The Animals Welcomed God

Merry Christmas!  Christmas is a big event in all of the animal world because we were there to welcome God before anyone else (except for Mary and Joseph, of course.)  We Collies get into the spirit of this holiday easily: God came to be with all creatures!  It makes more sense to celebrate this event than any other event I know of.  I barked a Merry Christmas to my neighbor Irish Setters when they came up the driveway today.  They answered back with a lovely howl. 

I am enclosing a photo of the creche handmade by Sisters Aggie and Carol over 20 years go.  They made it out of breaddough* and Carol puts it up on the mantle every year.  I hope you take time to re-enjoy the treasures of your life these days.  May your memories be happy ones.  May your new year make many more moments to recall with gratitude next Christmas.

*From Clare's Well recipe book p.151


I Remember Snow

I remember snow!  This is the first real snow we've received since I stopped using my eyes last spring.  No fear.  The yard is still the same to me. I spent some time out there today exploring Earth with her new cover.  Literally, "Cool."  My personal photographer took this photo at sunset; can you see the color?  I hear the snow's reflection of the colors of the setting sun improves the image of my white fur against the snow.  I have to say, all of creation works in my favor. 

The Sisters are taking more time during these days of Advent to notice what God is doing in our lives.  From what I know about Advent as a time to remember the presence of God embodied in creation, taking time to notice sounds like a common sense thing to do.  I wish I could tell them all that I notice in snow.  Who is blind? 


From a Dog's Eye

There has been a lot of action at Clare's Well lately. 
Halloween brought the neighboorhood trick-or-treaters.  My ears perked up at the sound of "treat!"  I didn't need eyesight to recognize my little friends from next door. We are too far out in the country for many children to come. I and the Sisters are happy when Tanner and Madi show us their costumes.

squash caused a lot of excitement in the kitchen last week. How could a common garden squash raise such exclamations?  Sister Carol explained and said it weighed almost as much as I do.  I've heard that every meal this week contained a squash entre of one kind or another even though some of this giant was given away and some of it was frozen. 

The construction workers came to reshingle the roof of the farmhouse.  Mother Nature did her best to make the November weather pleasant for the roofers. Nice weather or not, I choose to stay out of the yard and indoors.  You know how it is when one gets used to certain pathways only to find them blocked with strange vehicles and other obstacles.  I find with my blindness it takes more energy than I want to give to learn new routes through the yard.  I even hear the Sisters say sometimes that they get tired more easily than they used to with the many new things these days bring.  It is good there are four of them here now. It takes every one of us to keep this place going.  We help each other when a day's events feel overwhelming.  I hope you have someone to help you grow through your challenges.



How do you promote good relationships even when you yourself don't fit in?  Maybe we could share some ideas about this.  Here is an example of what I do.  It might not be the best, but it is a start.

I get along well with cats (well, with most cats); goats, however, are usually not happy to have me around.  Because it is good to promote good dialogue, I walked away from this conversation so that Hank and Sunny could converse without any problem with my presence.  If Sunny (the cat) can get along with both Hank and myself, he can help to bridge the gap between me and Hank.



Everytime I turn around there is something new on this piece of Earth.  This week more guinea chicks came strutting out with their protective mother, aunts and uncles hovering all around.  My Franciscan care-takers go a bit ecstatic at evidence such as this that God still believes in creation and can't seem to get enough of pouring out life and beauty.

I notice Clare's Well guests kind of "wake up" when they see the tiny birds with the gaudy yellow legs stumbling over blades of grass behind their mother.  Sometimes this sight makes people laugh.  Sometimes they just stop and watch. The presence of newborn anything touches all of us.  Right?

The guinea mother tries to be caring and protective.  I identify with her as I watch her guarding her scurrying children all day and tucking them under her wings at night.  This is how I feel about those entrusted to my care.  Wish I had wings . . . .



I never know what I have to walk around when I go out on the deck these days.  Last year a neighbor gave the Sisters two peacock chicks.  They are now half grown (takes three years for them to mature) and they are very much at home around here.  I hear they are quite beautiful to the human eye and our guests say they are uplifted by their grace as well as by their fidelity to each other.  You should hear them cry out when they get separated!

Sister Karen had an extra job this summer because of the peacocks.  You get the idea from the pictures.


