There are some people who regard their dogs as spiritual directors. Even though I am English, I think that is going rather far — not because I do not honour Bro Duncan but because, as readers of this blog are aware, I am a little sceptical about spiritual directors in general, believing that the needful gift is rare. Bro Duncan does very well as a watchdog for the community and fulfils the role of porter admirably, greeting everyone and being especially attentive to the very old and very young, with whom he has a special affinity. (Not surprising given that his own joints are beginning to creak, and standing just 15 inches high at the shoulder, his world view has always been that of a little child). He is a very companionable dog, very gentlemanly and discreet. At least, I thought he was.
Recently he spent a day in kennels getting a haircut and returned home a different dog. He looked better, he smelled better, but his behaviour! For the first time in his life he decided that the visitors’ sofa was exactly what he needed for chilling out (he is not allowed on furniture); instead of pleading with kohl-rimmed eyes for a share of the visitors’ biscuits or dancing on his hind legs with supplicating front paws, he attempted to intercept the movement from plate to mouth; worst of all, he looked very smug about his antics.
It is clear we have a delinquent dog on our hands and are like the parents of teenagers, wondering what will happen next and asking ourselves where have we gone wrong. For once, the Rule of St Benedict is scarcely a help. However, I know we must be patient with our errant brother because there is one lesson that, spiritual director or no, he has always taught us: everyone is his very best friend. I can’t help wondering whether, if we human beings made fewer distinctions and treated everyone as, potentially at least, our very best friend, the world would be a kinder and more pleasant place.
(Note: if you are old enough to enjoy a little silliness, Bro Duncan has his own Twitter account, @BroDuncanPBGV.)