. The first was one disastrous week at a veterinary office. Wearing scrubs and rubber gloves I cleaned and hosed down kennels. It was cacophonous with cats crying and dogs barking. It was odiferous and challenging to my olfactory glands. One sunny, summer morning I arrived at work to find my co-workers stuffing a dead dog into a large, empty dog food bag. All Things Bright and Beautiful it was not so I quit on the spot. I lasted all of seven days.

But I wasn’t ready just yet to let go of my dream of working with all creatures both small and great.

Then one Christmas vacation, I took a job at a pet shop in Arlington. And for a while it was blissful – feeding the fish, taking care of birds, playing with puppies. But it did not last too long. On Christmas Eve, a customer came in to pick up the two little white zebra finches he had chosen as gifts for his daughter. I helped him pick out a cage, choose the bird toys, and recommended the best birdseed. Then I carefully reached my hand into the cage to retrieve each tiny bird and place it in a cardboard carrier box – to ferry the feathered creatures safely home. But as I pulled my hand from the cage, the tiny little bird wriggled free. It wriggled free and flew straight into the store’s front window — straight into the monkey cage of a monkey named Franics (yes, Francis!). Francis caught the little bird and popped it into its mouth. That’s right. Francis ate the finch — on Christmas Eve. All ThingBright and Beautiful it was not and I was fired on the spot.

So twenty years on, I swore that as a parent things would be different. And so my kids did have aquariums and gold fish bowls. Growing up they had three cats — Lucy, Katrina and Rotten Tommy. Rotten Tommy was a much beloved smoky gray cat that loved my son, Zach. Rotten Tommy followed Zach everywhere just like a puppy would. He slept on his bed and brought him little gifts like dead mice and captured crickets. Zach loved him so much that when Rotten Tommy went to his greater glory, Zach asked our rector at Immanuel on the Hill to add him to the Sunday prayers. And add the cat he did — to the prayers for the departed – as Mr. R. Thomas.

And then there was Bailey…. Bailey was supposedly my baby boy’s, Jacob’s dog. So eager to have a dog of his own, Jacob at the age of 10 signed up for an after school 4-H Class on pet care. He learned how important it was to walk them, feed them, brush them, play with them, and teach them tricks. Who could refuse such a deserving ten year old a dog? It took a while to settle on what size and what kind but we eventually found Bailey. Half Collie, half Golden, he was happily already housebroken. Bailey was blessed with  a sweet temperament, barely ever barked and he was profoundly stupid. Yes, stupid, I say with affection. Bailey barely knew his own name. Part Collie he was no shepherd. Part Golden he was no retriever. And for the last nine years Bailey, Jacob’s dog, became Joani’s dog. Joani’s therapy dog, so to speak.

Jacob recently moved to North Carolina and now lives in a house with a big back yard. At first I begged Jacob to take Bailey with him. Bailey would be happier there of course. But then my bipolar brain thought better of it. Comfy on my couch, I could comfortably just stay inside. Buried in my books, I could easily wind up staying up late reading just about every night of the week. Living happily inside my head, I could possibly not make it out of my living room. Hooked on Hulu, I might just become a hermit in my own house.

So Bailey became a balm for my bipolar brain. He walked me several times a day. He got me out into the great outdoors whether I liked it or not. And he got me out and about – sun, rain, sleet, or snow. I could make no excuses. Bailey was my personal trainer putting me through the paces — 10,000 steps a day. And Bailey introduced me to my neighbors– the three little girls with the German Shepherd, the middle aged guy with two mutts, the couple downstairs with the Golden, and the woman across the street with the Westie — the Westie who always wears a sweater no matter the weather.

It was not quite All Things Bright and Beautiful but I must admit it was a good and joyful thing to live with and (dare I say) love this dog — Bailey, the stupid therapy dog — may he rest in peace.

So friends, tell me all about your creatures great and small.

JoaniSign

Note: To my loyal readers who might notice, this is an update of a previous post from May of 2014 — in honor of the Feast of St. Francis. Bring your beloved creatures great and small to the Blessing of the Animals, Sunday, October 4th, 11:30 a.m. on the steps of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 1608 Russell Rd, Alexandria, VA, 22301.


