Paws for Thought by Bro Duncan PBGV

Bro Duncan PBGV and Digitalnun check their Twitterstream

Bro Duncan PBGV and Digitalnun check their Twitterstream.
Photo by Keith Waldegrave, © 2014 Trustees of Holy Trinity Monastery. All Rights Reserved.

It was rather a shock to learn that some people don’t seem to realise I’m a dog — a real, live, actual dog; and not just any dog but an old-fashioned scent hound, with a low-slung body, large ears and a nose you could perch a mountain on. Being a dog is the essence of my being, from the tip of my nose to the tip of my tail. I am all shaggy doggyness and sheer doggedness, even when I’m asleep, which is quite often now I’m getting on in years (sigh).

For those who want precision in all things, I’m a PBGV (Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen) of the truest type — happy, handsome (or so I’m told), and insatiably curious about Life. Most of the time my curiosity takes the form of exploring everyone and everything, especially if it’s edible or chase-able. That is what it means to be a hound-dog; and, sadly, that is all anyone ever thinks a dog bothers about. But I have a big secret to share with you, what you might call the secret of my inner life, only that’s a bit OTT for me. I, Duncan, am a canine contemplative and have a duty contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere (‘to contemplate and share with others the fruits of contemplation’).

Being a dog gives me a special perspective on this God business. It’s no accident that His name is my name in reverse. I love everyone, and so does God. My happiest moments are spent sharing food with people; so are His — in the Eucharist here below, in the Heavenly Banquet up above. I am always listening for the voice of my friends, and so is He. I am ever eager to help, to cheer, to comfort, just as God is. Sometimes, when I think it advisable, I disappear for a bit and go about my private business, ‘off the radar’, so to say. Of course, I am always within earshot, but humans have to learn not to take me from granted. God was telling me the other day that He has the same problem. I guess it’s even tougher for Him as He has even more people wanting His attention. I’m not soppy, but I am very fond of the nuns who form my little pack. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for Them, even to laying down my life for Them. God says the same, but with this difference. In the person of His Son, Jesus, He did exactly that, and not just for a little group like my nuns but for everybody on earth.

God and I have a lot in common, which is why I think He likes to chat to me sometimes. He knows I’ll never betray His confidence or let Him down. I’m happy to follow where He leads. It’s a pity that after He made us dogs He went on to create humans, because they aren’t nearly as good at following in his footsteps. He should have realised that with us He’d reached the peak of His creation. That’s the trouble with God. He never knows when to stop. He is really too good and too generous. So can I share with you my thought for the day? It may be that you have rather neglected God of late, throwing Him the occasional bone, as it were, but not really spending time with Him or enjoying His company. Why don’t you change that and spend a few minutes with Him today, doing nothing in particular but just chilling out with Him? It would please Him enormously. It would also please me.

Dunc xx (@BroDuncanPBGV)


A Guest Post by Bro Duncan PBGV

In due place to forget one’s wisdom is sweet, says Horace, so I have prevailed upon Digitalnun to allow me a guest post on her blog. I think the snow has addled her wits (not that she has many) because she agreed without demur. Of course, it could just be that she wants a little holiday from blogging. You can’t tell with nuns. They keep things under their wimple and look at one over the tops of their spectacles in a quizzical way. It’s terribly ham, but what can one expect? They never go to the theatre or watch a good film.

Anyway, back to my favourite subject, me. I joined the community at the same age as St Bede, viz. five years old, on my return from Sweden, where I had been sent on a missionary journey of sorts. My year in Sweden taught me a great deal about snow and ice, for both of which I have an affection, but also reinforced in me the desire for a more solitary, monastic existence. My people knew I would never again be happy in their kennel, for I had known the delights of woodburning stoves and forest walks. Happily, they had just received an enquiry from some nuns wanting a male dog as companion to one of their older community members who was becoming housebound. It was impressed upon me that this would be no sinecure. I would be the monastic porter, the wise old man at the door of the monastery, whose duty it is to welcome everyone; and though I would have a comfortable bed to sleep in because of my age, I could not expect any ‘spoiling’. Fortunately, I have a soft spot for the ladies, so I leaped at the chance.

I have many wonderful children and grandchildren, including the fabulous Jilly (reserve Best in Show at Crufts last year and this year’s Top Dog All Breeds — she takes after me, obviously), but was becoming less and less attracted by the endless round of shows and ‘engagements’ elsewhere. I had had enough of fame. Now I desired stability, a regular routine and the comfort of the same fireside. The monastery gave me what I craved. I soon discovered a genuine taste for religion, especially since it meant I could stretch out on the only comfortable rug in the house (the one in front of the altar) while they chanted the Divine Office. I resented being booted out for Mass but found compensation in the library with a fire and supplementary biscuit or two. I don’t know much about the Song of Songs, but, apparently, one look from my kohl-rimmed eyes would melt the sternest heart. Guests would plead for me, and the nuns would give in!

To my great joy, we moved to Hereford last year and now, not only do I have some beautiful country to roam over, I have a woodburning stove to lie in front of when the weather is foul. My nuns are well-trained and know exactly how I like my kibble and chicken-and-rice when my digestion is a bit sensitive. (Don’t forget, I am of French origin: I won’t eat anything tinned, sacre bleu!) There were a few little problems about managing to get my bed placed where I wanted, but by dint of stretching myself outside Digitalnun’s doorway for a few nights, I achieved my aim. Whether it was my paw or the hand of another (allegedly, Quietnun) that opened the door, I shall not say. It is enough that I’m allowed a spot all my own, right by the radiator.

I am ten now and have been with the nuns five years. My life has all the serenity one would associate with the cloister. I am very quiet, except when I give tongue (that’s houndspeak for the lovely basset profundo which is my natural note). I eat well and enjoy much freedom on this side of the grille, so to say. I give a superb example of humility to all (not difficult with legs my size) and spend much of my time with my eyes closed, meditating on the Four Last Things: supper, walkies, tummy tickle and bed. I am a good example of the alternative name for my breed: the Happy Hound. In short, I am Duncan, the monastery PBGV, a smalle hounde, such as Chaucer wrote about, but a true monk at heart, one who demonstrates the truth of the words, Ego dormio, sed cor meum vigilat. (I sleep, but my heart keeps watch.)

Ego dormio, sed cor meum vigilat: Bro Duncan PBGV meditating
Ego dormio, sed cor meum vigilat: Bro Duncan PBGV meditating