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Friday, June 17, 2011

Walking with Theo

No, that's not Theo. And, you guessed it, it's not me. Not even me as a baby.

It is how I feel when I walk with Theo.

The weather has been glorious this week. Cool early mornings and nights, warm late mornings and early evenings. The sun is hot during the day - mid to high 80's - so we tend to stay in the sun room, watching the boats going by.

The early morning and late evening, however, are made for long walks.

Theo is very different from most male dogs I've known who take twice as long to get wherever it is you're going because they have to stop and "mark" everything - if you understand what I mean.

It's walk twenty paces, spot a telephone pole, mark. Walk another twenty paces, notice a bush, mark. See the man taking out his trash, stop and bark. Walk away, grumbling and growling, spot a trash can, mark.

Not Theo. Oh, he has to stop and sniff and bark and grumble and growl, but he 'marks' one spot and he's good to go. Literally.

Here's the lovely thing: He walks WITH me. That's so unlike Ms. CoCo (AKA "Miz Bossypants") and Mr. Lenny (takes the 'short bus' to school) who always seem in such a rush to get to wherever it is we're supposed to be going - which they know not, but let's get there as quickly as we can, shall we?

It reminds me of a story Jon Richardson told me of his childhood. His mother used to say to him, "C'mon, let's go so we can get back."

One day, he said, "Mom, if the idea is hurry to go so we can get back, why leave in the first place?"

Jon says he doesn't remember much after that.

Lenny and CoCo are small, so when they pull at the leash it doesn't hurt my back or my arms, but it is rather annoying after a while.

Theo? Theo just walks. With me. By my side.

Well, that is until we get to the first street light and then he can't see the house, which makes him a bit nervous. Even so, he just does a nervous little zig zag in front of me until we reach the top of the street, and then, for some reason, he calms down and walks by my side again.

He's gotten ever so much better than when he first arrived on March 20th. No more shivery-shaking, even when he meets new people. Oh, he still takes his spot behind or between my legs and bows his head, but he doesn't freak out like he once did.

I've been taking him with me to the Wednesday morning clergy gathering in Lewes, as part of my efforts to 'socialize' him. He has a little routine. After he nervously checks out the room, he takes "his" place on the couch with me. Well, behind me, actually. Between the back of the couch and the big pillow that supports my back.

"My" seat is near the Lutheran pastor who attends the group. He's retired, officially, but is the part time interim at a nearby Episcopal church. He's right out of central casting - a big, gentle bear of a man with a kind spirit behind a clerical collar.

Theo spotted him immediately and allowed a few pats on the head the first week. Now, three weeks later, they are great buddies.

My Lutheran friend always greets him warmly - even before me - with a brightness in his eyes and a warm smile. "Theo!" he says excitedly. "There's my boy! Hello, Theo," he says, as Theo makes a tentative move towards him and then, having second thoughts, moves behind me to his place on the back of the couch.

When Theo is settled, my Lutheran friend extends his open hand and Theo licks him, which begins to visibly melt the kind pastor. "Oh, we're great friends now, aren't we, Theo," he coos, as Theo rests his nuzzle in his friend's big, beefy mitt.

They stay like that for most of our time together. I suspect, if I switched seats, Theo would cuddle right up to him as he does me.

Love is really a miracle, you know? Theo is being changed by it, but so am I. And, so is my Lutheran friend. Indeed, so are most of the clergy who gather on Wednesday mornings who keep tabs on Theo's progress.

I was thinking about that miracle this morning as I was out for a walk with Theo. Actually, as Theo was zig-zagging his way in front of me, I found myself considering the lessons for this coming Sunday - Trinity Sunday.

I was thinking especially about the Gospel lesson for the day, from Matthew 28:16-20.
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
I'm not sure how many disciples I have helped to make - I'd like to think there have been a few in the past 25 years - but I know I'm a better disciple today than I was when I first began this journey. And, I know that Jesus has been with me every step of the way.

It occurs to me that this is because Jesus invites us not into the certainty of religion but into exploring and discovering the mystery of what it means to be a unique part of God's creation.

The mystery of the Trinity stands symbolically at the heart of that mystery of faith. God and Jesus and Shekinah are three individuals and yet One.

The mystery of the human enterprise is that we are in relationship with God and each other and all of creation and yet unique and individual.

What draws us closer into the center of that mystery is the miracle of Love incarnate, Love divine. And that Love draws us into that which is irrational and inexplicable and, in fact, ridiculous and profoundly irreligious.

Religion tries to make sense out of that which can never be explained. It attempts to order that which is chaotic. Religion tries to tame a tornado, calm a volcano, control a hurricane.

The Trinity whom we worship and adore this Sunday teaches us that it can't be done. It's a wonderful cosmic joke God plays on us. Just when we think we've discovered the answers, God changes the questions.

As I was walking Theo and considering all these things, I remembered that wonderful poem about the Incarnation and the mystery of Love by George White:

Watch your step. You are approaching a dangerous
manger. It also serves as a makeshift baby bed.
Beware, for the one you seek did not stay a baby.
Jesus, nursed and cuddled by Mary, later claimed
everyone who does God’s will as his mother.
Jesus, worshipped by shepherds, later challenged
us to seek out not lost sheep, but lost people.
Jesus, given gifts by wise ones who had traveled
from afar, called us to go out of our way to care for
the hungry, the lonely, and the homeless.
Watch your step as you take this Bethlehem baby
into your arms and whisper to him.
You may find him taking you into his arms,
whispering new life into you.

A friend recently sent me a car magnet. It's a paw print and in the middle it says, "Who rescued who?"

I'm thinking that I don't so much walk Theo as he walks me. It's a wonderful little trick Love plays on the human heart. We're just out for a walk, you see, heading nowhere fast. We'll get home when we get home.  And, even when we can't see it and it makes us a little nervous, we know the way back home.

It's not about the destination. It's about the journey.

It's not about the certainty. It's about the mystery.

I'm beginning to understand that Theo is here to lead me closer and closer to that dangerous manger where, step by step, sometimes zigging and zagging, I move closer to Love.


Daisy said...

So glad your new life is going so well Theo. :-)

renzmqt said...

Lovely post, Elizabeth. I am so glad you and Theo worked out. By any chance have you seen the book, Guardians of Being? It is a combined effort that incorporates the words of Eckart Tolle with the illustrations of the guy who draws the comic strip Mutts. It is a lovely book about our relationship to our dogs (and cats).

Margaret said...

Theo sounds like a great dog. My dog Scout has recently learned how to walk off leash. She is so excited, but very well mannered.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Daisy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

No, renz, I haven't seen that book. I'll check it out. Thanks.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - My eventual goal is to have Theo walk off leash. It's going to take a while.

Anonymous said...

You are doing a great job with Theo. He is coming along. May I suggest carrying some treats with you while you walk. When you and Theo meet someone that appears kind and caring give them a small treat and ask them to give it to Theo. Then Theo gets rewarded for socializing and meeting people. This little trick may bring him a bit further out of that shy scared puppy syndrome. You are working wonders with him.

Great post on the Trinity.

renzmqt said...

Check it out for sure, Elizabeth, it's more of a "coffee table" book to peruse then a heavy read.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Maria. I always carry little tiny "training treats" with me - and a plastic "poop" bag, just in case. I think the little training treats are a wonderful invention. Just small enough to get the message across and not big enough to ruin his appetite.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Renz - I will. It looks great. I'm headed into the book store later this afternoon.