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Soul Friend, Old Friend, Fur-Friend

Bailey Peacock, 2000 - 2015

Bailey Peacock, 2000 – 2015

The ancient Celts kept in touch with their Creator by touching creation. All of nature breathed in and breathed out –the very breath of God  — and all the world was soaked in the Spirit. The Celtic Creator dwelt in ancient trees and streams and holy wells.

Immersed in their pagan past, Celtic Christians called their God, “Lord of the Elements”. Christian monasteries sprang up on druid holy grounds —  in the midst of oak groves and sacred springs.

The Celts had a quiet care for all living things. And the saints had a particular affinity for all creatures great and small. St. Kevin sheltered a black bird’s nest in his outstretched arms. St. Ciarain befriended a boar who cleared his land. And St. Columba’s white horse wept at his master’s death.

And then there is the story of St Mungo and the Hound, as told by Robert Van de Weyer in “Celtic Fire”.

“Mungo knew that God was calling him to found a new monastery amongst his tribesman to bear witness to the love of Christ. So he set out from home in search of a suitable place.”

“Soon a wild hound appeared and began to lead him. The hound took him over steep mountains, into deep valleys, and through dark forests. Each night Mungo and the hound lay down next to one another; and before they fell asleep they talked to each other, Mungo speaking in words, and the hound replying with barks and growls”

“Together they arrived at a beautiful lush valley, with a clear blue river running through it. And around the valley they could see little columns of smoke with many people living there The hound stopped near the river bank, and began scratching the ground with his feet, tearing up tufts of grass. Mungo fell to his knees in prayer asking God if this was truly the place to build the monastery.”

“Kissed by a robin on the cheek, welcomed by the birds Mungo knew this was the place. The hound went off to collect branches, and the bird brought leaves and grass, and soon Mungo had built himself a hut.”

“Then the hound came up to Mungo and growled loudly, bowing its head asking Mungo for a blessing. So Mungo laid his hand on his head and prayed for God’s guidance on it. The hound went off and in the following days and months and sent others to join Mungo. And the brothers came to found this new place. And the robin and the hound helped each brother to build himself a hut”.

“And the community grew, the local people came wanting to see their new neighbors. Mungo and his brothers gladly welcomed the sick into the community, nursing them back to health, and shared their simple food with hungry travellers. And soon the monastery was renowned for its generosity and kindness to all in need. And many people embraced the gospel which inspired that unassuming love.”

Mungo’s monastery was founded where now Glasgow Cathedral stands. Founded by three brothers: the monk, the robin, and the hound.

You may think this a fairy story, a whimsical tale of long ago and far away, Maybe a Disney feature with cartoon creatures. I am not sure that history will witness to its truth.

But I can. I can because of a certain hound of renown whose name was Bailey.

A decade ago, divorced and alone, I sold my little bungalow and set out to find a new home of my very own — and Bailey led the way. Bailey was Jacob’s, my youngest son’s dog, Part retriever, part shepherd, he was not much of either. But he was as gentle and companionable as the day is long. And stupid, yes stupid. He barely knew his name.

All three of my children have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone. But Bailey always stayed and never went. So I am the one who walked him, and fed him, and took care of him. And he has been my solitary roommate this decade long.

And like all roommates Bailey and I did not always get along. This roommate peed on my carpet, stole underwear out of the hamper, chewed up paper towels, drooled all over the couch, and ransacked the trash. We had our arguments and I admit losing my temper and calling him awful names. He would hide under the dining room table and come out when the coast was clear. Sweet dog that he was he never held it against me.

In my condo community Bailey took me walking several times a day. And the older he got, he took me walking several, several times a day. It was Bailey who introduced me to my neighbors: the three girls down stairs with first their French poodle and now a German Shepherd; the lady next door with the persnickety cats; the great big jock with the tiny little Yorkie; and the lady right below me who never learned Bailey’s name. But now I know theirs — all because of Bailey.

