The Vicarage has lost one of its wonderful characters. As many of you already know, Libby the Lolloping Labrador died last Monday week. What a gap she has left in our days and our home! John and I have had a long series of griefs over the last eleven months, since my father died in September. In some ways, the death of a much-loved pet is symbolic of all the rest, and the constant reminders of our loss remind us of all the others.
Libby came into our lives in 2007, the year I came to the parish. She followed another dearly loved dog by the name of Cobweb – an elderly and arthritic Australian Cattledog, who had been the family dog all her 17 years of life. Libby was eight weeks old, full of bounce and the typical un-squashable optimism of most Labradors. She was always of very independent mind, and had her own way of doing things. However, we very quickly recognized that she was the most loving dog we had ever had. Early in her life, she developed a very close bond with John, and they became very close. She was an only dog until 2010, when Flossie came into our lives.
Pets become such dear companions, that I have always considered them to be part of the family. When our boys were young, we had lots and lots of pets: dogs, a cat, ducks, chooks, rabbits, an aviary full of budgies (and some who lived in the house), and two lots of fish – cold water and tropical. Tolerant and very patient family members often came to feed and care for them when we were away.
I know many of you love and depend on pets too. Some have rather tame visiting birds, which come to eat from your hands. Others have sheep – some of which come to events – horses, and alpacas, and we all love Monty the donkey, of course. I have always enjoyed our blessing services – held at the beginning of October, to coincide with the feast of St. Francis; but I am also open to well-behaved animals attending church at other times, too.
Working animals are very important to our lives. My father’s extended family includes many dairy farmers, and I grew up visiting a great-aunt and great-uncle’s farm in Trafalgar often, and staying for a week now and then for my health. I was a rather sickly kid – suffering from pneumonia and bronchitis. I learned to love cows, and still do. Having Julie and David’s successive Guide dog pups with us at St. Mark’s was a positive experience, too, over the past few years.
In a wandery way, I am trying to say something about the connections we humans will always have to members of the animal kingdom. Some work with us and for us. Some are our companions, who cheer us and comfort us, keep us active and sane. Some provide us with food such as eggs and milk – and meat of course. Others supply wonderful fibres to spin, weave, knit and sew. It seemed an appropriate time, as John and I farewell a family member who has given so much to us, to acknowledge that God made all of the earth, and all of the wonderful creatures, for us to marvel at and wonder at, and love and care for.
We are friends of the Zoo, and enjoy visiting Zoos wherever we travel, too. Animals will always be a part of our lives. I have included a few pics of the Vicarage inhabitants. Please remember to come along to our next animal blessing on 7th October this year at either St. John’s or St. Mark’s. More info will follow, but do bring along your animals, so we can thank God for all the wonders they provide!
God bless you