What we learn from our pets

Welcome to the Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life photo gallery.

In anticipation of the arrival of Joan Chittister's new book, Two Dogs and a Parrot, we invite you to share a photo of your pet (living or deceased) and tell us what you learned from your pet. Your name is required and will be displayed with your post. All posts will be reviewed and made public when we have verified that you are a real person and not spam.

Click here to add your photograph and memory. Photographs can be viewed full size by clicking on the photo thumbnails.

Two Dogs and a Parrot will be available mid-October. Joan Chittister's Prayer for Animals card is available now.

Haddie (Doggles) Riding Co-Pilot
Haddie adopted me. Pure joy seeing her at a retreat running into all the rooms and turning over saying hello ~ time to love. Then patience because she was smart, quiet, determined and yet watchful with such wisdom to teach me how to breathe and step back and notice. Then acceptance as she suffered growing tumors in her ears. We walked that road together and I carry her with all my animals in my heart (Lady, Emily, Ham & Aspen). My fish Max & I contemplate their love ~ spend time being

Posted by Jo Repanich

My dog, Maggie, is a sheepadoodle and I love her dearly. She is a big dog and it is the first time I've had a big dog. She has a lot I'd energy. Maggie is a constant reminder to take time to play. She wants to play ball and tug-of-war and go for long walks. She reminds me daily that there is more to life than working. My sweet Maggie, big, energetic, and clumsy is my reminder to stop. Breathe. Play. Be grateful.

Posted by Denise

Moose, The Swissy
Moose has taught me to quickly forgive - as he does with skunks. He has taught me that you don't need to bark at other dogs when you are confident in who you are. To enjoy being unique looking. To be more gentle with more fragile people, like babies and the elderly. To wait at the door for your master to return, no matter how sad you are she left - and sit at her feet as often as possible. To be excited to go for walks. To greet everyone who comes over like they're the best thing ever.

Posted by Kimi Ottaviano

I had never had a dog before. When my husband and I got together, he came with Hazel. She didn't like women because his ex-wife and daughter were not good to her. Somehow we became attached, she would go everywhere with me and she slept with me. She suffered a horrible accident while I was taking her for a run and died a week later. It's been six years but I still ache for her. She made my heart grow, she really did. I had never known so much pain, but I hadn't loved so much either.

Posted by Ana Jimenez

Yoda came to our family to help Obi, a 13 yr old mostly blind and deaf cocker spaniel that was the last of three spaniels that lived happily together for many years. When Obi's best buddies went to the Rainbow Bridge, all he could do was howl and cry. :(.Then Yoda came to love and comfort Obi. He was a tiny pup , but soon was showing Obi the way outside and snuggling close together. Obi's remaining time was happily filled with love from this beautiful animal, as is mine. God sent him for sure!

Posted by Michele

This is Amos. He is 95 pounds of love. As a mother of two teenage boys and wife to a busy husband, I am so often putting out fires and reacting to the world around me. But, then, Amos will lean his sizable body against my legs and I will remember to stop, take a breath, scratch his head and be still for a moment. This big, goofy, utterly lovable dog has taught me to cherish the pauses in my whirlwind days.

Posted by Melanye Cravey

I always had love & compassion in my life but Sully taught me about respect and acceptance. He taught me how to respect and honor the dog he was and not the dog my ego willed him to be. He taught me discipline, commitment and devotion. He is a gift walking along beside me on this journey for a time, and there is not a day that goes by that I don't thank him and God for his presence in my life. I am blessed.

Posted by Evie

Nicki (aka Nicodemus) is the most affectionate mischief I've ever had -- and I've had Cairn Terriers for over 30 years. He is so loving and so full of life that even when he's a mischief it's clear he knows what's he's supposed to do. But he thinks life is for fun. He makes me laugh and teaches me not to take some things very seriously. Clearly he thinks he's the Pharisee Nicodemus!!!

Posted by Gwynne Wright

Joyce Grace
Several human-like qualities have I learned from my 11 year-old dog companion a Pomeranian named Joyce Grace. Some are her faithfulness, her warmth, soul filled eyes, sweetness, caring for my wellbeing in that there was a day when I was getting dizzy and she was barking until I sat down only to realized I was having a "vertigo." Another time my apartment was smoked-filled due to my kitchen getting on fire as she kept barking and pushing my hand to wake me up. Her silence has been therapeutic.

Posted by Grateful

To be present in this moment. Trusting gut feeling / animal instinct and put aside up rising ego and greed. She told me that only love matter in this world.

