My Saint Patrick.

Posted: March 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Saints come in all different shapes and sizes.
Some of them have wet noses and muddy feet.
I was in 6th grade when I met my Saint Patrick

He was a magnificent Irish setter with a free spirit.
I remember when I first saw him.
We were at my cousin’s house. It was a beautiful spring day and we were tromping around in a small patch of trees. I saw this large red dog running with wild abandon through the neighboring field.
I fell into like at first sight.
He was a stray with a gypsy heart who had frequented their neighborhood for the last few weeks. He only stayed in one place long enough to get a free meal.
He was dirty and wild and beautiful.
He was a red headed Saint.

I was a boy who needed a dog.
Puberty had kicked in and it left me unrecognizable to myself.
Everything about me was changing.
I didn’t like me.
I didn’t understand the junior high social jungle.
I didn’t know how to navigate through the angst.
I needed a friend who wouldn’t judge.
I was a boy who needed a dog.

I instantly bonded with this Irish setter.
We got each other.
I, too, am the owner of a free spirit and a gypsy heart.
I begged my parents to give him a home.
I made promises to take care of him.
They gave in and said that we would give him a chance.
We took him to our house, we played for a while and then when I was distracted he took off.
I looked and couldn’t find him.
His free spirit had taken him away.
Dad said “that’s the way it is with strays, they can’t be tamed.”
I went to bed with a broken gypsy heart.
But then, the next morning, we were awoken by a strange yelping noise. It sounded almost otherworldly. It was a howl that I will never forget. It was the song of a saint.
It was the Irish Setter!
HE WAS BACK!!
I think he had taken a walk and considered his options.
He was waiting for me on the back porch.
It turns out that he was a dog that needed a boy.

He became my dog.
I named him Pat.
We became pretty inseparable.
He got me through some rough years.
The wonderful world of adolescence is hard.
You need someone to remind you, everyday, that you aren’t invisible, that you matter.
Our nightly ritual became routine.
I would get home from school, grab a snack and head to the hay barn behind our house.
I would pour out my heart to my big red Saint Pat.
He would just sit with his head in my lap looking at me with deep brown eyes that seemed to say “I understand and everything is gonna be alright”.
He was my therapist who never offered a word of advice.
He just listened.
He was my best friend who never judged or questioned.
He just offered unconditional acceptance and unwavering love.
I would tell him about my day, the frustrations, the confusion, the laughs, the hopes and dreams, the secret crushes…nothing was a secret from Pat.
I shared all the joy and pain of being twelve years old.
He listened.
He cared.
He had an amazing capacity for compassion.
He was a Saint.

But, He ALSO had an amazing capacity for jumping.
Pat could jump really tall fences, which became a BIG problem when there were chickens on the other side of the fence.
Pat discovered he really liked chicken.
Our neighbors had chickens.
After Pat had killed two of their chickens, the writing was on the wall.
My parents had a tough talk with me.
Pat had to go.
Growing up, the hardest lesson of all is that sometimes you have to let go.
We found him a home in the country with a great family and lots of places for a free spirited Saint to run free.
It was far away from any chicken coops.
We made arrangements.
It was a painful afternoon.
One of those days when your soul is stretched to the breaking point.
Goodbyes always suck, especially goodbyes to the saints that have helped you survive.
I had a knot in my throat and my eyes stung.
We had one last heart to hound talk in the hay barn and then we loaded Pat up in the truck.
It was about an hour drive. We listened to Merle Haggard with the windows down. Pat licked my face.
He seemed to know that everything was changing.
He had done his job, he had gotten me through some stuff. He had delivered the boy to the edge of manhood.
It was time for his free spirit and gypsy heart to move on.
Free spirited Saints don’t stay in one place too long.
They deposit a little divinity and then head down the dusty road.
We dropped him off and said goodbye and thank you.
He ran into a patch of trees as happy as could be.
We didn’t look back.
On the way home we stopped at a gas station where my Dad bought me a cold Pepsi in a glass bottle. We leaned against his truck bed drinking pop and awkwardly kicking at gravel.
I was trying so hard to contain a tsunami of emotion.
In a moment of unwavering love, my father patted me on the back and said “I’m proud of yah, you are handling this like a man”.
I will never forget that moment in time made possible by a red headed Saint.
It was a coming of age for me.
A welcome into the fellowship of man from my Dad.
It was a tangible turning and nothing would ever be the same.

Saint Patrick had come into my life and left huge paw prints on my heart. Forty years later, they are still there.
He ran alongside me down some perilous roads.
His last act of Sainthood was to nudge the boy toward the man with a beautiful wet nose.

That was a miracle…an undeniable work of magic and mystery that strangely enough, smelled like a big wet dog.

Thank you to my Saint Patrick.

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