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.
One 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.
There 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.