“Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)
May 19, 2013
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
For sure the driver of the car ahead of me was a dog lover. When we came to a stoplight, I noticed the furry head of a large breed dog in the front passenger seat turn and licked the face of the driver. Then I noticed the bumper sticker: “Dogs have a way of finding the people that need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.” (Thorn Jones)
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Memories of our family dogs were resurrected in a flash, the companionship of Sandy, Boots and Smokey beside me for the next few miles of highway. Sandy, our first dog, was a droopy-eared German Shepherd, Boots, a terrier mix and Smokey, an affectionate, drooling Bassett Hound. These were my truest friends in younger days, often more attentive to me than parents or siblings.
Only days after this reverie, Facebook provided a further reflection on the dog-human relationship. Entitled “I Rescued a Human Today,” I share that reflection:
“I rescued a human today. Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.
“I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel, I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the overworked shelter keepers get too busy, and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.
“As she read my kennel card, I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life.
“She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
“Soon my kennel door opened, and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to be always by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes. I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one. I rescued a human today.” (Original source unknown)
In the gospel passage we hear on this Pentecost Sunday, “Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)
We might say that today’s feast marks our investiture with God’s Holy Spirit. Indeed, we have been clothed to continue the mission of Jesus; that is, to bring compassion and healing to every sort of human need. Once again, we might take inspiration from a furry friend of Jesus.
The hospital I serve as chaplain boasts a cadre of therapy dogs, all sizes and shapes represented, but Maude and Angel stand out from them all, mostly because of their size. I’d never seen such mammoth white-coated beasts until these two Great Pyrenees crossed my path in a hospital corridor. Had they raised themselves upon hind legs, they could easily have been mistaken for polar bears. They never did that, though; mostly they romped into the rooms of willing patients, huge tails a-wag, the panting of foot-long pink tongues cooling them under luxurious snow white fur. How many times I saw Maude and Angel draw forth a smile from a face frozen by long-suffering!
One image remains vivid in my mind. A terminally ill cancer patient in a wheelchair sits alone in the lounge on the oncology unit, her eyes gazing out the window at skies as stormy gray as her prognosis. As I watch from the nurse’s station, I see Maude or Angel (I can’t tell them apart) slowly approach the woman and soundlessly lay a huge canine head in the woman’s lap. Eyes pulled from the gray skies to the great white heap in her lap, the woman slowly strokes the dog’s head as its tail begins slowly to swish back and forth. Then I notice the woman leaning down to talk to the beast as huge dog eyes look up into hers. Suddenly she erupts into a huge burst of laughter that nearly thrusts her from the wheelchair as the Great Pyrenees responds with a deep “WOOF.” Indeed, I’ve been witness to a holy transaction.
That singular image remains: a huge canine head resting in the lap of a cancer patient. And when they mysteriously connect, something healing happens.
I can still see that bumper sticker on the car just ahead of me: “Dogs have a way of finding the people that need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.” As the furry head turns and places a sloppy kiss on the driver’s face, I think—GOD has a way of finding the people that need him, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.