Remembering Doe-Doe, the Great First Person

| 11 Jul 2016 | 04:26

In 1950 I was a 10-year-old boy living with my Irish immigrant parents in New York City. Home was a ramshackle railroad apartment at 114 W. 90th Street, where the rent was $36 a month. My parents loved their only child and, owing to my father’s periodic excursions with me to the Museum of Natural History, I loved life -- especially animals. One day, aware that there was a puppy in the neighborhood in need of a loving home, I put pressure on them to let me have it.

The friendly female, mixed breed, black and brown pup, who wasn’t yet two months old, belonged to a young and childless couple living nearby who had no desire to keep her. Nevertheless, they felt obligated to find the dog a good home. Everyone knew one another and one evening, when my parents and I were being informally interviewed as potential adopters, the puppy, with divinely orchestrated timing, walked over to my father and laid her head in his lap.

I had my dog.

Delighted with my new charge, who was named Lucky, I dutifully and lovingly kept my promise to care for her. Aesthetically beautiful, with a perfect temperament, she was intelligent, sensitive and athletic: primal positive proof to me of God’s existence, giving strong credence to the religion classes conducted by those devoted Presentation Sisters at St. Gregory the Great.

In these simple and wonderful days in New York, you could let your dog off the leash. I would thrill to see Lucky’s ears pinned to her head as she blazed across the breadth of the softball fields at 84th Street in Central Park, delighting in her speed. Then it would be a swim in Castle Lake, where she continually astounded people by the size of the branches she could bring to shore.

Each day I walked her in the morning and took her to the park after school. Dad walked her in the evening and it didn’t take long to see that this dog especially loved my father and that the feeling was mutual. Then one evening dad pre-emptively renamed Lucky, Doe-Doe, saying it better fit with her warm, loving and pert personality. This struck truth for mom and me and was readily accepted.

We all loved Doe-Doe and appreciated the apt mushiness of her name, which in no way detracted from her elegant bearing. Even my mother, who was neutral toward animals, caved in when Doe-Doe curled up to her during her frequent bouts with migraine headaches. We were indeed an enriched family.

And divine providence was indeed watching over us, for during this time Doe-Doe survived being lost in Central Park for three hours, running under and out the other side of a moving bus on Columbus Avenue, and poisoning, when my quick-thinking father induced vomiting by shoving bacon fat down her throat.

With my father being a lithographer and my mother a part time cook, we were not poor; however, our lower middle class status compelled frequent movement in Manhattan’s fast-changing housing market. By 1964 I had graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School, worked a half dozen jobs, got a brief chance at professional baseball, and joined the Marines.

Meanwhile Doe-Doe had matured into one of the most beautiful canines in all God’s creation. Exuding health and happiness, her good nature, bag of tricks, and unqualified love made wherever we lived a happy home. More than a few times it was suggested to my parents to make her a show dog, but that kind of vanity was alien to them.

In 1966, I experienced extra sensory perception for the one and only time in my life. Having just given up on my dream of earning my living as a professional baseball player, I was in a run-down restaurant in San Francisco one afternoon going over the want ads while wondering what I should do next. Suddenly, very clear, it came to me that Doe-Doe had just died. I called New York to hear my mother weeping. When she told me that our beloved dog had died in dad’s arms I did not mention my premonition for fear of exacerbating their profound grief. I cried, too, right there in that desolate restaurant. Within a week my 16-year-old dream of being a baseball player had died, along with my 16-year-old dog, who had made my boyhood so happy and fulfilled.

For many years afterward I would recall the love that Doe-Doe had engendered and wonder if it would matter in the plan of the Creator. My intuition said that since Jesus had affirmed His Father’s care for the birds and sparrows He would certainly not forget His beautiful messenger, who having a share of His Divine Breath, had so faithfully imparted her Maker’s presence us. Still, I was hesitant to broach the issue.

Then, in 1990, Pope John Paul 11 proclaimed that animals do have souls and are as near to God as men are. Around the same time, the late Cardinal John O’Connor, asked if it should be out of the question that all things will endure in harmony. Further light was cast by Fr. Merio Canciani, a prelate in Vatican City, when he pointed out that the word animal comes from anima - Latin for soul.He reminded us that St. Francis called the animals “our little brothers and sisters” and informed us that it was in his Rome parish that the late Pope Paul VI told a little boy whose puppy had just died that he would one day see him again in the mystery of Christ.

And now the visionary Pope Francis has weighed in by echoing the sentiments of the late Paul VI. The Pontiff’s words were: “One day we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures and there they will be vested with the joy and love of God without limits.”

For us who love, work with and share our lives with animals - and see positive proof of God’s majesty in them - it is patently obvious that animals have souls and will have a place in heaven. Does anyone really think that the animals who were present at Christ’s birth, or the colt who bore Him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, could be forgotten - or excluded?

Dr. Patrick Glidden, a veterinarian of the Michigan Humane Society, sums it up best: “To see a soul, look at an animal you know. Most of us can say, ‘My dog is a distinct individual, with a distinct personality.’ That relationship shows the dog’s soul. Animals are such innocents. Why wouldn’t God want to surround Himself with their goodness - the goodness of creations that didn’t reject Him, as we did.”