This Reflection Has Gone to the Dogs… and Cats… and Birds!
Part 1: Wheaton Franciscan Pooches
Wheaton Franciscans have a long history of sharing their lives with dear animal and bird companions. Because of Francis’s affinity for the natural world and the creatures in it, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate what has been gleaned from the animals that have graced the homes and lives of Wheaton Franciscans. Please consider these stories of pets that have enhanced the lives of Wheaton Franciscans. The first part focuses on dog companions and next month will have tales of cats and birds.
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Sister Rose Mary Pint was pleased to write about Niki, an 11+ year old shitzu/bichon that is a joy in her life: He gives me an unconditional loving greeting as soon as I come in the door. He does two really lovable things: He sits and waits patiently on our walks when I stop to talk with a neighbor, and he comes into my lap and sits quietly during my scripture and prayer time every morning. Niki is a natural contemplative, often pausing on our walks to take something in that I cannot always figure out. Our two or three walks a day keep us both moving. He also noisily greets persons coming or going from our house. It is not aggressive, but he is disappointed they are leaving. My Niki is an energetic slice of God’s life that I enjoy so much.
Covenant Companion Jeanne Guilfoyle writes: When Sister Lynn and I were living together, getting a dog was a high priority for both of us. We both loved dogs and had a fenced in yard! How could we not? We went to the Naperville Animal Shelter and, low and behold, they had a red female husky with blue eyes. It was love at first sight! We came up with the name of Sabu from the movie, Out of Africa. We had ten great years with Sabu. Each weekend we’d set our sites on a new prairie path or park to explore. We covered an impressive amount of territory over the years and Sabu was in heaven. Sabu, being a rescue, had her own troubled past. She was a bit stand-offish but she put up with me. You could almost see her roll her eyes when I got down on the floor to snuggle with her, almost as if to say, ‘Here we go again.’ Once I’d get up, Sabu would shake off my snuggle and go to lie down on the other side of the room. She needed her space. Sabu was in her glory when it snowed. She would almost squeal with joy as she dove in and out of the snow, the deeper the better. We remember her with love and gratitude for the time she shared with us.
Jeanne also reminisced about Mr. Hopkins, a pet companion she came to know and treasure during the time she lived at Maura Hall with Sisters Marge and Gabriele: Marge and Gabe adopted a solid black, male, standard poodle that was about the cutest little puppy you ever saw. Hopkins was named for none other than Gerard Manley Hopkins, the poet/priest who authored The Wreck of the Deutschland. Hopkins grew into a stately dog who could carry that whopper of a name as a full adult, but as a puppy the name was a lot bigger than he was. Back in those days just a walk around the front prairie would poop him out so much that he’d collapse spread eagle under the first shady tree we’d pass. Hopkins developed into a very well behaved, gentle and handsome dog! However, he would turn into an unfamiliar alpha dog around four-leggeds of any kind. He was the Prince of Wheaton Franciscan property and he was never in the mood to share his territory with skunks, squirrels, other dogs, foxes or deer.
Hopkins left Maura Hall to experience the great country of Northern Wisconsin at the Christine Center. His quiet, gentle attention to each new moment served as a constant guide to me on my evolving spiritual journey. Hopkins transitioned to the other side just as he turned 14 human years. He was well-loved and wonderful company in this life.
Sister Jackie Drazen shared about her life with her loving companions Maggie 1, Maggie 2, & Maggie 3:
Maggie 1 was 14 years old when she went home to God. Maggie 2 had a problem losing protein from her kidneys and she went home to God last year when she was 5. Maggie 3 is just a year old and is full of life. All three of my best friends gave and give me unconditional love: I could scold them and, in a minute, they would want to be in my lap. They give me so much joy and they help me to get out of the recliner to go for walks, which keeps me active and strong. I feel so gifted and thankful to my Community for allowing me to have these special friends in my life.
Covenant Companion Shirley Justin-Wolff is grateful for her seven-year-old rescued Labrador Retriever, Cinder: Cinder has been part of our family for over five years. As with most Labs, she is a people dog and exudes so much joy for any person she meets. Her tail and back half are in constant motion as she greets each person, wiggling with excitement. I have learned so much from all of our dogs. Cinder, especially, has been a loyal companion with deep, unwavering presence to us. I am touched by her unconditional love and trust in us. She is a daily reminder for me to accept and find goodness in all.
Covenant Companion Carol Sejda wanted to talk about Eddie: My sister and I read in a local paper that Eddie (a nine-year-old Chihuahua-mix) had been in a local shelter for several months while his owner was in the hospital and then a nursing home. When it became apparent that he could not return to his previous home, we adopted him. Little did we know the responsibility we had assumed. When Eddie first came to his new home, he didn’t engage with us very much. He’d slink around trying to be unobtrusive and leaving surprise ‘deposits.’ Besides adjusting to his new home, he needed veterinary care. Within a few months, he was neutered, received all of his immunizations and was diagnosed with early heart failure aggravated by severe dental issues. So then Eddie had every tooth in his little mouth extracted! After a rough several months, we saw a slow transformation in our little boy as the gifts of mutual love and trust developed. He learned to eat, even kibble, as his mouth healed and he learned that he was expected to ‘go’ outside. Eddie now goes for walks with a prancing gait and greets us after any brief absence with his tail wagging like an out-of-control pendulum, which he might couple with turning circles. It has been a joy to watch Eddie slowly change from a sad, forsaken pooch to a loving and dear part of our family who makes us smile and laugh and cherish the fact that he is in our home. He serves as an example to me of how all of God’s creatures can heal, adapt and even flourish after a life-altering event.