Bailey was not much of a watchdog. There was never a stranger, a delivery person, or a postman, or a friend at my door that he did not think was his friend too. I believe even a robber would have found Bailey to be his true and helpful friend, — following him all around the house while he robbed me blind. But Bailey did have a protective streak in him from time to time. When a certain male friend would visit, Bailey always jumped up on the couch between us. I am not sure what he thought he was protecting me from, but protect me he did.

And I have had a strange and lovely attachment to this dog for 15 years. But he was just a dog, right? And now Bailey is gone.

102 people years-old Bailey could barely hear and barely see and barely walk and barely get up and down the stairs anymore. Sweet dog, all my children over the holidays got to spend time with him. And we all talked about how it was getting to be “Bailey’s time”. And yesterday Bailey’s time came.

And I knew it would be sad and knew I would shed a few tears and I thought I would get through it just fine — collect myself, climb back in the car and head back home. Just a dog right?

Sitting on the blanket with Bailey as he drifted into his last deep sleep, I cried like a baby. Stroking his fur and holding his paw, I kept repeating, “All dogs go to heaven. All dogs go to heaven.”

I sobbed on the way home. I sobbed with two of my three of my children on the phone. And though Bailey rarely barked, my house was strangely quiet today. When I woke up this morning I had a dull empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t go away.

I lost the soul friend I never knew I had.

Anam is the Gaelic word for soul. Cara is the Gaelic word for friend. Bailey was my Anam Cara. In the Celtic Church an Anam Cara was a confessor, a confidante and a spiritual companion. With such a soul friend you can share your inmost self, mind, and heart. Everyone needs a soul friend who knows you and understands you just as you are – and loves you anyway. John O’Donohue says that where we are understood — we are home.

Many of us may have an Anam Cara of whom we are not aware. Blinded by busyness we do not see the soul friend standing right in front of us. And it is only in their absence that we ache for and recognize the blessing of their presence.

And now I know dear Bailey, that you were my Anam Cara. Now I know, sweet, sweet dog you were a soul friend to me.

All dogs go to heaven.

Soli Deo Gratias

JoaniSign


6 Comments

With Apologies to the Washington Post….

wash post 2006 list in and out

Washington Post Ins & Outs, 2006

 

I can think of no  better bipolar way to analyze the yins and yangs of the last twelve months than the infamous list of 100 Ins & Outs and Ups & Downs of 2014.

So with apologies to the Washington Post (my hometown newspaper!) and without editorial comment, and in no particular order, I submit this list for your kindly consideration. And I kindly encourage you for the sake of your brain to make a list of the same.

The Top 100 Ins & Outs of 2014

1. Size 10/Size 16

2. Emmanuel/All Saints

3. Big church on the boulevard/Little church behind the trees

4. Asics/Chucks

5. Reign/The Tudors

6. Writing/Reading

7. Orphan/Daughter

8. Guest Room/Kid’s Room

9. Dragging Bailey/Walking Bailey

10. Spotify/Itunes

11. Steady Teddy/Theodore Roosevelt

12. Dress up/Dress down

13. Huntley Meadows/Huntley Meadows

14. 100 mph/35 mph

15. Target/Target

16. Dresses/Pants

17. Tights/Socks

18. Libraries/Kindle Fire

19. Blogging/Journalling

20. More Coffee/Coffee

21. Staying alive/Scaling boulders

22. Greek yogurt/Ben & Jerry’s

23. Scrambled eggs/Fast food

24. Renting books/Buying books

25. 59/58

26. Plants/Flowers

27. Fruit smoothies/Rotten bananas

28. Patty Griffin/Emmy Lou Harris

29. Half marathon/Wii Fit

30. Honest/Polite

31. Boudica/Joan of Arc

32. Ghost stories/True stories

33. Jetsons/Flintstones

34. Cards/Email

35. Tumblr/Twitter

36. “Transparent”/”Scandal”