Posted by Chika Smith

Unfortunately I cannot upload the image of my Honora, a 13 year old black (mostly grey now) pug. She is lame in her hindquarters and incontinent; despite this, her love and affection has had a profound effect on me. I have 4th stage pancreatic cancer metastatic to virtually all of my internal organs. After a debilitating chemo session, I return home to her loving attentions. What she has given me is the will and desire to live long enough to bring her to her own rest. It is my prayer.

Posted by P. J. Pon

This is Caesar who turned 20 yo today. When I think of the lessons he has taught me, the first one that always comes to mind is unconditional love. No matter what, he always wants to curl up on my legs and just hang out. We've spent many an afternoon and evening doing just that. I feel the love of God when I look at Caesar and imagine God giving me a hug.

Posted by Eugenie

We rescued these half-brothers 3 years ago from a family that provided all material needs but ignored them and they were kept in crates. We have learned the healing power of love by watching them blossom in our care. We have also learned that aging (these 'boys' are 12 years old!) does not diminish the unique qualities that make us who we are. They are fun and always into everything!! We were the ones rescued! How much more does God's Love rescue us exactly when we need Him!

Posted by Barbara Dilettuso

A great friend until the end.
I have had two parrots in my lifetime: McDougal, a White-capped Pionus and Emmie, a Blue -headed Pionus. McDougal was born with a balance problem and eventually developed a bent leg from holding on to the side bars. But he was SO intelligent & great talker. From him I learned gentleness, patience, and a great love and reverence for birds as companions on the Journey of Life. After 27 years, RIP dear friend. You are missed, even by Emmie.

Posted by Mary Schaefer

Dorothea came to live with us after her person was killed by a family member. being an outside cat she was forgotten in the aftermath. Noone wanted her and after my initial resistance we swiftly began to rescue each other. She's taught me it's ok to go only as fast as the slowest part of you can go; that strong boundaries with others are fine even if you're 'over sensitive' and that whilst trust takes time, love has no restrictions. And that God's blessings reach through the tiniest of openings.

Posted by Jude Hacking

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson taught me to slow down and listen. He wakes early each day. Once, rather than returning to bed, we went out together to the dock. I sat in my chair, and he joined me sitting handsomely on the dock. Together we waited for the day to begin, as he had always done. First one bird, then another and another, then the rooster across the lake begins, the ducks begin cruising, quacking over this and that, soon the fish begin to jump. This has now become our AM ritual of quiet meditation.

Posted by Patricia Tennesen

Dez the Golden Retriever
On the day I met Dez, he put his arms around my neck and laid his head on my chest. We've been inseparable ever since. Dez reveals to me the sacredness of all creation. Through that gift, I live in constant awareness of the Lord and amazement at His great love for us. In Dez and all animals, I see creation living in total conformity to the will of God and I aspire to do the same. Dez teaches me compassion, love and loyalty. He reminds me to enjoy life and to savor every precious moment.

Posted by Colleen King

Andy Devine
A Golden Rescue from Turkey arrived in our home in Port Perry ON on January 15 of this year. His code name given by the rescue organization was 'Andy Devine'. He came on the heels of predecessor Ben another rescue project from Toledo OH who graced our home and hearts for eleven years until his suffering ended on August 7. Andy reminds my wife and I that the language of the heart transcends barriers of language and culture and once again love is stronger than death.

Posted by Larry Corrigan

Bodhi taught me the meaning of love & devotion. As my constant companion, he & I worked together to achieve many awards in hunting, retrieving & obedience. He taught me the value & gift of following your heart, passion & working together as a team. To me there is no mistake that Dog is spelled God backwards as dogs are one of the greatest gifts He has given to mankind. Bodhi healed many broken hearts with his gentle spirit & was 1 of my greatest blessings.

Posted by Andrea Stephens

I adopted Lucky when he was 11 years old after his elderly owner passed away. I did not know his Mama (Florence) when she was alive. Lucky taught me to love unconditionally whole heartedly. When he was old and sick and I was struggling with accepting letting him go Florence appeared. Her image reassured me that she would help and that she was waiting for her boy. Florence and Lucky opened my heart to the spiritual world. Through Luckys rescue group I have 2 more rescue poodles.

Posted by Lorraine Hurley

Olivia is the love of our lives. She is so smart and knows everything we say to her. There is something very special about the love and devotion of a pet!!

Posted by Sara & Georgi

We adopted Henry 3 years ago. He had run away from home and the owner didn't want him back. We have learned trust and faith that his needs will be met by us. How much more God loves us and provides.

