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Two Dogs and a Parrot

This small volume of “lessons” and ref lections is written by a Benedictine nun who loves and appreciates animals. In it, she illuminates the signif icance that dogs and other pets have had in her life. Each chapter begins with a story of what an animal did to inspire qualities such as acceptance, purpose, enjoyment, empathy and diversity (plus many others). Each vignette is followed by a consideration of the importance those qualities should have in our lives. Not surprisingly, the book is constructed much like a sermon, but one that’s offered with a very tender, and at times humorous, tone.

In her introduction, she relates how “spiritually profound” she finds the question of “what it means to be entrusted with nature, to live with a pet.” She also notes that there are two creation stories in Genesis. The more widely known suggests that humans were assigned “dominion” over other living creatures and nature. The other, she points out, tells us that animals were brought to Adam to be named; her take on this may differ from what many others have interpreted as having “power over them.”

The second creation story is actually older than the first, and Chittister construes it more generously—she feels that to name “is an act of relationship, not dominance.” She also makes the important point that if we look at a creation story as a relationship tale, it “inserts us into the animal world and animals into ours—with everything that implies about interdependence.” The book goes on to illustrate this perfectly. You don’t need to be spiritually inclined to find significance in it and to take inspiration from it.

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