It’s no secret to my friends and family that I am a cat person. So it may come as a surprise to them that I am writing about a recent encounter with a dog that was both profound and sacred.
Last week, I went into the local flower shop, Props Floral Design in the Hydrostone Market, to pick up some wheat that I had ordered for our communion table. When I arrived, Ms. McFadden, the sales associate was on the phone and Chester the Golden Doodle was sitting in front of the counter. Ms. McFadden looked up as if to ask if I was okay with the dog, I smiled and nodded. I spoke to the dog which immediately came over and needed to be petted and scratched etc.
I had had a rough 24 hours, my father had had a crisis in the hospital, I had back to back meetings in my church, some of which involved difficult conversations, I was tired, and facing a day of funeral planning, attending to the last details of a wedding and dealing with the ordinary, myriad demands of ministry. In short, I HAD NO TIME TO WASTE PETTING A DOG!
But something happened as I interacted with Chester, my breathing slowed, I could feel the tension leaving my body, and I was simply present. I don’t know if my blood pressure or my heart rate decreased, but I certainly felt much calmer. It’s no surprise that there are therapy dogs and when I spoke with his owner, I found out that Chester was one!
As she continued on the phone, Chester continued to want to be petted and fussed over. Ms. McFadden occasionally glanced up from her phone to offer a silent apology for taking so long, and I conveyed by understanding in the same way.
My encounter with Chester stayed with me all day and I went back later on, spoke to his owner about it and asked if I could take a couple of pictures and write about it in my blog. She graciously obliged and the picture above is my favourite one.
Look at that open, trusting face, a face that says, “It is enough right now just to be with me, there is nothing more important than that.” Chester was God for me that morning. Chester reminded me once again that practicing the art of being present is the art of experiencing God. I left behind the previous 24 hours and ceased to fret about the upcoming days. I was reminded that all we have is each moment and to experience each moment in its fullness is making room to encounter God.
There is a luminescence to his face, perhaps only the camera flash, but it’s a beacon of love and welcome. Chester’s persistence in being petted reminded me of God's persistence in being in relationship with us and that’s God's invitation is always just a moment, a breath away.
And that’s my window on God's world