Posted by Lila Hemlin

Sage helps me to be a more sensitive, joyful human being.
Sage has taught me to be more sensitive, gentle, and loving. He's very attuned to the tone of my voice. If I raise my voice in disagreement or anger with another person, Sage sits up and looks at me with concern in his eyes and holds his ears in a way that says, "That's too loud and it makes me feel scared." Sage also has a wonderful smile and a playful spirit; he challenges me to enjoy life more fully.

Posted by Patty & Sage

This is Ginger Baker and Pouncival. They are rescue kitties. They have taught me patience, stillness, gratitude and unconditional love. They inspire me to selflessness - I would take the food out of my mouth and give it to them without a thought - and to seize the moment. They have brought and continue to bring incredible joy and light into my life.

Posted by Roxanne Sukhan

Rani, my wonderful girl.
What I learned from my dog, Rani was the meaning of unconditional love and devotion even when the going got tough for her, she never gave up. She was a trooper to the end.

Posted by Paula. Riggs

English Springer Spaniel
This is Allegheny, better known as Allie. She is named after the river we love. Allie loves everyone. She has never met a person (except one groomer, who we think was probably rough with our gentle girl) she didn't love. She joyfully greets every visitor to our home and every person she encounters on walks. She sees the best in everyone.

Posted by Paula

Beau is a rescue dog who had a very difficult childhood. He came to us full of fear - fear of thunderstorms and fireworks - and especially fear of being alone. With time he has learned to trust us. He has finally learned that we will always return to him - that he is ours forever. If this sweet little dog can overcome his fears and learn to trust - so can we.

Posted by Brenda Craine

Ted E. Bear was one of 7 pups born to a mom who was abandoned on my community college campus. Thanks to our beloved building cleaner Gloria, who took in Mom, presided over the births, and recruited 7 adoptive families, Ted has been with me for 13 years. The adult dog I had when Ted moved in as a puppy was Amelia Bearheart, a Golden Retriever/Great Pyranees mix, and Ted immediately adopted her as his new Mom. Both of them, like their predecessors, taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Posted by Kathleen Schatzberg

This is Pearl, supporting Treyvon Martin's HOOD'S UP campaign. Pearl came to us from the streets. She was found outside an empty parking lot, on a cold, rainy Spring night. It took her 3 months to find her voice. When she barked, I was filled with joy. Pearl was beginning to feel safe. We have journeyed together for 5 years, each of us battling past trauma. Because she still cries when I leave her, I take her everywhere. She has brought joy & comfort to everyone she meets. Pearl is love.

Posted by Kassi Novello

Mitzi is a faithful companion. In the picture she is with me in my sacred space for my early morning time with the Divine. There are times when she simply gazes at me...as if I am her All in All. She is so intuitive and knows my comings and goings. She dances for joy when I arrive home after being absent. She delights in my presence. These are ways in which Mitzi brings the Holy to me each day. I know God better because of Mitzi.

Posted by Mattie Marie Mast

Arroyo at the River
Arroyo is a golden Labrador Retriever. When I take Arroyo for a walk in the woods or to fetch a stick in the river, he is endlessly enthusiastic. His human mama has raised him with a great deal of love. People, nearly all say, "What a happy dog"! He teaches rapport with nature and is ever mindful of the new scents that life offers as we walk the trail. He is a boon companion, and every once in awhile will take time to check in on me. He takes treats gently and treats strangers with kind love.

Posted by Stephen Harris

When my father died unexpectedly 9 years ago, I was devastated. Two weeks after he died, a stray female cat moved her 4 kittens into our yard, and our hearts. We found homes for all but one kitten, Linus. I believe Perdy and Linus were gifts from my dad, who knew how much I would need solace. Perdy especially is attentive to my moods and seems to sense when I need support. My cats remind me of the tenderness and unconditional love we all need, and how we must impart that to others.

Posted by Maureen Weber

Jack is my adult daughter's pet. He visits us often and frequently is an overnight guest. What I've learned from Jack is that being happy-go-lucky does not eschew devotion, commitment and responsibility. While he is a joyful, bouncy dog, he also has an uncanny sensitivity to Eva's emotions, and will faithfully sit by her when times are tough. He's a considerate visitor, sitting at our feet and heading off to bed on his own at night. Lessons learned: commitment and devotion.

