“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day Three: Pup Stress Relief in the Chapel

Yesterday the first-year-council at St. Lawrence sponsored a wonderful event: at 3 o'clock, all of us faculty and staff who have "well-socialized" dogs were invited to bring them into the chapel on campus so that students could take a study break and find tactile relief for their stress in advance of finals week.

Other campuses have sponsored mixers like this, but for the one I read about most recently, at Georgetown Law School, the event was co-sponsored by the local humane society, and the day was all about puppies.  Check out, below, the footage of this event--pups, pups, and more pups in the hands of sweat-shirted students temporarily trading in torts for pup treats and mergers & acquisitions for interspecies merging & and free love.

Although there was one puppy at St. Lawrence's event--a four-month-old Doberman who is already as big as Zoe, who weighs in at 60 pounds--it was middle aged and senior dogs who held the floor yesterday.  And such a lovely variety.  A beagle, a shih tsu, a samoyed, a very sage old yellow lab, and of course Zoe, who is a little shy, but loves the love.  When I decided to attend, I wasn't really sure if I was taking her there for the students or for her, but I realized right away, after I talked to a few of the students, that we were there for me.

I'm getting a better camera on Monday, so I apologize for all the canine white-eye and the blur.  If you can photo-shop them in your imagination, you will see in the photos below evidence of the usual canine meet-and-greet butt-sniffing, and that Zoe held court as though it were her job.  What moved me most was the students I met; they were not the least bit shy or phobic about asking why Zoe has three legs, and they listened attentively when I explained.  The word "cancer" starts to lose its power when you say it again and again.  Even violent words like "amputation."  But the story they liked hearing most was how within two weeks she was back to her old routines: running with her pack, swimming, stopping to smell the roses--I mean, dog-urine scented shrubbery and telephone poles.  Zoe's resilience and grace and patience have taught me so much about how to live, how to love, and how to face obstacles without losing one's confidence and or spirit of fun.  It was nice to be able to pass on her courage to some students who were worried about exam week.

And so Zoe put up with the crowds (she's more a one-on-one type, as I am) and the noise and the extra attention to remind all of us that a stress reliever study break is really just a reminder to get over yourself and remember what matters.    Friendship, and the kindness of strangers.  A  good walk.  A bowl of water in the chapel corner when you need it. 

To watch footage on Georgetown's pup-fest, click here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/cuddly-puppies-help-law-students-de-stress-before-exams/2011/12/01/gIQA0s9LIO_story.html?hpid=z4


  1. Looks like Zoe is a movie star now! Wish I could have been there Nattie May! Keep up the great work on the blog. It's wonderful. Special request from a brain-damaged ADD sister though—Shorter posts please! Thank ye kindly...xoxo

  2. Not at all surprising that I should come to know you via Zoe. It's as it should be. I find that we are, in some critical ways, remarkably alike in our seekings: meditation, prayer, peace. We love our dogs and our partners. I've come to where I hope this blog has led you. Living my life out loud. You must weigh the costs of being a "very private person." What does that mean? What is it about the life that needs the cover of privacy. And why? Why and how has Zoe, bless her sweet soul, moved you away from that to this? I pity people who are unable to connect with animals; who hold to hierarchies that suggest that we, humans, are somehow far superior to them. If I could love as my dogs do; if humans could love as they do, we'd have an entirely different world. I love Zoe. I see her little puppy photos and remember. Bless be the tie that binds.....

  3. My daughter is the director of nursing at Grove City Collegein PA. One of the workers brings her dog to the health center there and the students can come and visit her, take her for walks etc. Students who miss their dogs at home come often for a little dog therapy. Nice program.