While I was hiking along West Rim Trail of the Pine Creek Gorge last Thursday following my Canyon scramble I came across these tracks; a dog footprint neatly placed inside of the footprint left by a person wearing hiking boots. Imagining that this canine and it’s human companion had been out enjoying this amazing wild space together; it’s vistas, it’s wildlife, it’s SMELLS! I wondered what their story was. I wondered how far they had come and how far they were going. I wondered if their relationship is anything like the relationship I have with my dog Ivy.
From my experience with Ivy it seems to me that one trait anyone should appreciate about dogs is that most of them are able to smell something sweet mixed in with everything we humans find vile and repulsive. Dogs seem to have a special gift for picking up on the something sweet that’s mixed in with most of the shit. And in my experience with Ivy this principle of picking up on the sweet that’s in the shit has as much to do with her approach to life in general as it does to some of the things she’d Like to eat that we try not to let her.
Ivy is a rescue dog. Her life was not always what it is now; she has a family that loves her and many many friends that are always excited to see her in Wellsboro, Pittsburgh, and Altoona. Ivy has friends at the church, at the beauty shop, at the Montessori school (she is a favorite of the children), and the movie theatre.
But there was a time when her life was not so good. She had been abused. We know this because when we first met Ivy at the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society she had scars and she was afraid of people and especially of men.
But she used her heart to find the sweet in the shit that life had brought her and when she realized that she’d found the sweet life it’s like she decided to let all that shit fall away and savor the sweet. Ivy has such amazing zest for meeting new people, and she exudes such great joy and excitement for dinner time, walks, and play time that she inspires me to sniff out the sweet in the metaphorical shit that life brings to me.
Yes, for a number of reasons (to me at least) life is better when it’s shared with companion animals (whether they be dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish, etc). Thanks be to God they have so much to teach us and we have so much love to give them.
In living into community with all that has life in Jesus’ name there is joy, there is humor, there is challenge, and when we are empowered by the Spirit of God there is so much love to share!
Finding God, self, and community in wild spaces. The better we know our wild neighbors the more we'll discover ourselves.
A vision informed by Henry David Thoreau’s interpretation of sauntering, Jesus’ understanding of neighbor, Aldo Leopold’s concept of thinking like a mountain, Rachel Carson’s prophetic voice and John Muir’s way of capturing the beauty and uniqueness of wild neighbors with words.