Things My Dog Has Taught Me

The monastery dog in helpful mood
Bro Duncan PBGV being ‘helpful’

Bro Duncan PBGV is not actually my dog, but we’ll let that pass. In the years he has lived with us he has taught me to

  • be very ‘helpful’ at all times
  • eat everything in sight and whatever can be accessed out of sight
  • treat everyone as my very best friend (vets excepted)
  • regard every day as a new adventure
  • be myself.

Of these five things, the most important is the last. Being oneself, being honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses, acting in accordance with one’s nature, does not mean carte blanche to do anything one likes, but it does mean there should be no pretended virtue, no hypocrisy. To live truthfully is not easy, but it makes for joy and happiness. I envy Bro Duncan’s uncomplicated life at times, but although my life is considerably more complicated, it can still have the same joyful quality. Monastic life has a way of peeling off layer after layer of the self we construct and eventually revealing the person God made. That is why, if you will allow me an atrocious pun, sheer doggedness is needed. It is the work of a lifetime.


17 thoughts on “Things My Dog Has Taught Me”

  1. As you know, Sister, I would struggle to be anyone but myself! I would soon forget which “self” I was trying to be – the true self or an incomparably false self!

    Prayers as ever for the community and you…

  2. I can compare our cats to Brother Duncan. They have similar traits and the unfortunate habits associated with regurgitation anywhere, anytime, any place.

    But apart from that, they remain true to themselves daily, eat, sleep, patrol, bicker with each other and coming for cuddles, strokes and love whenever they feel so inclined.

    With 9 mouths to feed, they keep us busy, but we wouldn’t be without them.

  3. Brother Duncan and my baby Ted would be good companions. Ted loves being “helpful” too!
    … just off to put all the books back on the bookshelf, again!

  4. Thanks for such a delightful post. I’ve just returned from my morning prayer time and therapy, which is otherwise know as my morning walk with Penny our manic and utterly delightful Golden Retriever ‘puppy’ (!), who is now two and who throws herself into life with such joy and Mollie, our disturbed elderly rescue dog, who barks her way through life!!
    Both bring joy, laughter and tears. Both teach the meaning of unconditional love and both put the world in perspective. Both like to curl up with me and join in with more formal prayers and both remind me to lighten up in life when I become too serious for my own good, by shoving a toy in my face!
    Someone once said the DOG is GOD in reverse…………
    Have a good day Brother Duncan and of course you Sister Catherine.

  5. Do you know this? I found it on a card, it must have an author, but I’ve not been able to find one yet.

    ” All that I need to know about life I learned from my teddy bear
    Hugs are even better than chocolate.
    There’s no such thing as too many kisses.
    One good cuddle can change a grumpy day.
    Love is supposed to wear out your fur a little.
    It’s OK to let your inside stuffing show now and then.
    Listening is as important as talking.
    Someone’s got to keep their eyes open all the time.
    It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
    Everyone needs someone to hold on to.”

  6. My thanks to Br Duncan for introducing me to Jilly’s Jolly Jaunt. For those who do not know Jilly’s is one of Duncan’s relations who recently won Crufts. She and her remarkable owners have , by way of celebration, just completed a gruelling and joyful sponsored walk. Not only have they raised considerable sums for charity, but also shown us a wonderful, loving, generous face of dog owners and breeders.
    Thank you to them all and to Bro Duncan who begat it all.

  7. Thank you, ‘being myself’ was something I needed to be reminded of, but you also brought back fond memories of the joys and trauma’s of dog ownership – still miss the Honey dog badly though it’s been 6 months since she died. Love to you all but special cuddles to Bro Duncan.

  8. How I love hearing about Bro Duncan’s exploits. In his simple, happy hound and doggedly way, he is the wise, old and goddegly man of the monastery. He gets at the heart of things. Warm woofs to our little Bro Duncan.

  9. Lovely post Sr.Catherine.
    Dogs do indeed teach us much about being authentic …
    They know who we are anyway.
    I often talk at length to Alice about things & always feel better 🙂

  10. I once read the advice “Try to be the person your dog believes you are”. There are so many benefits to being owned by a pet. We are down to two cats in our household, having had to say a sad goodbye to our favourite feline last autumn, but as UK Viewer says, they are worth the aggravation and occasional mischief, life wouldn’t be the same without them!

  11. We’ve all enjoyed this!

    You’ll be interested to know that Susan and Sarah have founded a new religious order called ‘The Little Order of St Timothy’. The three of them (Timothy Brown the Border cross included) are the only members so far. Timothy provides the main examples of the Rule. I am considering joining.

  12. There are, of course, a few other things we can teach those hoomans too, Bro Duncan, like:
    – How to make dead patches on the lawn
    – That it is possible to sleep anywhere, at any time.
    – The simplest things are often the mosts fun to play with (especially when the hooman wants it back).
    – Not all healthcare in the UK is free as there’s no NHS Vet’s.

  13. To love and care for our pets helps us to love each other more. Ralph our Cairn Terrier has brought us 15 years of utter doggie loving happiness. Our youngest son was 9yrs when we got him. His teacher said that the best thing we did for Andrew was to get Ralph. I said that I wasn’t aware that she knew about him “I know everything about Ralph!” she said. Andrew who was shy and tentative felt free to open up and talk with confidence about his little pup. x

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