Tag Archives: HumaneSociety

For Love of A Chicken & Katy Perry

Strutting in the alleyway behind our house this morning, a lone auburn chicken bobs her head, pacing in front of the eight-foot fence meant to keep her safely inside.

“Hey, a neighbor’s chicken got out,” I call to my husband.  “I’m going to walk around the block to let them know.”  We live in a municipality which allows the tending of small, hen-only laying flocks.

On my way around the block, I notice the chicken has moved closer to the north end of the alley and toward a busier street. Two people, a man and woman, are preparing to paint a house at the alley’s edge.

“Could you watch the auburn chicken there, so it doesn’t get into the road?  I’m going to tell her people she is out.”

A 40-ish woman, with half brown and half Katy-Perry, blue hair answers, “Yeah, I’ll watch her.”

“What the f*#%, I don’t have time to watch no chicken.  I’m being paid to paint,” the man spits.

Spirituality

Running around the block, I make my way through a shorter, jury-rigged gate to  the front door of the house with the chickens. Rapping loudly on the front door’s wooden frame, I hear a woman’s voice respond to a raucously barking dog, who is only answering my knocking with a very deep voice.

“Shut the f*&% up!” the woman’s voice shouts at the barking dog and, then, she groans, “Oh, my, God,”–in a long, drawn out way.  (It is Saturday morning at about 9:15 AM.  And, I might add that we are sometimes an adjectivally challenged neighborhood.)

I knock again on the door frame, and this time I holler loudly, “One of your chickens is out. I came to let you know.”

Some more words are hurled at the dog.  I repeat my refrain more loudly, “One of your chickens is out.  I came to let you know.”

Then, finally, a tiny slip of a woman who is pregnant appears at the door.  Standing in front of me, combing through her blonde mane with one hand, she yawns and rubs sleep from her eyes with her free hand.

Third refrain, less loudly:  “One of your chickens is out.  I came to let you know.”  To this I add a one-line verse, “I don’t know how to catch them.”

“Okay, well, I have a mess of kids sleeping,” comes her reply.

“If I can catch the chicken, do you want me to put it back in the yard?” I ask.

Yawning again, she reconsiders, “Yeah, I’ll come out.  They usually just squat when you approach them.”

Rounding the block again, the woman with the Katy-Perry inspired hair reports, “I have been clucking to her.  She has been responding to me.  See?  She is foraging now in that unmowed area over there.”  The, turning to the male painter, she asks  in a hopeful voice, “Hey, Rick, you were raised on a farm.  Can you help us catch a chicken?”

“I already told you.  F*&# no! I ain’t spendin’ no time on a f*%$in’ chicken.  I’m here to paint.  This is an eight-hundred-dollar job!”

“Help me walk her back down the alley,”  I request.  “The woman I met is tiny, and she is pregnant.  We’ll see if we can get the chicken back over the fence for her.”

Cluck.  Stroll.  Slowly.  Tongue clicks.  Cluck.  Walk.  Stroll.  Cluck.

Then, the tiny chicken-owner comes out of a hidden, back gate from within the eight-foot high fence.  Walking briskly up to the chicken, whose wings flutter and then fold, the  tiny woman swoops down to scoop the bird up, carrying the chicken through the back gate.  The painter with blue hair returns to her duties.

“Can you help me?” the tiny woman turns to ask me, poking her head back out the tall hidden gate.  “The door has to be lifted up to close.”

Stepping through the tall gate, the yard is thick with unmowed grass.  ‘Auburn’ the chicken has at least six other could-be-twin sisters moving around the yard, clucking and scratching.

“My husband hasn’t mowed in awhile,” the woman explains.  She hands me a stick to help lift the gate over the tall grass and onto a cement block buried beneath the gate’s resting point.

“Maybe the stick won’t do it.  It is too thick.  Do you have something else?”  I request.  Even I am having difficulty as the gate is very heavy.  As she walks to fetch a gravel shovel, I manage to lift the gate  into place.

We walk together across the long yard, so she can let me out the front gate.  Turning to her, I introduce myself,  “My name is Julian, by the way.  I live immediately behind you.”

“I’m Angel.  Nice to meet you.”  With that, the front gate closes behind me, and I start the walk home.

Holding Space: A Dog Love Story

  1. A dog with exceptional social skills—both people and canine.  I want a dog diplomat.
  2. A dog who is safe to have off-lead and who comes when called.
  3. A dog who is smart and learns quickly.
  4. A dog who is reliable with children.
  5. An excellent walking companion who can keep pace with me.

After volunteering briefly to walk dogs for a local animal shelter, I realize what I am feeling is not going to be fulfilled by simply being around “dog energy” once a week.  I want a dog of my own—to enter into the committed relationship that is formal, long-term dog ownership.  When I have this realization, we are living in graduate-school housing, which does not allow canine companions (except for service dogs).  To honor my desire and ensure that hope survives, I find a dog leash and hang it on the coat rack next to our front door, holding space in my heart for the dog who would be.

Spirituality

Moving to a new region of the country a year later, we make sure to find older housing that allows dogs.  In meditation, I am granted insight into the fiscal parameters required before I can begin searching for my new friend.  In the mean time, I add more yoga classes to my schedule and make an official list of desired traits for my future companion, all while reading books on dog care and watching dog training media.  Another year passes.  I am finally financially secure enough to begin looking for my future friend.

The search begins at our local Humane Society.  Soon, we are going about every two weeks.  This ritual becomes difficult.  Coming to know some of the dog personalities,  I can sense their expectant hearts looking for a safe place to call home.  Yet, no one dog feels like the match for the puzzle piece I hold fast in my heart.

Then, one day when we are out of town, we drive past a small, hand-lettered sign for another community’s newly opened animal shelter.

“Should we take a look?”  I ask my family as we drive past the sign.

“We have the time today,” my husband responds.

Turning the vehicle around, we follow a series of small signs to a beautiful, brand-new facility off of a dirt road and a high hill.  Pulling into the parking lot, we note the facility’s amazing design.  We are facing full-length, slide-away “windows” that allow fresh air to circulate through the building.

Walking inside, there is the normal clamor of dog voices punching thick sanitizer air that pervades every shelter.  Because we are in a smaller municipality and at a facility I have not checked before, the number of hopeful hearts is not quite as overwhelming and the personalities are new to me.  My heart feels a little more settled about approaching this shelter’s walk-through.

“Are you the one?” I ask as I approach each dog, relying on my heart and spiritual sight to help me.

There is another aspect of this shelter that is unique.  In some cases, it keeps dogs in “family” units, giving the shelter the feeling of a group home instead of a prison.  Coming into a large, indoor play area, where the wall-length windows are recessed, I see my family through the open air about twenty-feet away.  They are still in the parking lot, looking directly into the space where I am standing.

Along with other dogs, a litter of three-month-old puppies are in the play area, surrendered a week ago.  There are two males, who look like Black Labs, and two females—one looks like a Doberman mix, while the other appears to have some German Sheppard in her, except that she has drop ears.  But what catches my eye is the luminescent spiritual crown floating above the head of the female puppy who appears to be a Sheppard mix.

Spirituality

Receiving permission to move in among the dogs, I pet each puppy and then pick up the puppy with the spiritual crown. Turning to face my family, I ask, “Is this the one?”  Everyone nods in affirmation.

This is how our dog, Sophie, came to live with us.  We waited almost three years for a dog and searched for six months.  We celebrate ten years together this week.  The fulfillment of wishes, held deep in the heart, can take time, a long time.  Patience and sincere willingness to be faithful to one’s feelings regarding “the proper order of things” creates an enduring sense of peace in those willing to abide.