Two Dogs and A Parrot
What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life
BlueBridge, October 2015
As a child, Joan Chittister longed for a dog. Living in an urban walk-up apartment wasn’t an ideal location, so Billy, a blue parakeet, arrived and became the center of her life. Her relationship with Billy began to shape her understanding of the importance of animals in our every day lives.
In the introduction, she states, “…the narrative of human relationships with animals has a very mixed and sad history.” She uses a mix of anecdotes and examination of the spiritual bonds to limn and celebrate the relationships that build between people and the animals in their care.
Danny, an Irish Setter, arrived at the convent as a birthday gift, and taught Chittister to embrace differences and adapt to change. Living on his own terms, Danny challenged her to reshape her life and examine the boundaries she’d installed.
The Golden Retriever, Duffy, was rescued. A purebred raised as a show dog, he’d gotten too big and outgrown “the standard of the breed.” He was on the euthanize list when Chittister adopted him. As a pedigreed purebred, he’d been raised to obey and had most of his puppy-ness trained out of him. He didn’t bark, didn’t jump, didn’t run, but he did give unbridled love. He overcame his conditioning to take on tasks he wasn‘t comfortable with in order to be with those he loved.
Dogs age and so do people. When Duffy died, the convent decided that big dogs were too difficult to take on, so Chittister went back to her first love—birds. Bennie, a small conure, came to live but disappeared one day and then Lady, a caique (colorful parrots native to South America) came into their lives. She brought with her the ability to adapt to new situations without destruction. As Chittester says, “Change expands the horizons of the human heart.”
In a gentle way, this books takes on the lessons of respect, love and acceptance by looking at the bonds between human and animals.
Chittister is an inspirational author and leader in contemporary spirituality, a past president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses and currently serves as co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.
Reviewed by Michele Drier, February 2016.
Author of Delta for Death and SNAP: All That Jazz.