Tuesday, February 15, 2011


My childhood was punctuated by a parade of beloved pets.  I don't remember a time when my family was without a dog, and more typically, we had several of them.  Likewise, we had a curious assortment of cats, some of who0m lived in the house and some of whom lived without.  I recall having had rabbits for a while as well as a runt pig that lived very briefly.  Along with these were many lambs, a goat, several ponies, and bottle fed calves.  Most of these animals had exquisite names; one of the cats was Evinrude,* one dog was Rastus, and one of the bottle calves was Ephrem.**  On a recent trip across central South Dakota, however, couldn't help but call to mind Duke.

For a great deal of my growing up years, I didn't realize that the dog's name was Duke.  When calling him, my grandfather would simply say "Here, Dog," to which he generally responded.  As I recall, he was mostly a mut, but clearly has German Shepherd in his background.  

Family lore abounds with stories of Duke.  He loved to fetch.  My mother talks of how he would accompany her to softball practice and catch line drives in his mouth.  Dad tells of a time that he fetched wrenches while he and Grandpa were working on a tractor or something.  He also had a predilection toward rabbit chasing.  We owned a rather realistic looking plastic rabbit (the sort one might use as a decorative piece in a garden) with which the adults of my family would torment him by saying "Get the rabbit."  Ears alert, back stiff, and nose twitching he would look in the direction people pointed and prepare himself for a full fledged chase.  The plastic rabbit was just a tease, but he could give a real rabbit a run for its money.

Duke is long gone, but his reaction toward rabbits is one that I have seen in many dogs since then.  Whether it be Border Collies upon noticing livestock, or goofy house dogs chasing a stick the reaction is similar.  The whole body tenses with desire to run, to chase, and to capture.  Depending upon the situation, I have found this reaction comical or at times maddening.  Never had I suspected that it was a behavior that I shared with them until I was making my drive.

Looking across the snowy landscape on Monday, I saw hundreds of pheasants.  I spent most of that portion of the trip staring out the side windows, aching to shoot, to throw a rock, or to at least give chase and make them fly from me in fear.  I could do none of these things.  I had no gun and the season has ended.  The pheasants seemed to know this.  Some were pecking and scratching but most were simply standing there, mocking me, defying me.

I felt pretty awful about poor old Duke and all the times he tried to give chase to a plastic rabbit.

* His purr was like a motor. 

** There was always a danger in naming the calves.  One never knew when it might end up on one's plate.  Steak with a name has a way of sticking in one's throat.


  1. Yup, poor ol' Duke and that dumb rabbit. He was mostly German Shepard and a whale of a cow dog. And I understand your feelings about the pheasants. Kind of like when I see a team of horses.

  2. Do you steer in the direction you're looking, Father, tracing a wavy line down the highway and slowing traffic when the sights are particularly compelling? No?

    I suspect you might someday... How about you, Jinglebob?

  3. So glad to discover your blog--actually found it because I did a search for Greg Parrott and then saw his name in YOUR blog!! Glad to see that lovely picture of the pheasant! Also chuckled when I read about your conversations with Greg. I had a good number of great conversations with him over lunch and especially when we were in Fr Cozzen's Eucharist class. I was thinking about him because I am re-reading Vonier's book A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist and wishing I could discuss it with him again! We went down to his ordination actually! One of the things I loved most and miss most about the seminary is the ability to have conversations like that--frankly Tyler, few people I know are interested...you are lucky--well, I think you may be able to understand what I mean. Anyway--thanks for your ministry Tyler.


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