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Thursday 16 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cornelius and Cyprian

How feeding a sick dog gave me a lesson in communion and joy

Elizabeth Scalia

Elizabeth Scalia - published on 12/13/17

It was the kind of day where I stumbled out of bed, put the coffee together, and made a soft-boiled egg for the sick dog, who by then should have been trying food.

I made one for myself, too.

The dog watched me create her egg-and-bread, then turned up her nose at it, when I placed it before her.

As I prepared my own egg, letting the lovely hot yolk drip over a piece of crumbled bread, I gently tried to coax the pooch into eating. “You must get strong,” I said. “I can’t give you your medicine in yummy pill pockets unless you eat…”

I dipped my spoon into my own breakfast, and it tasted good. The dog was watching my every move, because she was a dog, and very attentive. I tried to make a game of it: “Okay, I’m going to take a bite of mine, and then you take a bite of yours…”

She was a stunningly smart dog, and we’d played that way before. But this time, she still wouldn’t eat.

I wondered whether perhaps — out of mere canine habit — if the dog has an opportunity to eat my food, instead of hers, she’d go for it.

So I put my soft-egg-and-bread mess into her bowl.

And she tentatively ate my egg, and my bread, while leaving her own untouched.

Because she loved me so much that she would rather have shared what was mine than have her own.

It made me a little misty-eyed, because once again, my dog had shown me something mysterious and vital, and needed to be thought about: She would rather have had communion than singularity.

That’s love. It’s also pretty good theology.

Finally, I was able to give her the medicine. Her fresh water went untouched.

Grabbing a cup of hot coffee, I headed to work. She followed me into my office, and laid at my feet with a thud, because she was still weak. I opened email to the rhythmic thwacking of her tail against the desk. Always preferring to cull the negatives first, I chucked one that expressed disdain for stupid me, my stupid religion, and my stupid life. Surprisingly, it did not end with, “and your little dog, too!’

I looked down at my dog, who looked back lovingly, almost seeming to smile. And I felt nothing but gratitude — for the dog, for my life, for the ability to read, and the eyes to see; for the ability to smell the coffee, and walk on my own steam to the kitchen, to get another cup. I gave thanks for my sweet collie, and all the lessons she had taught me. Was still teaching me.

It was the sort of day when giving thanks opened a route to joy, which sped along God’s glory.

Joy can take us far.

It begins with simple gratitude.

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