37. Lip gloss/Lip balm

38. Camera hog/Camera shy

39. Swimming/Floating

40. ccmccjr/cng

41. Liturgist/Chorister

42. 10,000 steps/5,000 steps

43. Irreverent/Reverend

44. Commentary/Commentaries

45. Dancing/Sitting

46. Heart/Head

47. Seminaries/Cemeteries

48. Second comings/Second helpings

49. Diva/Wouldn’t want to be ya

50. Single/Divorced

51. Credit/Debit

52. White Reindeer streaming/White Reindeer in theaters

53. Hyundai/Kia

54. Cosmologist/Scientologist

55. Neil deGrasse Tyson/L. Ron Hubbard

56. Challah/Bagels

57. Therapy/Therapy

58. St Nicholas/Santa Claus

59. Camelbak/Back pack

60. Episcopal/Anglican

61. Crazy Evangelist/Crazy

62. Differently Wired/Bipolar

63. BCP/eCP

64. Scully & Mulder/Mulder & Scully

65. Lucy/Ethel

66. Dragonflies/Fireflies

67. Selfish/Selfie

68. Hydrangeas/Sunflowers

69. Hardbacks/Paperbacks

70. Starlight/Sunlight

71. Heretic/Heretic

72. Rosary/Meditation

73. Yoga/Stretching

74. Epiphany/Christmas

75. Open Stacks/Circulation

76. Fiesta Ware/Hardware

77. The Steeldrivers/Stainless Steel

78. Late Night with Stephen Colbert/The Colbert Report

79. SpeakeasyDC/Speaking out

80. Mancini’s/St. Elmo’s

81. Shredding/Recycling

82. Turtleneck/Cardigan

83. Solids/Patterns

84. BMI/BVM

85. Pensacola/Rehoboth

86. Manic, manic/Hypomanic

87. Irish Thanksgiving/Regular Thanksgiving

88. Gay Wedding/Same-sex Blessing

89. Middle Management/Middle child

90. Warrior/Pacifist

91. Priest Associate/Priest

92. Brainiac/Maniac

93. Celebrant/Celibate

94. Sister-in-law/Sister

95. Sorrow/Grief

96. Like the bird/Peacock

97. DSW/Toms

98. Talking/Texting

99. Origins/Genesis

100. Fire starter/Fire fighter

and of course

101. Unorthodox & Unhinged

Happy New year!

JoaniSign


4 Comments

“All Things Bright and Beautiful” and then there was Bailey

Bailey, the stupid therapy dog

Bailey, the stupid therapy dog

The words to one of my favorite hymns may not be familiar to you. I am sure you will recognize the tune but not the sacrilegious text – written by none other than Eric Idle of Monty Python. It goes something like this:

“All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The Lord God made the lot”

And it gets better …

“Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom
He made their horrid wings”

Monty Python takes a sweet and childlike hymn and rips it’s heart out. Not very godly, huh?

This was not always my favorite version. Back in the 70’s I was entranced by All Things Bright and Beautiful –  not the hymn but the BBC series of the same name. Based on the quaint stories by the country vet, James Herriot, each episode featured the good doctor birthing a calf, setting a broken stallion’s leg, inoculating sheep, or chasing down chickens. Idyllic and bucolic, this pastoral little BBC program boasted some pretty green grass — grass much greener than the stuff that grew in my backyard.

When I was a child, my mom firmly believed that animals belonged outside. At my house there were no such things as “house pets”. We did have a dog, a Dalmatian named Molly, but she lived in the backyard. Not particularly well trained, she bit one of the neighbor kids. My dad in canine parlance pronounced her a “bitch” and off Molly went to live at “the farm upstate.”

Then at about the age of seven, I came home with a stray cat. I was mesmerized by its green eyes, but even more so I marveled at its miraculous ability to always land on it’s feet. I named it “Twinkle Toes”. With my mom’s red nail polish, I painted my new cat’s name on a cardboard box and lined it with dish towels. My mom called Animal Rescue and the dog catcher came and took my cat away.

I vaguely remember a gold fish or two after that floating at the top of their bowl. Followed of course by a quick prayer and a flush of the toilet.

