Here at Holy Comforter-St Cyprian Parish in Washington, D.C., we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi with the blessing of the animals. Although most folks bring dogs to be blessed, there are usually some who bring cats and a few other animals like ferrets. Once, someone even brought a snake!
Over the years, I have shared with the dog owners a list of “Things we can learn from dogs.” When I was growing up, we always had a dog, so although I did not personally compose the list below, I can vouch for its accuracy.
But over my years of city living I have grown accustomed to having cats (they are great mousers in old rectories). So I set my thoughts toward composing a similar list of what I have learned from cats. They are such independent and self-assured animals! They really let you know who’s boss, but mitigate their arrogance somewhat with clownish play and affectionate “head-butts.”
God speaks to us in all of creation, including our pets, to whom we are often so close. What is God saying? Many things!
So here is my list of what I have heard God say through the cats I have adopted and loved over the years: Tupac, Katy Bell, Jenny June, Gracie Girl, Rita Hayworth, Ellen Bayne, Jerry McGuire, Benedict (Benny), Daniel, and Jewel. (That’s Jewel’s picture at the upper right.) Some of them have lived in the alley, a few in the house, but they have all taught me things. Here are a few pearls of wisdom they have conveyed:
- If you can’t get your way, lie across the keyboard until you do. (Be persistent.)
- Keep them guessing with meows and long looks to keep their attention. (Mystery attracts.)
- When you’re hungry, meow loudly so they feed you just to shut you up. (Get your needs met.)
- Always find a good patch of sun to lie in. (Simple pleasures have their place.)
- Life is hard and then you nap. (Be well-rested.)
- Climb your way to the top; that’s why the curtains are there. (Be resourceful and creative.)
- We are Siamese if you please. We are Siamese if you don’t please. (Be yourself.)
- Purr often and use head-butts judiciously. (Express gratitude.)
- Sleep on their clothes and personal items so as to leave your scent. (Forget-me-nots have their place.)
- Use your litter box. (Be clean and polite.)
- Be a mouser. (Earn your keep.)
- Clown around and do silly stuff. (Be humble.)
- Run around wildly for no apparent reason; chase toys and laser pointers. (Exercise often.)
- Rest in hidden places. (Solitude has its place.)
The following list of things we can learn from dogs has been making the rounds on the Internet for years, but it really is rather instructive. Dogs do have a lot to teach us, and I thank God for the dogs to whom I have been close over the years: Prince, Missy, Molly, Taco, Salsa, Chili, Kaila, Lucy, Clancy, and many others. And again, although others compiled this second list, I can affirm through much experience how true it is!
Fifteen things we can learn from dogs:
- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
- Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
- Take naps and stretch before rising.
- Run, romp, and play daily.
- Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
- Be loyal.
- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
- When someone is having a bad day, be silent. Sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
- Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
- Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
- When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
- No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout. Instead, run right back and make friends.
- Delight in the simple joys of a long walk.
Happy Feast of St. Francis!
All creatures of our God and king
Lift up your voice and with us sing,