The Joy of Creatures Great and Small…
“Over the years I have felt the truest, purest love—the love of God, really, I imagine that’s what God’s love feels like—is the love that comes from your dog.” —Oprah Winfrey
Rev. Doug Fritzsche writes about joy through a story of his dog, Kairo, so we decided to feature the joy found in connecting with or witnessing all God’s creatures this week. Enjoy!
I suppose that short exclamation could quote any number of inspired revelers, but it is also the word I use to call my dog. “Kairo!”
As we meander from the joys of the celebrations of freedom we declare on Juneteenth and July Fourth on into the dog days of summer, I’d like to reflect on perspective offered by my daily walking companion.
When I met Kairo, I was working as a teaching assistant in Greek classes at Austin Seminary. Janice and I had gone to the Town Lake shelter after seeing a particular dog on their web page. That dog was really not all that interesting in person, but his cellmate, a half-grown scrawny black rescue mix of black lab and whatnot, leaped with joy when he saw me.
This display of joy continued through the meet-and-greet process and eventually, adoption. And his name became “Kairo”, the ancient Greek first person, present tense of the verb “rejoice” – or Kai for short.
I assumed that Kai’s rejoicing had something to do with freedom. Freedom from the cage. Freedom from the animal shelter. That exuberant, bursting-out explosive school’s-out-for-summer opening of horizons and shedding of burdens and cares!
And so it seemed. Kai fit into the household. Bonded with the resident matriarch dog Suzi. Achieved détente with the Master Cat.
But one evening a spring breeze and an open door lured Suzi and Kai to bolt down the street in a boisterous display of free dogs running in the wind! No amount of yelling could bring them back. Suzi – older and wiser – wandered back later.
But Kai was gone.
We printed fliers and papered the neighborhood. Drove in widening circles shouting his name. A few people called with sightings, but he was too skittish to corral. After about three days, someone called to say he had seen Kai near Costco. I got in my little black truck and drove over, roaming the parking lot yelling, “Kairo!”
At the point of giving up, I pulled behind the store and gave it one last try. “Kairo!” I yelled. And across a sea of asphalt, at the edge of the woods past the parking lot, two pointy black ears poked up above the shrubbery. I yelled his name again, “Kai!” And like a streak of black lightning, he shot across the intervening distance, went airborne and flew through the open hatch into the bed of my truck.
He broadcast his joy in ways that only a dog can. But it was clearly a different joy than the freedom we celebrate so ardently this time of year. If I may be so bold as to speak for my dog, I suspect it was the special joy that comes from discovering who I am as it is revealed through being found – and belonging.
“I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.”
Rev. Doug Fritzsche facilitates the Eremos Men’s Group on the third Thursday evening of each month. He is a Spiritual Director and retired Presbyterian Pastor living in Austin, Texas. You can find out more about him at his website: spiritual-directions.com. Photo above is of Kairo among the wildflowers.
“The most reliable joy is to be out of doors, to be a creature among other creatures. I find it very restful.”
Photo of this Great Crested Flycatcher is courtesy of Janet Lewis Hix.
(We’re grateful to Julie Bowman for reaching out to Janet after seeing this joyful photo on the Birds of Texas Facebook group.)
“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”
How It Might Continue
Wherever we go, the chance for joy,
whole orchards of amazement –
one more reason to always travel
with our pockets full of exclamation marks,
so we might scatter them for others
like apple seeds.
Some will dry out, some will blow away, but some will take root
and grow exuberant groves
filled with long thin fruits
that resemble one hand clapping –
so much enthusiasm as they flutter back and forth
that although nothing’s heard
and though nothing’s really changed,
people everywhere for years to come
will swear that the world
is ripe with applause, will fill
their own pockets with new seeds to scatter.
—Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, with thanks to Julie Bowman for recommending this poem for our “Joyful July” newsletters. (Last week Cathey Capers also shared a Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer poem, so this might be a sign we need to find out more about her!) Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer – Word Woman – Poet, Teacher, Storyteller