Can't Sleep Through Thunder

There are a lot of reasons for not sleeping during a thunder storm.  Some of my personal reasons include the fact I don't yet understand what the noise is all about.  It has been explained to me in terms having to do with air currents in the upper atmosphere, but I don't care for the explanations.  I still bark on the porch until someone lets me in to the living room where I feel safe between the coffee table and the couch.

Big noises ought to bring us together.  Too often, I think, we scatter and endure disturbances alone.  That only escalates my frightening fantasies of what is happening.  Being close to someone else calms me.

Another reason for staying awake during any storm is storms are a great time for sitting together and telling stories.  Sister Jan tells us about storms on the Kilian farm when she was a child.  She enjoys thunderstorms.  They bring memories of her Dad coming in from the field in the middle of the day.  The rain would cool down a warm day and the family would sit together on their screened porch and watch the majestic show of lightening, wind, and bowing trees. 

Minnesota is having lots of thunderstorms this summer.  Gather with loved ones.  Try to enjoy God's show.   Here is the double rainbow Sister Carol photographed over the House of Francis hermitage after an especially big storm that was well deserving of an academy award for sound effects, choreography and the best actors in the universe. 


Creative Chickens

Everybody has to get creative about work places these days.  What do you do to your work place to make it pleasing to you?

Are you satisfied with the place assigned to you?  Or, do you create your own spot to do your job?  If you are one of the latter, you are very much like the chickens with whom I share this farm.

Look closely amid all the "stuff" on this work bench in our garage.  See the red head of the hen who has claimed this place to lay her daily egg?  It is far from cushy and convenient like the nests provided out in the barn.  She defies her employers' expectations by choosing the hard wood in this crowded spot behind the grinder motor.  If the garage door is closed, she paces the ground outside until someone opens the door for her. 

Others of my chicken farm-mates also scorn the supplied nests.  When the Sisters collect eggs at the end of each day, they have to look not only in the garage, but also in a worn-down place in the cement in the barn aisle, in the hay mow, behind gates, under the table, on top of the old refrigerator, in flower beds and even in my dog house!  Oh yes, a few eggs may be found in the old fashioned nests.   So, who do you think is in charge of this retreat farm?



I don't know what to make of it.  Am I supposed to bark at "intruders" or not?  Jan gives me mixed messages when she comes down at 3:00 a.m. and tells me "thank you" for letting her know there's a deer in the yard and then tells me "be quiet now and go back to sleep."  The sisters say all the barking in the world won't stop the deer from coming on to "our" property because this is their property, too.  Where are they supposed to go? 

This rooster, unnamed because he might yet some day end up in a stew, makes a lot more noise than I do and he orders "his" hens around.  Am I to tolerate him, too?  What would you do about him out on the chapel rail, railing at the world?

There is a web site called We Can Stop The Hate.  It has a lot of good information about immigration for humans.  I'm considering how it applies to me.  Check it out.


Goat Population Tripled

The family of my goat brothers and sisters tripled this summer! 
Both Gemma and Nibbles had twin kids in May. 
Gemma has a boy and a girl, Heidi and Hank.  Nibbles has two boys,
Shadow and Stormy.  Heidi and Stormy are black and white. 
Hank and Shadow are totally black in color.  I hear people say how interesting that the Mom's have matching pairs of kids.

Sister Carol's grandniece, Rosie, and friend, Elizabeth, came to visit this week.  The kids put on a great show for them;  I could hear the girls laughing.

Even though I can't see, I feel like my old self again. This is good because Carol needs me to bark at these rowdy kids when they escape from the barn.  My bark gets them in before they eat the flowers.  It means the world to me to still be needed! 

Good eyesight isn't required to answer voice requests for help.  How do you respond when someone needs you and you can't see them? 

(Do you think Carol lets the goats out of the barn on purpose sometimes just so I have more to do??)



Do you ever wonder how the seeds people plant feel about being planted?  Are they eager to be buried in earth?   What would such eagerness require?  I know Carol thinks deep thoughts as she goes about the garden this week.  She talks to the seeds and I think that must comfort them.

