Animals, Ministry, Photos


The other day I went out to visit one of my elderly parishioners. Mattie has been advised to stay home by her doctor, because diabetes has left her with almost no feeling in her feet, and the risk of a fall is great. I asked her how she was feeling? “Well, my attitude is better,” she replied. “This is just what I have to do if I want to avoid a broken hip and ending up in a nursing home. After all,” she went on with a smile,” I am almost 90 years old!” Mattie is great. She reads avidly and enjoys her family and above all gives thanks for all the blessings she has had in life.

Among my older folks, there are many such good attitudes. It makes me think hard about how emotional I become in response to small things, how often I make more of things than is needed or warranted. One of my older ladies is much like me, and she has developed that tendency to a fine art. And she is unhappy much of the time, starring in a drama of her own creation. My role is sometimes to listen to her sadness, and other times to distract her from it. The best distraction I have found is my big puppy, Sam.


She just loves Sam (he’s on the right). He’s been out to visit a couple of parishioners with me, and I’m hoping to use him even more as a Ministry Dog. (That’s Molly on the left, by the way; she shows less promise for visiting, since she wants to put her paws up on everyone and every table and every counter she sees. Naughty Molly.)

Doing some research about therapy dogs being used by churches, I ran across Loving Paws, an outreach ministry of an Episcopal church in Ohio. Ever since I arrived at my little Congregational Church, I’ve been searching and praying for a ministry that would be both an outreach to our community and a magnet drawing people to us. We are both a bit inward-turned and a great deal aging, and I just felt it would take something unique to draw in younger people. Maybe this is it!

Finally, a funny story from Mattie, who you met above. Her great-granddaughter came home from preschool one day recently and said, “I was a good girl today. I didn’t bite anyone!” Mattie shared this story with her college roommate, a dear friend who is now in a nursing home. About a week later, the friend wrote a note to Mattie: “Dear Mattie, I was a good girl today. I didn’t bite anyone…though I was sorely tempted!”