But then I saw All Things Bright and Beautiful, a virtual revelation to this teenager. Inspired,  I worked two part time jobs. The first was one disastrous week at a veterinary office. Wearing scrubs and rubber gloves I cleaned and hosed down kennels. It was cacophonous with cats crying and dogs barking. It was odiferous and challenging to my olfactory glands. One sunny, summer morning I arrived at work to find my co-workers stuffing a dead dog into a large, empty dog food bag. All Things Bright and Beautiful this was not so I quit on the spot. I lasted all of seven days.

But I wasn’t ready just yet to let go of my dream of working with  All Creatures Great and Small.

Then one Christmas vacation, I took a job at a pet shop in Arlington. And for a while it was blissful – feeding the fish, taking care of birds, playing with puppies. But it did not last too long. On Christmas Eve, a customer came in to pick up the two little white zebra finches he had chosen as gifts for his daughter. I helped him pick out a cage, choose the bird toys, and recommended the best birdseed. Then I carefully reached my hand into the cage to retrieve each tiny bird and place it in a cardboard carrier box – to ferry the feathered creatures safely home. But as I pulled  my hand from the cage, the tiny little bird wriggled free. It wriggled free and flew straight into the store’s front window — straight into the monkey cage of a monkey named Franics. Francis caught the little bird and popped it into its mouth. That’s right. Francis ate the finch — on  Christmas Eve.  All Things Bright and Beautiful it was not and I was fired on the spot.

So twenty years on, I swore that as a parent things would be different. And so my kids did have aquariums and gold fish bowls. Growing up they had three cats — Lucy, Katrina and Rotten Tommy. Rotten Tommy was a much beloved smoky gray cat that loved my son, Zach. Rotten Tommy followed Zach everywhere just like a puppy would. He slept on his bed and brought him little gifts like dead mice and captured crickets.  Zach loved him so much that when Rotten Tommy went to his greater glory, Zach asked our rector at Immanuel on the Hill to add him to the Sunday prayers.  And add the cat he did — to the prayers for the departed – as Mr. R. Thomas.

And then there was Bailey…. Bailey is supposedly my baby boy’s, Jacob’s dog. So eager to have a dog of his own, Jacob at the age of 10 signed up for an after school  4-H Class on pet care. He learned how important it was to walk them, feed them, brush them, play with them, and teach them tricks. Who could refuse such a deserving ten year old a dog? It took a while to settle on what size and what kind but we eventually found Bailey. Half Collie, half Golden, he was happily already housebroken. Bailey has a sweet temperament, barely ever barks and he is profoundly stupid. Yes, stupid, I say with affection. Bailey barely knows his own name. Part Collie he is no shepherd. Part Golden he is no retriever. And 14 years on Bailey, Jacob’s dog, has now become Joani’s dog. Joani’s therapy dog, so to speak.

Jacob recently moved to North Carolina and now lives in a house with a big back yard. At first I begged Jacob to take Bailey with him. Bailey would be happier there of course. But then my bipolar brain thought better of it. Comfy on my couch, I could comfortably just stay inside.  Buried in my books, I could easily wind up staying up late reading just about every night of the week. Living happily inside my head, I could possibly not make it out of my living room.  Hooked on Hulu, I might just become a hermit in my own house.

So Bailey is a balm for my bipolar brain. He walks me several times a day. He gets me out into the great outdoors whether I like it or not. And he gets me out and about – sun, rain, sleet, or snow. I can make no excuses. Bailey is my personal trainer putting me through the paces  — 10,000 steps a day. And Bailey introduces me to my neighbors– the three little girls with the German Shepherd, the middle aged guy with two mutts, the couple downstairs with the Golden, and the woman across the street with the Westie — the Westie who always wears a sweater no matter the weather.

It’s not quite All Things Bright and Beautiful but I must admit it is a good and joyful thing to live with and (dare I say) love this dog — Bailey, the stupid therapy dog.

So friends, tell me all about your creatures great and small.

 Pax vobiscum,

Joani