alice: a confession THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2009
This picture sits, framed, in our living room next to the window seat. The joyful dog and her happy companions are my vision, but not, I must admit, a reality. Last September, we adopted Alice, a rescue pup who traveled to us all the way from Kansas City. After months of longing for a puppy, I discovered an Airedale rescue organization and passed the extensive application process. When were finally matched up with a 12-week-old pup, I was elated. Jeffrey was not. He knew better, of course. A three-year-old child, a baby on the way, city life, small house, very small yard, AND a dog? No. Despite how qualified I made our family look on paper, Jeffrey knew that, given our circumstances, a dog was simply not a good idea. Okay, I admit: I conned Jeffrey into getting Alice. As I was enjoying the Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete, I asked Jeffrey to read a few pages. Here is a condensed version of what he read: Humankind is in desperate need of recovering its connection with nature, for ultimately it means the recovery of ourselves. We become aware of ourselves by becoming aware of the world around us, a world filled with the presence of God. Without falling into mawkish sentimentality, we must learn to look at nature as an expression of God’s goodness and love, a feast of sight and sound that provokes wonder and amazement. . . For many of us, this love for creation deepens through the relationships we form with our pets, particularly our dogs. By their very nature and need, dogs draw us out of ourselves: they root us in nature, making us more conscious of the mystery of God inherent in all things. When we take the time and energy necessary to raise our puppies correctly, when we learn to truly listen to them, seeing them as they really are and guiding their development accordingly, a deeper part of ourselves is unlocked, a part more compassionate and less arrogant, more willing to share life with another life. (The Art of Raising a Puppy: The Monks of New Skete: Little, Brown, and Company: 1991, 258-259)
Who could argue with logic like that? Getting a puppy would surely help draw us out of ourselves and root us in nature; making us more conscious of the mystery of God inherent in all things; unlocking a deeper part of ourselves; making us more compassionate, less arrogant, and more willing to share life - all good things, right? Well, perhaps so, but did we really need a puppy to achieve such noble goals? Amabel and Ellen have certainly ‘rooted us’ more closely to nature (for what could be more rooting than birth?) and drawn us out of ourselves. Our children have unlocked a deeper part of their parents. Because of them we’ve become more compassionate, less arrogant, and clearly more willing to share life. And a life shared with our daughters is truly a life full of wonder. But Alice? No, Alice is not currently rooting us to nature or drawing us out of ourselves; she is the cause of Amabel’s ear-piercing scream that sends Jeffrey and I flying across the room. Oh, it was just a red doll shoe. “Don’t worry, Amabel, it may turn up in the yard after the snow finally melts.” 8
The first 18 months.