Does plant knowledge prevail over fear in the baby seeds as they disappear into the ground?  I wonder about that and I don't feel quite so afraid of what is going on in myself.   I get afraid because my eyesight is not better.  I get confused about where I am and the whole world seems to be in my way with a loss of direction.  People have to help me get going in a safe direction again.   I don't think people help the seeds find their way.  Do I have it in myself to find my own way?



I have written a poem to celebrate how I feel about all the expressions of God's life all around me.  It was inspired by Gemma, my goat sister, giving birth to twin kids, a boy and a girl on 5/14/2010.  (By the way, her mother, Nibbles, had twin boys two weeks ago -- but she's done this before so no big deal.)

Land of 40 acres,
pond, grasses, trees,
wild birds, pheasants and deer.

Little goat,
first-time mother,
bearing, caring for kids
without lessons!

Sunrise, moonset, always on time;
stars overhead directed by seasons;
wind song, crickets and frogs.

Clare's Well,
what's this responsiblitiy
humans claim to have for you?
With cats and Collie who know your boundaries
and speak your name,
you thrive on creatures
fueled with God's DNA.



Blindness.  I don't think I will ever get used to it.  I have had to let go of doing my jobs:  going on long walks with Clare's Well guests is what I miss most.  I no longer find my way home when I get turned around.  I bump into things everywhere.  People who are trying to protect me from hurting myself sound distressed.

I'm at my best when I just lie down and rest close to where others are.  I am reluctanty moving from doing into simply being.  Do you think I'm still of value?  When guests arrive, I'm still the first one they reach out to touch.  That's a comfort, but . . . . I need more time to digest the changes I'm going through.  Do you have any suggestions to help me continue to grow into a mature dog?



Speaking of tolerance, Lily, the barn cat, has taken over the yard since I can no longer see her.  I hear people saying how nice it is to have her out and about.  What should I make of that?  She comes out only because of my handicap.  She is better off because I am down and out.  Her well-being is relative to unfavorable factors in my well-being.   

Well, I suppose you'd expect such a relationship between antagonistic canine and feline species.  What about among other creatures?  Does what is good for one depend on something being not so good for another? 

When I do cozy up to one of the other cats who aren't afraid of me, people get out their cameras.  They say, "Isn't it great that they get along with each other?"  If I had a camera, I could photograph people of different races being friends.  How is it for you?  Do you notice when physical differences don't matter in relationships? 

I have a lot of time to think about Lily these days.  How would things be different between us now if I hadn't been so aggressive toward her when I could see?


Collie Talk

The Minnesota Wisconsin Collie Rescue organization, which helped me to find my home at Clare's Well, is a resource for help in any need.  Sister Carol e-mailed them to ask for advice about blind Collies.  Several Collie owners responded through collietalk@yahoo.com and they were very encouraging.  Even if I never recover my sight, they say, I will be just fine.  She was advised about things I'd already told her, like keeping my food and water dishes in the same spot and not moving furniture around on the porch.  I get to know a certain path and stick to it.  My favorite path is the driveway where I feel where the gravel ends and the grass begins, making it easy to run out there. 

My spirits are better these days and I'm spending more time out of doors.  Dr. Sillerud says my left eye cleared a little and she still hopes I will be able to see from that eye.  Some of the medicine she has me taking increases my appetite and to keep from gaining still more weight, I eat shredded carrots instead of snacks between meals.  The carrots taste pretty good, but I feel like a rabbit!  Please don't publish that in collie talk.


A Collie's Holy Week

Holy Week is all the buzz around here.  My Sisters are busy with choir practice and Easter preparations and are trying to take more prayer time.  They weren't able to make reservations for all the people who wanted to come to our hermitages this weekend.  More than at any other time of the year, it seems, people want to be quiet and tune their spirits to God's spirit.  I hear it is a time to recall how God came to personally share in the experiences of creation, including suffering and death as a human creature.  This is consoling to me as a creature who is suffering more than I ever have before.  My blindness is very disorienting  and only a little more bearable because I know I am not left alone to go through it by myself.   

The Sisters and my doctor are hopeful I will regain sight in my left eye.  It is not a cataract afterall that is causing blindness but some other undescribable obstacle that should be healed with eye drops and pills.  My right eye is totally gone.  I see the doctor again on Tuesday. 

