The Christmas Dog

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind – nor life result in death.”
– From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
by Mary Baker Eddy

***

Christmas Eve, 1988.  I was in a funk.  I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life.  My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me.  No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.

I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house.  I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”

But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all.  John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house.  Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.

I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog.  It had foam and blood around its muzzle.  She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.

“John!”  I yelled, running after the farmer.  He turned around, surprised to see me.  “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.

A look of remorse came into his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows.  I had to kill it.”

“But John, it’s not dead yet.”

John looked back at the dog and grimaced.  “Oh man,” he said.  “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job.  Put it out of its misery.”

By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot.  It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape.  The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart.  I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.

Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field.  He saw the look on my face as I ran back.  By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me.  I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.

As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her.  He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me.  John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.

I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her.  As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal – “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.

Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her.  After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment.  I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.

My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned.  For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her.  I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God.  I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God.  I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.

She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”    He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.

We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side.  I continued to pray.  In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box.  Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth.  She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl.  I was elated!  Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue.  She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more.  Now I was beyond elated!  She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!

The next day I took her out for a walk.  She’d take a few steps and then lean against me.  Then she’d take a few more steps and lean.  But she was walking!  We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.

In the next two weeks her progress was amazing.  By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls.  Her appetite was healthy.  She was having no problems drinking or eating.

But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her.  They became good friends.  The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot.  (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)

What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love.  She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.

We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.

Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own.  It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.

– excerpt from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist by Karen Molenaar Terrell
018

How cool was THAT?!

I woke up at 2:00 this morning feeling a cat curled up against my legs, kneading them with gentle kitty paws. “Clara,” I thought, thinking of my calico. And, still half-asleep, it occurred to me that Clara had lost some weight – she was feeling light against me.

I tried to doze off again, but the sleep didn’t come. I finally gave up and decided to get out of bed and do some work in my office. But as I was getting out of bed I reached down to pet “Clara” and realized that this cat wasn’t Clara at all – it was Sparky, our black feral cat, curled up against my legs. Which… whoah… Sparky is usually skittish and scaredy and doesn’t often let people near.

I curled my body around Sparky on top of our wool Pendleton blanket and, for the next half hour, communed with him – scratching him behind his ears, ruffling his fur, petting his paws. I could feel him purring underneath my hand – stretching out so I could pet all of him.

Eventually my husband – who first coaxed Sparky into our lives last autumn – moved abruptly in his sleep and Sparky – maybe deciding the humans were getting a little too lively – scampered off into the night.

But whoah… how cool was THAT half hour visit in the middle of the night?!

Sparky the black cat 2

Sparky last autumn.

Cat’s Pause: A Homonym Poem

The calico jumped on-two my covers as eye red
inn bed this mourning, and curled buy my feat.
Soon her little bro joined her up their. Calico
licked the we won’s face four a thyme and then
they were wrestling and boxing, and calico
was on her back, her pause rapped around
her we brother’s neck, while her back feat
playfully pushed against his wriggling bawdy.
He escaped and pounced on her a-knew and the too
of them bounced and bounded oar hour bed –
letting mi no it was thyme to get up and feed them.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Lilly’s Human

I met her pet bunny on the boardwalk.
She’d named her Lilly and put a pink collar
around her neck. Lilly nestled in between
my feet for a bit, and then I crouched down
to pet her fur. Lilly was velvety-soft
and I’m pretty sure she was smiling.
Her human was a young woman
and I’m guessing she had “special needs” –
there was a happy innocence in her words
and a sweet, healthy pride in her care of Lilly.

As I continued on my walk I started
to wonder how long bunnies generally
live. A few years? A decade?
And I felt myself feeling sad for the pain
Lilly’s human might feel one day
when Lilly dies. But then it occurred
to me – having just survived a year
in which death seemed to come
every month to someone around me –
that Lilly’s human might learn
that death can’t stop Love. Lilly’s
human might learn that death really
has no power to separate us
from those we hold dear.

And I realized I didn’t need to worry
about Lilly’s human and she’d didn’t need
to be protected from pain.
Life offers us precious lessons
about the eternal.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Christmas Dog

The Christmas Dog

Christmas Eve, 1988. I was in a funk. I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life. My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me. No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.
 
I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house. I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”
 
But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all. John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house. Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.
 
I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog. It had foam and blood around its muzzle. She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.
 
“John!” I yelled, running after the farmer. He turned around, surprised to see me. “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.
 
A look of remorse came into his eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows. I had to kill it.”
 
“But John, it’s not dead yet.”
 
John looked back at the dog and grimaced. “Oh man,” he said. “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job. Put it out of its misery.”
By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot. It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape. The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart. I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”
“Are you sure?”
 
I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.
 
Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field. He saw the look on my face as I ran back. By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me. I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.
 
As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her. He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me. John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.
 
I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her. As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal– “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.
 
Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her. After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment. I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.
 
My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned. For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her. I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God. I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God. I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.
She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.” He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.
 
We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side. I continued to pray. In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box. Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth. She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl. I was elated! Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue. She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more. Now I was beyond elated! She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!
 
The next day I took her out for a walk. She’d take a few steps and then lean against me. Then she’d take a few more steps and lean. But she was walking! We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.
 
In the next two weeks her progress was amazing. By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls. Her appetite was healthy. She was having no problems drinking or eating.
 
But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her. They became good friends. The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot. (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)
 
What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love. She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.
We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.
 
Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own. It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.
– excerpt from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist by Karen Molenaar Terrell
 

018

Making Friends with a Feral Kitty

Feral kitty eats the food I poured in his bowl
and then approaches me, cautiously, skittish,
not sure he can trust me, but wanting to trust,
and I reach out and scratch him behind his ears.
He rubs against me and nestles into the circle
of my arms, curls into a ball and purrs.
A perfect moment. Sweet and whole.
Is there anything finer than a feral
feline who trusts you?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Sparky the black cat 2

Who knew?!

My mom passed away a couple weeks ago and yesterday morning I rummaged through some of the boxes that we moved out of her and Dad’s apartment, looking for old photos and mementos that might be meaningful for my sons, brothers, niece and nephew – who were all going to join us in the afternoon for a visit with my dad. And in my rummaging I came upon a treasure! A folder full of poems that Moz had written – including a poem for each of her grandchildren! We had no idea that Moz wrote poetry in her free time! Who knew?!

The poems she wrote for her grandchildren belong to them – and it’s not my place to share them with the world – but I thought I might share a couple of Moz’s other offerings. Behold, Moz’s poetry:

Poem for a Tiny Bird

A tiny little birdie,
I think a chickadee,
was hanging on a swaying branch
and looking right at me.
His eyes were bright, his movements
quick – he didn’t miss a seed
as he pecked
away at the birch tree tassle
to satisfy his need.

We watched each other for
quite awhile
and then as if by command
he twittered “good bye” and flew away
I knew I’d seen something grand.

– Colleen Molenaar

Bootsie

Bootsie, oh, Bootsie
the masked-face cat,
So sleek and pretty, with
a nose sort of flat
She lives in an apartment
though she’d rather roam
Her world is much smaller, yet
there’s no place like home

She loves to eat jelly
right off the bread
And dried powdered cream
really goes to her head
She sits on her deck
over-looking the court,
watching kiddies and kittens
and creatures of sort
Bootsie, oh, Bootsie
I’ll come back one day
You’ll greet me with love,
because that’s your way.
-Colleen Molenaar

 

 

Clara Ricki Jazzy Calico

“Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

I’d been having terrible kitty yearnings. In fact, a few months ago, as I was driving home from work, I actually started tearing up as I grieved the lack of a cat in my life.

On the last day of February, 2015, I lost my calico cat, Freckle Rose. I’d found Freckle at the local Humane Society when she was just a feral little ball of fur, and she’d been a part of my life for 17 years. Losing her was really hard.

I didn’t think I’d be able to get another cat, though. In 2010 we acquired a dog – Samantha. Samantha is a Labradane. She is big and exuberant and – I imagine if you’re just a wee fluff of fur – she is kind of scary-looking. I’d been afraid that if I were to bring a kitty into my home and she came face-to-face with Sam she would instantly die of fright.

A month ago I went to this little thrift shop/library near Mom and Dad’s place to look for another pair of pants for Dad. There weren’t any clothes there, so I came out and started to look at the flowers in their nursery. This woman came up to me and asked me if I’d like to see the kitties. I think she’d been watching for just the right someone to bring to her box of furry felines.

“Kitties, you say?” asked I.

There were three of them – two calicos and an orange tabby. One of the calicos was a very rare male calico (1 in 17,000) – and the woman needed to find a special owner for that one because it might end up having serious medical problems (it has xxy chromosome disorder) – he was VERY cute, but I wanted a female short hair and I didn’t think I would be the best owner for a kitty that’s going to need special care. So I told her I’d like to take the little female, and she gave me some kitty food for her and put her in a box with holes in it and away I went.

And suddenly, as I was driving home, I came out of my kitty-trance and took stock of what I’d just done: “Oh lord. I should turn around right now and bring her back! What did I just do? Sam is going to eat this poor little thing!” But I didn’t turn around. And when I reached the half-way point between my home and the thrift shop I decided to go all the way to my house and let my husband make the decision.

When I got home Scott was sitting on the front porch. He saw me coming up the walk with the box with holes in it. “What you got there?” he asked.

