Friday, August 28, 2015

Pets and How They Teach Us...

Two Dogs and a Parrot, What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life is a new book from Joan Chittister, published by Blue Bridge and available at www.bluebridgebooks.com. Chittester is a Benedictine nun in Erie, PA. One of her books, The Gift of Years (2008) was very popular. Her book called Happiness is another I appreciated and reviewed on this blog in 2013. Since 2008, she has written at least ten more books!

As busy as she is, who knew that Joan Chittester loves animals and often had a pet? In this book, she tells stories of three of her pets, an Irish Setter named Danny, a Golden Retriever named Duffy, and a Parrot named Lady Hildegard or Lady, as she was more popularly known. One at a time, each has seven mini-chapters in this book for their stories to be shared.

First came Danny, an Irish Setter described as "an absolute lexicon of lessons in life, the kind I was not expecting to learn. At least not from a dog." They went to a dog show and she expected Danny to perform as the other dogs did. Instead, she learned from Danny that "life is not about becoming someone else. Life is a matter of coming to be the best of what we are and allowing ourselves to enjoy being it, at the same time."

Next was Duffy, a Golden Retriever who was gentle, well-mannered, patient and quiet, also very large. Duffy "was a great, friendly bear of a dog." Love to Duffy "meant the willingness to do what he did not want to do, if it meant he could be with you." The nuns had their hands full with Duffy. When they went to the beach, he would not go into the water. Much disappointed, Chittester considered it the lesson of a lifetime as she wrote: "We can't make anyone else be what we want them to be---but we can let them be themselves. and love them for that and that alone."

And last but not least, we read about Lady. After the dogs died, Chittister remember that in her childhood her mother let her have a parakeet for a pet, and she thought, how about a parrot now? And so they had one and Lady taught them. One of the nuns tried to teach her to move quickly to prayer meeting by saying to Lady, "Step up." Repeatedly and not so kindly. Later, the parrot learned to say it to the nuns: "Step up," she barked, and not so kindly either.

In her Afterword, Chittister describes what a wonder it has been for the nuns to share their Monastery with these pets. There is also a poem Joan Chittister has written: "A Prayer for Animals."

---Lois Sibley