by Andrea Elizabeth
Maybe I’m like St. Mary of Egypt and was prevented. Whatever the main reason, I was not directly anointed with the Holy Theotokos of Iveron myrrh-streaming icon during Holy Archangels’ feast day Tuesday.
My reason is that I have a special needs dog. I have written somewhere and on Facebook about Circe, who was rescued from the local shelter a month or two ago. She needs a lot of supervision and assurance. She has extreme stranger anxiety, and is only comfortable around George, me, and our one son. She was rescued to be a companion to his dog, Loki, but he is gone too long and she started acting out by destroying first her bed and then his. She ripped out a big chunk of his foam mattress. He’s gone too much and the apartment is too small for her.
I believe she is a Dutch Shepherd. These are great dogs who are very loyal, intelligent, obedient and fast (greyhounds were bred into them), and are often used as police dogs in the Netherlands. They also need a lot of land to run around in. They are usually outgoing, but she is hardly socialized. Her reaction to almost everyone else is to escape or to very loudly and deeply bark, which combined with her very erect build, is intimidating. We had to put her in a choke collar because her neck gets thinner as it goes up, and her head isn’t much thicker than her neck. She used to wiggle out pretty often and go to a safe spot. Since the bed incident I have acquired her. I love her so much for her beauty, sweetness, and intelligence. She is not aggressive at all, but she is high maintenance.
I figured that the state park near the monastery in the fall, during the middle of the week would be a good place to start her socialization and leash skills. I took all three dogs to the monastery during Vigil on monday night, but she barked at anyone who passed by the car, where she was to stay. My husband came out and watched her as I went and stood in the back of the Church for 20 minutes. It was a blessing just to be in the same room with the icon, my friends, other worshippers, and the wonderful monks. I think they may have been singing O Gladsome Light because as they were Byzantine (Greek) chanting, one of the monks started swinging the huge candlelit chandeliers, and I heard “Doxa” which means glory, I think. “Oh gladsome light of the holy glory”. I tried to get up closer on the women’s cloistered side to see the icon, and did from about 20 feet. I didn’t want to venerate it with everyone around the perimeter watching. If someone else had, I would have joined them.
Since the dogs couldn’t really wait in the car or at the campsite by themselves, or with any of my friends or family at home because of Circe’s anxiety and requirement of a high level of engagement, I didn’t go back during Liturgy the next morning. My husband, other son, and daughter were able to participate fully. George’s forehead was very fragrant with the miraculously ex nihilo holy streaming myrrh, and he transfered it to my forehead. Really that’s good enough for me.
Meanwhile, Circe gradually calmed down about the few people we encountered on our beautiful, long hikes. I had to explain that she wasn’t mean, but was scared of them and just wanted space. So walking calmly across the parking lot from other people without barking or escaping was accomplishment enough for me. Thank goodness for my two sweet dogs who give her the security of a pack to belong to, and a calm example.