Posted by Liz Megnin Neil

These two were our constant companions - Lizzie, the Yorkie, was just a tiny puppy when we got her and Malaki, the Jack Russell came to us when he was about 4 years old. They both reflected the unconditional love God has for each of us. 'Ki knew how to "work the room" anytime there were guests. He would visit everyone with the assurance they were glad to be his new friend. Lizzie loved to babysit and guard any little ones we had in the house with her constant presence. Loved them!

Posted by Maureen

I rescued Jack when he appeared at my clients house near the game lands. I named him Jack because my name is Jill. He was my dedicated running partner. We also trained together so he could be a therapy dog. We visited elderly homes and as soon as he walked in he knew his purpose. His demeanor changed as he knew what he was to do. He knows he has been rescued. He has given me love, compassion and loyalty. He was there for me when my sibling died at the age of 41.my brother and I were very close.

Posted by Jack

Flynn is the happiest dog in the French Quarter, but it wasn’t always so. Born in a rural area of Louisiana, before the age of 9 months he was starved, abused, shot repeatedly with a BB gun, then abandoned in the woods with the BBs still lodged in his skin. Luckily, he was rescued and eventually we were blessed with the opportunity to adopt him. These days Flynn’s boundless joy brings a smile to everyone he meets and teaches us all that there’s always hope, no matter the adversity ahead.

Posted by Gary and Craig

Grace in disabilities.
Eleanor graced our lives for four and half years. She was a sweetheart dealing with seizures, deafness, and finally cancer. She was named after Eleanor Roosevelt but I often called her "Queen Eleanor" since she not only ruled our hearts but our other two cats with a meow or a paw to the nose. She has been gone for over a year and I still miss her deeply although she as gifted me with her presence in very unique ways. I think she's letting me know that she is now healthy and whole.

Posted by Marilyn C. Hummel

Daisy and amazing companion
Everyone loves Daisy, an 8 pound toy black Pomeranian. She has taught me so much about just letting go and letting God. In her 13 years she has had 5 operations and now has COPD. But through it all she has remained a smiling, happy, playful, accepting, loving companion. When I feel upset with my lot in life I just look at all she has been through and still comes to greet everyone with a wagging tail and a lick. She is my inspiration.

Posted by Beverly Parker

Sugar has taught me that love and time will heal past hurts. She was severely abused when I got her, but with time and love, she is now a happy and trusting dog. She is 3-legged and runs like she has 4! She has taught me that whatever handicap I may face in life, if I persevere and stay positive – I can overcome!

Posted by Mary

Chloe is a healer and brings the spirit of joy. She reminds me every day to find the joy that is always available in some way. She helped heal the the split that was still there from my mother. She is the one my children could always talk to when no human would do. She is my best friend.

Posted by Maren

My horse Sioux lived 30 years as my counselor, therapist, healer, and encourager. His years of equine therapy facilitated healing for so many women. He taught me how to accept all situations in life. I told him he could chose his last day. One beautiful day in April 2015 I felt him say, "Today is a good day to die". I agreed. We had neighbors and family over to give him treats and let him graze in green pasture. He was gently put to sleep. He taught me how to live and how to die.

Posted by Sharon Schuh

My journey with Cali (Kalimazoo) Jennifer has just barely begun, as she is only 18 months old. Already she is exhibiting strong signs of intelligence, intuition, understands the realms of the spirit, and loves to Baptize a splash of water with my morning wake up call from her water dish on the night table. There is plenty of leverage as yet for leverage. The 'give and take' between two Diva's sharing an urban space in the city. A special gift from God, for me to write in the muse.

Posted by Vanessa Rottner

Bacall doing what she does so well~sitting, being wise
Named after my favorite actress, the Late Lauren Bacall, who died just last year~Lauren Bacall-Gruteke has taught me extreme Patience, Love, and to Not Give Up~She Has Been an Inspiration~as I prepare to enter the Ministry on Saint Francis Day~1O.04.15. I truly believe that I could not have done this without her help~and a human or two~such as my dear friends, Rev. Dr. LoraKim Joyner DVM, Rev. Paula T. Webb, Rev. Robin A. Morini and Susan-Lynn Johns, Lay Minister at my church in Derby Line, VT.

Posted by Mike Gruteke

This is my son with a friends chicken. Despite being very ill at the time, Caleb was committed to helping our friend. He is shown here hugging Pandora. They both appear so peaceful I the moment and the love between them is evident. Amazing

Posted by Kim P

Miki, Japanese chin
Miki, a Japanese chin whose name means "beautiful princess," is small but her heart is huge! She's quiet, rarely barks, but has lovely big black eyes that speak volumes. She loves visitors, convinced that everyone comes to see her! Her joy is unbounded. Example: recent surgery makes it difficult for me to remake my bed after stripping it. Miki "helps" my daughter make my bed by performing "chin spins" all over it, literally spinning out her joy, making us all laugh!

