By Sister Judith Minear
As a lover of all animals, I have certainly found God in all creation, including dogs. But one of COVID’s greatest isolation gifts to me was the almost-daily companionship of a Goldendoodle named Ginger. It is true what they say: when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.
I do not remember exactly how it happened, but sometime in January, I had the opportunity to walk Ginger, whose two humans are dear friends of mine. A combination of my love of winter and a brisk walk with her lifted my spirits. This led to a commitment to a morning walk with her as often as I could…and that walk has led to many, many lessons learned from my canine best friend. Here are some of them.
While my goal is to walk Ginger every day, my work schedule or health sometimes precludes doing so. Regardless, Ginger watches faithfully from her window, trusting that I am just around the bend. She isn’t discouraged when I don’t show up and resumes her post again the very next day, sure that I am almost there. How attuned am I to promises made and promises fulfilled, and how faithful am I to God’s presence in my life?
Forgiveness, No Judgment and Unconditional Love
The first time I had to miss multiple mornings in a row, I expected Ginger to act a bit more, shall we say, gingerly, towards me. But no. Each daily walk is greeted with utter excitement, as if this was the first walk of her life. Ginger has reminded me that I do not have to be perfect to be loved deeply. She has taught me that it is ok to pay attention to my own needs. Her love, like God’s, will always be there.
Be Mindful, and Follow Your Instincts
In the early days of our walks, I mentally mapped out a route and we followed it every day. Eventually, Ginger began to tug at her leash to cross the street…or sniff the grates. As I watched her begin to shape our walks, I learned so much about mindfulness. While my map had been all about efficiency and distance, Ginger taught me to be mindful to what was happening around us. Her alertness and attention to sound, smell, taste and sheer joy has opened my heart more fully to being in the moment. I have laughed out loud watching her shovel fresh snow into her mouth. We have paused to watch deer on lawns, squirrels digging for treasure and even watched an owl in a tree. She has sniffed flowers and gleefully rolled in dewy grass. Because of her example, I pause more to take in the God-moments that are always around me. For the first time in a long time, I am fully awake to this season of new life! What an Easter gift!
Love Your Neighbor
Ginger has never met a stranger. She assumes that every passing car and every person on the side walk is there to love and be loved. She greets each one with equal parts leaps of joy and unconditional love. Her trust and assumptions of goodness are lessons in themselves. Her worldview is clearly one of love for every kind of neighbor, just as we are called to unity as sisters, associates and friends of Joseph. Watching her generosity and love has nudged my heart to open wider and deeper to the needs of others in the world.
There is so much more I continue to learn from Ginger. What started out as exercise with a buddy turned into so much more. Every walk is a new life-lesson; every cuddle is a renewed learning about unconditional love. Thank you, Ginger, for teaching me what it means to live life and love God to the fullest.
About the Author
Sister Judith Minear currently serves as part of a 3-member team for CSJ Ministries as Coordinator for Mission Integration. CSJ Ministries is the umbrella organization that works with ministries that are members of our Mission Network. In her free time, she loves drawing zentangles, stalking birds and savoring poetry.
* all photos of Ginger were used with permission from her humans.