In Roald Dahl’s book, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke, the main character, a dyslexic Vicar, is plagued with a fictional form of dyslexia where he inverts the important words in each of his sentences. Instead of inviting his parishioners to “sip from the chalice,” he encourages them to “pis from the chalice.” And of instead of praying to God, he invites everyone to bow their heads and pray to Dog.
It’s been years since I’ve been to a church of God, but I live in the church of Dog day and night. Today one of my mentors stated that my dog, Pia, is a spiritual creature because she truly embodies love. If there was the equivalent of the “my child is an honor student” bumper sticker for dogs, I’d have one (never mind the fact that I don’t own a car). I am unabashedly biased and think that Pia is truly the best dog in the whole world. But it seems I’m not totally alone in this assessment. Other people have called Pia: a philosopher, a spiritual creature, a light, a love. And she is all of that.
Dogs, by nature (unless they’ve been corrupted by humans) are divine. Their orientation towards the world is openness, love, forgiveness, and joy. Qualities that humans must wrestle to achieve, come to dogs naturally. Pia approaches all creatures, great and small, by rolling on her back and exposing her tender belly and neck—paws outstretched—vulnerable to the world and trusting that the world will meet her with kindness. And remarkably it almost always does. Young girls and boys, big men working construction, busy business women, grandparents sunning in the park, a homeless woman sitting in the square—Pia cracks each of them open. She rushes up to strangers, delighted, tail wagging, excited to see them. She invites them to pause, to smile. Dogs, who usually snarl (according to their owners), are gentle with Pia. I know this is in part good luck, but it is also, in large measure, Pia's doing. Pia’s goodness invites goodness in others.
Pia, as it turns out, is my greatest teacher, and every night when she curls into the crook of my arm, I happily, naturally, pray to Dog.