2 Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life


All my life I wanted a dog. After all, I was an only child. To a child without neighborhood friends, without sisters who could become eternal confidantes, without brothers as co-conspirators in life, a dog was the only obvious substitute for companionship. Or at least it was obvious to me. It was not at all obvious to my mother. Our house, my mother insisted, was not the kind of place where dogs belonged—a walk-up in a northern city given to lake-effect snowstorms. And further­more, the landlord agreed with her.

But my mother could deal with the idea of my having a bird. On Good Friday, Billy, a blue parakeet, became the Easter gift of my life. Nothing has ever quite matched it since.

All over the world, everywhere, humans and animals form great bonds that give them both another kind of gift of life. Which is one of the reasons I wrote this book. A book of this nature brings with it a kind of intimacy and spiritual insight that seems to demand a special kind of privacy. After all, if you begin to talk about your pets as if such talk merits some kind of genuine attention, spiritual as well as psychological, what will people think?

[Rescued by a Rescue Dog: How Pets Can Change Our Lives]

At first, I thought of it as nothing but the opportunity to tell a series of anecdotes about the animals I’d lived with in various stages of my life. After all, I had regaled groups for years with stories that smacked of depths far beyond either the usual tales of animal behavior or human appreciation of animal companions. Writing the stories down would simply provide the opportunity for a lot of people who like animals, who have lived with pets, to compare their own experiences to mine. Maybe to have a few laughs. Maybe to cry a tear or two.

Joan Chittister Two Dogs and a ParrotMany of the stories, I knew, were funny. But some of them, I also knew, were quite surprising for the level of spiritual insight they brought to my own understanding of the human-animal relationship.

This is a book about the role of animal companions in the development of our own spiritual lives. It is written for those who have pets and already understand that. It is also written for those who do not have pets and wonder why so many people do.

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]

It is a book about reestablishing the human-animal relationships creation meant us to have. So, I am starting at the personal end of the subject–because my animal friends (Danny, the Irish Setter, Duffy, the Golden Retriever, and Lady the Caique parrot) drew me out of myself and made me aware of another whole level of what it means to be alive. They gave me a much broader vision than it would have been if I had shaped it for myself out of nothing but work and time and things. In them, I have seen another face of God.


Excerpt from Two Dogs and a Parrot: what our animal friends can teach us about life by Joan Chittister. (BlueBridge, 2015)

{Image credit: Pixabay}

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