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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

How a gospel hymn and a dog opened my eyes


Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,    
Oh, rock-a my soul….
God only knows when these words and that unforgettable melody first took seed in my memory, but recently it bubbled up unexpectedly from the depths of my soul. With the clock ticking rhythmically in the background and the nearby wood stove warming us, a little fuzzy puppy nestled into my chest and that song brought forth the most welcomed and satisfying sense of peace I’d had in a long time. Duffy, with all eight pounds of him safely ensconced in my arms, melted into the gentle swaying motion of my body.
Suddenly a thought popped into my mind, “The original version of this old gospel hymn had to have come from a matriarchal tradition. After all, it’s not likely that Abraham had a “bosom”. And iconic images of men embracing the distressed and vulnerable with an abiding warmth, comfort and protection are few and far between. Seems like mostly women do that!” But, with all due respect for the exalting of “God the Father”, as well as credit due African-American gospel music as the origin of this spiritual, drawn from the Book of Genesis, I still had to wonder what happened to Sarah, Hagar and Abraham’s many other wives?
But back to the here and now. Duffy came into my world a few weeks ago. He’d been dropped off at one of our local animal shelters. I got a call from a friend who has a longstanding connection with the Humane Society as a volunteer and Board Member. She informed me there was a puppy badly in need of a home. I’d once mentioned to her that “someday” I might like to get another dog. “But now?” I thought. It was with curiosity and a leap of faith that I responded to her call that morning.
I gathered myself for a trip to the Iron Range and after a short visit with shelter staff, I agreed to complete the adoption application. I first had to pass their “background check”. They’d call me the following day once they’d contacted my references. I’d no more than buckled my seat belt to head home than I began doubting my decision. Was I ready for this commitment? Could I shift my daily routines for him? But more so, could I handle the grief should something take his life before mine? (Anyone who has loved an animal knows the pain of losing them.) But I had taken this trip, and I’d already said “Yes!” I guess I had to let the story unfold.
Duffy’s first nine months of life were beyond sad. He’d been mostly confined to a kennel-cage, seriously neglected with scant physical contact, no grooming, no “potty-training”, and now extremely timid and anxious. He would need a lot of attention, I was warned, especially in those first few weeks in his new home. My main challenge would be to gain his trust, provide a sense of safety and security, give him lots of loving touch, and basic training in the do’s and don’ts of a successful dog-human coexistence. 
After receiving the “okay” to take him home, I carried him to the car, secured him in the seat beside me, and turned the key. During the 25-mile journey north, I pondered my “to-do” list. I confess, there were some momentary surges of panic.
But now it’s Sunday morning three weeks later. I’m unquestionably immersed in life with Duffy and loving it. I’m filled with gratitude. First, just for him, but then also, for that impulsive side of my nature, the same one that has so often gotten me in trouble, but this time got me to “Yes!”
Duffy’s presence reminds me of the countless creatures wandering the planet in need of shelter, acceptance, and protection. And not just critter creatures but human ones, too. I just learned that there are 18,000 refugees fleeing war and famine who have been fully vetted and are ready to receive the very same kind of caring from us here in the U.S. And I recall vividly how often I considered fostering a child in need but held myself back, too afraid that I might fail.  I regret that now, at 66 years, aged beyond my ability to accept that special challenge and opportunity. But my longing to care for others persists. Now I have Duffy.
Recently I read that the “bosom of Abraham” is meant to symbolize a sense of absolute and enduring peace, of safety, warmth and protection. In that moment, while rocking my new puppy in my arms, I relished feeling his whole body slowly relaxing into mine. In that moment, we shared the true meaning of that spiritual. Duffy’s utter vulnerability reminded me of my own. We became one another’s blessing.
I only hope I can carry this awareness forward, a bit more willing to offer warmth and shelter to someone even when I’m feeling reluctant and unprepared. Maybe we can all be a little more aware. Innocent little Duffy opened my eyes and my heart, convincing me that I needn’t be afraid to respond, whenever I might be called.
Blessings to all of you reading this story who can relate. There are so many just waiting for us to say “Yes!”.



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