Father Dragan Pusic blesses animals at Our Lady of Angels Church in the Brooklyn borough of New York City Oct. 3, 2020. The blessing of animals is part of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which is celebrated Oct. 4. (CNS photo/Ed Wilkinson, The Tablet)

Man’s Best Friend

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Father David BonnarI used to have a Shih Tzu dog named Bobo. Bobo came into my life following the death of my dear dad, who died in 2002. Mom died in 2001. Their deaths were a heavy and dark time for me. I had no regrets, however, I missed them immeasurably. When they were alive, I would often go home to spend time with them on my day off. Following their death, I went home, but the sense of home was not the same.

As a consequence, I welcomed Bobo when he was two years old. I guess you could say I rescued him from a family that was going through a difficult time. But actually Bobo rescued me from my grief, sorrow and sadness. He brought a loving presence to my life, not to mention some excitement.

I will never forget the time I was at my parents’ house before we sold it. I was getting dinner ready. I snuck out quickly to take the garbage out. When I returned, Bobo was on the dining room table licking the butter container. Thank God he didn’t eat the hamburger.

It has been said, “A dog is a man’s best friend.” Indeed, Bobo was a true companion for 12 years, accompanying me on three different assignments. In every parish, he lit up the place with his swag.

During the third move, I held my breath because, in our diocese, there is a policy that pets are only permitted when all of the priests are in agreement. I was being transferred to a place with two other priests. If they did not want a dog, I would have to find a new home for Bobo. Thankfully, the priests accepted Bobo, and he embraced them.

Because Bobo had to be walked throughout the day, it gave me breaks to pray and just get away. He was a gift in so many ways. He had an innate way of reading my heart. He knew when to play, and he knew when to comfort. Sadly, Bobo developed kidney issues and a brain tumor, and I had to put him down. It was truly one of the saddest days of my life. His death created a void in my life, not to mention my days. There were no more walks, and I would come home to an empty room. The one who helped me move beyond the grief of losing my parents now became a source of grief and sadness. The pain was so deep that I cannot ever imagine having a dog again.

Perhaps you are wondering why I am talking about my dog Bobo. Well, it is that time of year again to bless animals. It is the custom on Oct. 4 each year to have the blessing of the animals in commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi.

This was the first time blessing animals, for me, in my new assignment. In addition to dogs and cats, there was a parrot. For the first time, I witnessed two ducks. All of the animals seemed to be on their best behavior.

Following the blessing, a woman by the name of Nancy approached me with her dog named Buttercup and said, “Father Dave, don’t give up on having a pet again. I know that pain of loss too, but I found this rescue who has helped me immensely.” It sounds like she too was rescued by her dog. Pets may not be for everyone. Nevertheless, whatever the species or whatever their name, they sure make a difference in the lives of their owners.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

 
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