Dogs welcome, hallelujah and amen!

My church, Unity, is all-inclusive. Anyone can attend: people of all colors, religious backgrounds, political affiliations, sexual orientation, whatever. No one, and no dog, is left behind. Lots of dogs attend our services with their people. Most of them are rescues. They never bark. The most disruptive they get is excitedly licking people who pet them.

dog-569992_640One Sunday, while we all stood linking hands and singing Let There Be Peace on Earth as we do after service, I felt a little tweak on my thigh. It startled me, and for a brief delusional moment I imagined it was the handsome man who had come and sat in the pew behind me. Of course, that was ridiculous wishful thinking. The tweak was Baby Jane sitting on the pew and nipping me. Baby Jane, a rescued Chihuahua, comes to services often, always dressed to the nines. She’s a clothes horse. Clothes dog, I guess I should say. She comes to church in ruffled dresses, adorable sweaters, graphic tees, coats, hoodies, every type of clothing known to dog.

One time, Baby Jane’s mistress was socializing in the courtyard after service without her tiny dog, which was unusual. “Where’s Baby Jane?” I asked her.

“Oh, I needed some down time so my daughter’s watching her. Actually, I get tired of that little rascal getting all the attention!” she joked, good-naturedly and affectionately. I got her point though. She was wearing an absolutely gorgeous dress, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed if Baby Jane had been with her in one of her killer outfits.

Our minister has a very charismatic Cockapoo that often comes to “work” with her. I volunteer in the church office and when they walk in, I always run up to adorable Maggie and pet her and throw her office toy across the room over and over and tickle her and just generally make a huge fuss over her. When I’m done I always look up at Rev. Karyn and say nonchalantly, “Oh, hi. I didn’t see you come in.”

“Everyone says that,” she always replies. We never tire of the routine.

face-1083900_640There are all kinds of endearing dogs. A golden retriever, Shelby, always has a toy in her mouth, and runs up to you like she wants to play and when you reach for the toy to throw it for her, turns her head and trots away. It’s crazy making, like Lucy in Peanuts when she holds the football upended for Charlie Brown to kick, then whisks it away right when Charlie gets there so he falls on his butt. And there’s dear old Sammy, an elderly, arthritic Heinz-57 mix, who slept in the aisle every Sunday right by his mistress, Linda. He barely moved, but somehow you knew he loved it when you petted him. Even in his sleep, his love for Linda and for us filled the room. One day Linda came without him. He had passed. Many of us cried, and we still miss him. His beautiful spirit lives on in the sanctuary.

Some people even bring their dogs to the board meetings. It’s totally permissible, but there is a very strict rule in force. Dogs may attend the meetings, but they are not allowed to vote.

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Having fun helping the planet.

I led a pretty vain, self-indulgent life until I was in my mid-thirties. I’m not proud of it. Now I’m striving to be a part of healing the damage we have done to our planet, and a part of preventing further damage. My priorities have changed. As I grow older and, hopefully, wiser I am becoming less selfish and more eager to help with solutions to environmental problems.

cleanup-342707_640I was surprised to discover I can help and still be self-indulgent, because helping preserve our earth turns out to be a hell of a lot of fun. There’s a lot to do close to home. I join in weekend creek and beach cleanups whenever I can. They start frightfully early, and I’m not much of an early riser when I don’t have to be. But getting up early for a cleanup is worth it when we’re done and I see the natural beauty shining through, trash and litter gone, and the habitat safer with the removal of plastic bags and six-pack rings that kill so many water fowl. Not only that, the people at the cleanups are a lot of fun and I’ve made a few new friends.

I’ve also lost weight doing the habitat cleanups. And I’ve been shopping with cloth bags for a long time and believe I’ve lost weight traipsing back to my car to get them when I discover, usually when I’m in the check-out line, that I absent-mindedly left them in my car. 

I’m conscious of doing things that make my footprint smaller upon the earth. We hooked up a water-saving “Navy” showerhead, and always buy green household products. I take light-rail now whenever I can, even when it’s more convenient to drive. As a result I do a lot more meditating and reading, which I’m a big fan of, and I’m more relaxed. Instead of saving money washing my car at home, I take it to the car wash, where they recycle and keep harmful chemicals out of the storm drains and thus out of our of creeks and the bay. It costs money, a drawback, but on the other hand I can catch up on email and phone calls—and more reading, while I’m waiting. I recycle religiously, down to buying used books from Amazon.  

These are just a few things I’ve been doing differently from how I lived during my misspent youth. The satisfaction I get from helping heal the earth cancels out any sacrifice involved in changing my lifestyle. Helping save the planet is its own reward. I do have to admit though, that I like the way I look since I’ve lost weight. I have changed in a lot of ways but my vanity is healthy and intact. It still loves to be stroked. One more reason why habitat cleanups rock.