In my web travels I came across a monastery with monks that train and raise dogs. On their website they articulate some of joy and wisdom of having a close relationship with a non-human companion. This really resonated with me as I have learned to be more calm, patient and gentle since I started living with my dog companions.
I like what the monks have to say about being authentically human and how dogs can help people achieve this
After all Dog? God? same letters, is this just a coincidence ? Many dog people think that this is not just a coincidence.
As the monks say:
“Although our involvement with dogs spans nearly twenty-five years, we never cease reflecting on the dynamic nature of that connection and the intrinsic role it plays in the life of our community. Dogs are not an accidental element of the monastic life at New Skete, they are at the heart of a vision that sees the totality of life as a finely woven unity to which all of us are responsible.’
To anyone who knows us, this will be perfectly understandable. But to those who do not, the idea of a community of monks living in close relationship with dogs always provokes a lot of questions. We recall a visiting priest who once asked: ‘Why does your community attach so much importance to dogs? After all, they seem to take up so much time, time that could otherwise be spent in prayer and reading. . . Wouldn’t your community be better off supporting itself by a business that is more in keeping with what a monk’s life is supposed to be? Selling candles, perhaps?’
The priest assumed that dogs take us away from our spiritual priorities. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Being a monk has nothing to do with donning other-worldly veneers or conforming to set ideas about what seeking God means; it is about becoming a true human being, and dogs can play a pivotal role in that process. Precisely because they are living creatures, dependent and vulnerable, dogs continually take us outside of ourselves, the fundamental movement of being human and the only way to find God.
To be authentically human means learning to give oneself unselfishly, ungrudgingly, and to one who listens, the very nature of the dog calls this out in a unique and compelling way. In the very routine and ordinariness of a relationship with a dog, through the discipline and responsibility it entails, we learn about ourselves, about nature, about God and the spiritual path we are on in ways that would otherwise be unavailable to us. Without apologies, we have discovered that dogs play a crucial role in our growth in consciousness.”
The Monks of New Skete belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church and are members of the Orthodox Church in America, their book is Raising Your Dog with the Monks of New Skete