If I can't be out herding the guinea fowl, whom I hear squawking around the yard, and if I can't run out to greet guests, or do my other assignments, then Holy Week is as good a time as any to be confined to the porch.  I take it as a time of conversion while I listen to readings from passover and the way of the cross.  Perhaps my healed vision will be more than just that of my physical eyesight.


Give Me Eyes That See

"Give me eyes that see", is my prayer these days.  Even though my other senses have increased their ability to help me navigate in my canine world, I'd like to have my eyes back.  We are still investigating whether or not it is possible to have my cataracts removed.  I am among the uninsured, you know.  My human friends are working on that aspect from within their network of friends who support us.  If the eye specialist tells us this week that I really am a candidate for cataract surgery, people who see me as integral to the hospitality at Clare's Well say they will help to make it possible.  I'll keep you posted. 

In the meantime, I don't know myself how I do it, but I just know when there is a puddle ahead and I walk around it even though I can't see.  Isn't that amazing?  I love how God designed us.


Cataract surgery for Collie

Just to let you know, I visited the eye doctor yesterday.  She says I have mature cataracts in my eyes -- no wonder I can't see.  I also have red eyes, which are caused by inflammation and she gave the Sisters  medicine for me.  When the inflammation is gone, they can consider surgery for my cataracts.  I understand this is expensive.  I overheard shock in Jan's voice when she repeated what the receptionist said was the charge for my examination visit yesterday.  She had a large question in her voice.  The lady in the doctor's office calmly repeated the number and I could feel Jan's disbelief as she wrote out the check. 

In the meantime, I overheard them say my diet will be changed:  no more fatty treats and no people food. I don't like the sound of that.  But, what can I do about it?  I have little to say about what people give me to eat.  I am feeling better, and the ice is less in our yard, so I feel like wagging my tail when I go out.  This is a strange time for me and I'm not quite myself.  Hang in there with me, please.


I Can't Find the Door

This last week has been difficult for me.  It started with bumping into the door frame on the porch.  I don't know how to explain it.  My Sisters noticed I acted strangely but really became alarmed the night I was headed for the kitchen door to go out for my walk and I walked right up against the refrigerator!  Ouch.  I am confused.  What is happening to my world? 

Things smell the same and sounds are the same.  I find my way around the yard with difficulty, but I know some of that is due to all the ice and snow out there.  If someone is driving in with a car, I pray they will be a little patient with me not moving out of the way right away.  It is taking me longer to get my bearings.

I was taken to my local doctor, Doctor Larson, who is so concerned that he recommends I go see an eye specialist.  I will be going there in a few days.  Please keep me in your prayers.  I'll let you know what the eye doctor says.



I've been thinking about resistance lately.  Just this morning I got in trouble on account of it.  Does that happen to you, too?  It can be rather painful and embarrassing. 

When the Sisters at Clare's Well go to feed the animals out in the barn, I like to go along.  Usually they are glad to have me come because they see how excited I am being wherever they are.  It is difficult, however, to leave the barn with them when I haven't had enough time to check with all of my friends out there.  I especially like to see what the others are getting in their food dishes. . . .

This morning, Sister Carol was in a hurry.  She called me to come when her chores were finished and I ignored her.  She didn't see me in the back pen and must have assumed I'd already gone out.  So, two hours later, there I was stuck in the goat pen and barking in a disgraced, humiliated voice for someone to come to let me out. 

Moral of the story:  Come when the one you serve calls you.


Down to Earth Viewpoint

I hear a lot of talk from my kennel on the porch.  The people I live with are Franciscan Sisters.  I hear they are committed to listening to God's voice.  These days, I hear them talking about listening even more seriously to God, digging in places where they might have missed a Word of direction, just like I do when I'm looking for a good bone.  A prayer I hear them praying is one from St. Francis:
              Most High, glorious God,
                     enlighten the darkness of my heart.
              Give me true faith, certain hope and perfect charity,
                     sense and knowledge
              so that I may carry out Your Holy and true command.

I wonder if I can learn more about those things Francis asks God for, especially "sense."  Does he mean the ability to follow your nose, like I already do?   What do people use to get to what's really important?  Besides my nose, I also use this trick:  I sit in front of the one I want something from and just look and look at them.  They could try that with God.