“It’s a kitty. And I’ll take it back if you tell me to.” He peeked inside the box to see what I’d gotten us into THIS time. Like me, he had some trepidation about the dog.

But somehow I ended up inside the house with the kitty. I took her out of the box, and she went and sat in a space between the couch and the book case. She looked up at me and reached out a paw – and boom! I was hooked.

Scott went to bring Sam into the kitchen to see how the two of them felt about each other. Sam was all excited – she wanted to meet the kitty. The kitty was scared. But as soon as Scott held her, she settled right into his hands and looked steadily back at the dog.

I was thinking this wasn’t going to work, though – Sam was just too excited – and so I put the kitty back in the box and told Scott I was taking her back – and to my surprise, and his, I found myself sobbing.

Scott looked at me, standing there with tears running down my face, and said “We’ll make this work.”

And so we have. Sam and Clara have become friends. Clara was meant to be with us.

Behold, I present Clara (my name for her) Ricki Raccoon (Scott’s name for her) Jazzy (the sons’ name for her) Calico (my parents’ name for her)…

Here’s a youtube clip of my parents with their new grand- kitty.

It’s so nice to come home to a kitty again – to hear little paws scampering across the floor to greet me and to feel kitty whiskers brushing across my arm. When I woke up on the morning of the day I found Clara I hadn’t expected I’d be ending the day with a kitty in the house.

You just never know what magic each day might bring, do you? 🙂

Freckle Rose (1998-2015)

I scratch her behind her ears.
She gives a sweet little meow,
and puts her paw on top of my hand
one last time before she moves on…

 

My cat, Freckle Rose, passed on yesterday. She was almost 17. I guess we recognized she was dying for the last several weeks. There were decisions to make or not to make – should we take her to the vet and let him “put her to sleep” or should we let her die in her own home, in her own time, in her own way? She didn’t seem to be in pain (but who knows with cats, right?) and the last time I’d taken her to the vet she’d been really scared and unahppy – so I decided to keep her home and let her move on in her own way.

She stopped eating. Finally stopped drinking, too. I kept waking up every morning expecting to find she’d died in the night.

Yesterday morning when I went downstairs Scott said he’d found her lying on the floor next to a little stuffed animal that he thinks our dog maybe brought to her. Scott had put her on the couch. He told me he wasn’t sure if she was still with us. I went over to her. She didn’t seem to be moving. I started scratching behind her ears and she stretched – like cats do when they’re enjoying something. She meowed once – but not a grown-up cat meow – it was the same kind of meow she’d had when she was a little kitty – a sweet little meow. And she put her paw on my hand. I sang to her, and told her to look for my Aunt Junie – told her Junie would take care of her – and I told her to look for her mentor-cat, Paws. (She’d loved Paws. When she was still a youngster, she’d seen Paws get run over in front of our house, and had come running to the door to tell me – she’d led me to Paws in the same way that a dog would.)

After awhile I brought her outside into the sunshine – the birds were busy out there and the air was full of birdsong. Freckle meowed three times – really loud – kind of excited – and then her head dropped against my arm. I brought her back inside and laid her back on the couch. Her breaths became gasps with long spaces of nothing in between. I kept my hand on her body and could feel it still pulsing. And then I stopped feeling the life. Her eyes dilated. I think I knew when she was gone – but I’m not sure – it was a very gentle, gradual thing – no definite moment between life and death.

Scott had to go to work, but he said he’d help me bury her when he got home, if I wanted. But I wanted to bury Freckle while the sun was still out and the birds were still singing. So I went out to bury Freckle in my Secret Garden – I was going to do it by myself – I dug a hole and put her in it – but it wasn’t big enough and her little paws were sticking out of it. That was not going to work. So I found another place and started to dig, and then I turned around and my sons had come out to the garden to help me. They dug a nice deep hole for me, and we put Freckle in it and put a spring pansy in it on top of her, and covered her in the good earth.

I think of all Freckle Rose lived through with me. When I got her she was a feral little ball of fluff – only a month or two old. She’d shared most of her entire life with me, and a big chunk of my life: She’d been alive when my youngest had started kindergarten and been alive when he graduated high school; She’d been alive when we moved, and built our new house and moved again; She’d been alive on 9-11-2001;  She’d been alive when I’d lived through my life-changing depression, when I’d published my first book, and my second and third and fourth books; She’d been alive as I’d worked my way through my Master’s program; When my Aunt Junie had passed, Freckle Rose had been here; And when we’d acquired our rambunctious Labradane pup five years ago, Freckle had been alive and might have wondered what in the hell we were thinking. Freckle Rose had lived through a lot.

It’s weird to live in a world with no Freckle Rose.