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Shouldn’t Churches Have a Place for Dogs?

First published in the Sept. 22 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

Dogs are an act of faith. An act of desperation. Not sure why everyone doesn’t have a dog. Or why we can’t take them to church. More on that in a moment.
I think many of us were wired to be martyrs, which is another reason we have dogs.
To have a dog is to always have fuzz on your socks and a lawn that needs fixing. To have a dog is to never sleep late on a rainy morning.
I was chasing one down the boulevard the other day. She’d ripped her leash from my hand, and I was doing that “Stop! Stop! Stop!” thing you do when a dog gets loose in traffic, then a couple of cyclists stopped to yell “Stop! Stop! Stop!” as well.
Did you know there were still Good Samaritans left in L.A.? Me neither. But there they were, helping me save the dog that, at that moment, I hated very much, yet would’ve laid down my life to save (see “martyrs” above).
I am a reluctant dog owner. Inherited the husky from my late son. Inherited the golden, Penny Laine, from my lovely and patient older daughter, who went off on vacation and — like Magellan — never came back.
I am losing kids and gaining dogs. What do the economists call it? A zero-sum game? Pareto-optimal?
I miss them though. ’Specially the little rascal I call “Cakes.”
Meanwhile, I am walking White Fang and my daughter’s dog, ensnared in their two leashes, with a poo bag flapping this way and that like a bag of jellybeans.
Then Penny picks up a stray stick. Golden retrievers are always picking up stray sticks — that’s their main job.
“Stop, no-no-no-no, give-that-to-me … give it,” I yell, badgering her with as many confusing commands as possible.
So, yeah, we’ve had some challenging walks lately, first the escape, now this splintered flotsam, a piece of Noah’s Ark raking my soft suburban hand as I try to pry it from her mouth, which has something like 50,000 teeth.
Great morning for a dog walk. We woke to drizzle. Unusual for September. In September, you’re more likely to wake to wildfires, record heat, blackouts.

Our husky, White Fang, could use a little church in her life.

We don’t care. Honestly, we just roll with it. L.A. Whatever.
This morning there is also music. We pass a homeowner blasting John Williams out of her garage at 8 a.m. on a Sunday. I mumble to the dogs — “What a nice lady, entertaining her neighbors like this” — as the “Star Wars” battle cry echoes down her street.
Her message: Wake up! Rejoice! Get going!
You’re familiar with Williams, right? Like Beethoven, only a bit more commercial. I mean, really shamelessly commercial. As in everywhere.
Don’t judge. Have you ever seen Frank Gehry’s sailboat down in the marina, with the teak and the super-expensive hardware? Total knockout. Floating sculpture. If a boat could be Ava Gardner. …
Point is: These rich dudes have a few expenses, too, just like the rest of us.
As you know, Williams writes the world’s loudest music, the kind where every musician is playing at full volume — the bassoons, the oboes, the Gallic horns. The percussionists stand in the back, windmilling their arms, as if falling backward off a high ladder.
In a Williams piece, there are notations in the percussionists’ sheet music: “Just bash everything you can! The gong. The triangle. The glockenspiel. The snare.”
Anyway, during a Williams scoring session, the violinists saw furiously at their instruments, and the cellists are on the edge of their seats — gasping, pushing, as if giving birth. Push! Push! Just one more … push!
So, to recap, that’s the music coming from this woman’s open garage early Sunday morning. Don’t you love it? Wake up, petunias! Wake up, sparrows. Wake up, Russ and Moira. It’s Sunday! The Rams play in three hours! Wake up! Rejoice!
I look at it as a call to arms, much like September itself. September signifies change, and I embrace change.
FYI, there are laws of inertia that govern change. If something is fine, it changes. If something is broken, it doesn’t. That’s probably my best explanation for change.
For instance, why can’t you take your dogs to church? I’d attend much more frequently if I could just bring my dog. Always found a rather divine demeanor in dogs. My husky, White Fang, might, in fact, be a re-incarnated Russian rabbi.
Anyway, people drag their dogs everywhere these days, why not church? “Pups in the Pew,” I’d call it. “Honoring Our Dogs, Past and Present.” As they say, dog spelled backward…
I mean, can’t you just hear me, hissing near the back? “Pray, White Fang. For the love of God…”
You know, some say writing is a form of prayer. Well, so too is doting on your dogs.

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