Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Blessed St. Maximus of Audubon Terrace

Max is very progressive. Woman vet, woman priest, what's the difference, except that the latter doesn't stick things in him. He accepted his blessing gracefully, and, an irreverent mind might conclude, unknowingly. He was far more interested in the turkey slices I purchased for him at a nearby restaurant, as an after-blessing treat. But I'm not nearly irreverent enough to say I was unmoved by the invocation. Max has blessed us in so many ways, we can never find sufficient means to thank him. And too many turkey slices would just upset his digestion.

There was a long line to get into the cathedral, and we opted not to try and get inside.

The really exotic animals (including birds of prey) were mainly inside the cathedral, but the fair on the grounds had llamas, goats, a very small pony that snapped a little at Max when they sniffed noses (you are forgiven, brother), and a very feisty goose. The llamas didn't seem too bothered by all the dogs, but their handlers weren't encouraging those with larger pooches to come up and introduce themselves, so we admired them from a safe distance. Very calm llamas, actually trained to 'kiss' people when prompted by a clicker, but they are formidable creatures when aroused, and I got the impression they were eyeing Max and his wolfish looks with a faintly suspicious air. One cocky little terrier got pretty close, though--from a privileged perch.

There's a small flock of peacocks who live in the cathedral gardens year-round (without restraint, as they are birds who do not wander outside their established domain), and are rather blase about this event, which they've witnessed many times before. Max found them mildly interesting, far less intriguing than squirrels--they move very slowly, and dogs do not have color vision. They found him mildly threatening, but were unconcerned as long as he stayed over 20 feet away. At one point, they were blocking a car trying to negotiate a drive they felt like strolling on, and refused to be shooed away. This was clearly a job for a Shepherd Dog, so I walked Max in their direction, taking care not to get too close. They stalked away in a huff, seeking higher ground, but somehow retained their dignity and aplomb. The driver thanked Max for his assistance. The peacocks did not.

So there were all kinds of animals there, mammals, birds, reptiles, representatives of most if not all earth's varied families of fauna. There were even some remarkably calm cats.

But let's get real, there were easily a hundred dogs present for every single cat, llama, eagle, parrot, pig, turtle, or zebra (I believe there was a zebra inside). Because dogs are better, smarter, nicer, or more loving than any other animal? No, because of what I talked about in my first post to this blog--dogs thrive in community. Dogs are the Starfleet animals--they live to seek out and smell new lifeforms and civilizations, to boldly go where no dog has gone before. For most of the other animals present, the Feast of St. Francis was a bit of a nuisance, perhaps even an ordeal in some cases. For most of the friendly well-socialized dogs present, it was a really cool day, even if the temperatures got well into the 80's.

Dogs rule at The Blessing of the Animals, because it really is a blessing to them. As they are a blessing to humans who seek to solve the enduring puzzle of how to balance diversity and harmony. Dog spelled backwards, after all......

Max did get into the cathedral, eventually--after the service was concluded, a lot of people snuck their dogs in, and nobody minded much (except for one confused security guard, who finally gave up trying to make sense of his instructions--why not let the dogs in, when dogs and every other kind of critter imaginable had already been in there a short time before?).

It was a bit sobering to see how much of the cathedral was still closed off for repairs, after the devastating fire that ravaged its interior, several years ago. But they'll get it fixed--like so many other worthwhile endeavors, the cathedral is a work in progress, that never quite gets finished.

I'll be updating a lot over the next week or so--lots of things I need to get to, and yes, some of them actually involve the Rocky Run. And not all of them are pleasant. Even for dogs, it seems, living in harmony is a work in progress--though that's generally more our fault than theirs.

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