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When I was a child I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals. It didn’t really matter the category in which they fell—livestock, pets, or wildlife—whichever, I enjoyed working with them, hanging with them, and when needed, nursing them back to health. I was the kid who could most easily tame a wild barn cat or as I got older, found that in moving cattle from one pen to another or attempting to partition off one or a few from others, it would often be easier with one person (me) and a good working dog than an entire group of men trying to “help.” Growing up in the country availed me with many opportunities for the up close and personal, encounters with wild creatures too! From the mundane of nursing baby pigeons—not easy for there’s no real good substitute for pigeon’s milk (yes, that’s a real thing)—rearing and eventually releasing an abandoned baby raccoon (Rory we named him), to assisting with an injured great horned owl (with which we had to call professional reinforcements). Animals were a kind of early calling.
By the time I was in High School I was working an after school and summer job at our local veterinarian clinic. For a kid, that meant a lot of cleaning up kennels and other tasks that you might say were less than exciting and generally pretty gross. But I still loved animals and it was cool to work with them. The clinic served both small and large animals, meaning your dog and cat variety as well as livestock and horses and covered an area including portions of five counties across northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Occasionally I would be called to assist one of the vets on a farm call and there too, was a certain amount of gross with even more cool. I happily live in the City now but take a certain kind of pride in knowing that I could still engage most dairymen about AI or in vitro technology, displaced abomasum, or pregnancy testing in their herd.
I relate all this here today for two reasons. Firstly, because today would have been my dog Sarii’s 15th birthday. He passed away during the summer of 2012 after many months of dealing with cancer. He was a good boy. It might seem odd if you’re not a dog person to commemorate a pet’s birthday, but he was part of my journey from just after college to now: three states, five homes, seminary, and two calls. He represented so much more than just the friendship of a loyal dog, but the span of my early adulthood. I was never much for Halloween, and while observant of it being Reformation Day, apart from Sunday, there’s not a whole lot of commemorating it unique for today. But for almost fourteen years this date being my dog’s birthday meant a special can of dog food or rawhide or bone. It was his day. So I still think of it as such. And I’m thinking of him today, of how fortunate I was and am. It makes me look back and in some ways know that I am still that child who always loved animals. I look back from where I came and I’m thankful for all the little parts and pieces that have brought me to this day.
I relate this also because of what tomorrow is, All Saints Day. Tomorrow, I’ll gather with many in my parish and community and will recall those who have come before us. We will look back and “remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no person can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom we for evermore are one.” Today and tomorrow are days to look back and to give thanks, even while holding the sadness that it brings.