Posted by Barbara Roseborough

Abby, the "neighborhood ambassador"
Abby is our third Labrador Retriever...the smartest and funniest of all. If ever there was a being, animal or human, who is willing to take people as they are, it is Abby. She is known affectionately as the "neighborhood ambassador" and just loves to meet and greet everyone who crosses her path. From Abby we can learn that just being friendly goes a long way to break down barriers. (And, we never before had a dog that crossed her paws like this!)

Posted by Judy Allison

I've learned that you never run out of love - they give me love, attention, laughter, joy at an unending rate and I do my best to return it to them. They are a constant reminder of God's Love for us; Continual, Forgiving, and Unending.

Posted by Barbara Brush

Mishka Mary is a pet rescue from northern Canada, where she was found near death in a dumpster. After her recuperation to health, we brought her home and life has become a joyous adventure with our daily walks. I have noted so many things due to my experiences with Mishka. The amazing interaction with Mishka is her unconditional love for me; just like the love of our Lord. I am truly blest for the love of Mishka Mary.

Posted by Beverly Piendel Hewitt



Moosie and Tasha
I have always been graced with pets in my life -- dogs and a few cats growing up -- and as an adult cats. This is a photo of our Tasha. She is the first cat who chose me. I went to the shelter to pick up another cat, and Tasha just kept climbing into the carrier by herself multiple times, all the time kissing and purring. Like when I am pursued by the Holy Spirit, it sometimes takes me awhile to catch on. Tasha teaches me everyday to be as loving as I can everyday.

Posted by Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook

Minh, chocolate point Siamese , 2004-2015 and Gizmo now 10 years old. Minh was wonderful. She was so loving and affectionate and really knew how to appreciate and be grateful for life. She was ill for two years and taught us so much about resilience through suffering. Minh loved lying outside in the sun , right up to the end. Gizmo is a Maine coon and teaches us about being laid back and in the moment. She trusts her basic needs are met and can relax like no other cat we have ever had.

Posted by Linda Raffray

Buddy, my Peach Faced Love Bird
I got Buddy from my friend who did my nails. He loved paper and use it to shred like lace. He could chew paper so fast that it sounded like one of those old fashion typewriter's going about 120 words a minute. We got more JOY out of this bird. He exuded love, just as I saw in Sister Joan. I love her.

Posted by Sue Taylor

My Jazz has taught me that when we love with wholehearted abandon, the well of our love never runs dry. She teaches me about God's love and how He loves with abandon and forever. So, joyfully I sing to Jazz Steven Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" and smile.

Posted by Yvonne Nelson

Claire-Bear and Miss Hope are just two of the many pets I've had that have taught me to laugh out loud, how to play and how to open my heart to love and receive love. They have been my comfort in times of great heartache and an inspiration when they show such gratitude after being rescued and resilience in the face of abuse and/or neglect. I've learned that there is nothing "dumb" about these animals. They are truly fuzzy angels on four legs.

Posted by Lucinda

Throughout his 15 years, Cody freely and joyfully dispensed lessons of the heart. I share one of his most singular. When Rick had a massive heart attack, Cody, while aching with arthritis, kept me afloat. Upon his return home, the two were inseparable and often in holy commiseration. Finally Rick announced, "Our boy is ready." And the next day our precious pet was back in heaven. My grandma taught us to pray for a happy death. Maybe Cody showed us this gift extends to animals too.

Posted by Stephanie Vergara

Lexi & Nikki
Lexi (11) and Nikki (4) show me on a daily basis what unconditional love really is! I've always said, "Dog spelled backwards is God!" I am humbled and honored to be the Mom of these two precious beings!

Posted by Marcia Huff

Jaxson is pure love especially if you have an apple to share
Jaxson is the love of my life. He has taught me that perfection is not necessary and that unconditional love is. He has taught me about compassion and that it is so to receive. He loves me because I am this imperfect being, capable of irritability, short sightedness and of great compassion. He has taught me to laugh in moments where we can not find humor.Jax has taught me that I need not make excuses when I make mistakes because he will give me as many chances as I need to make things right.

Posted by Gwen Graves

Jeff, the seeing eye dog for another dog
Jeff knew things that I could not ever know. He had an empathy for other animals that humans I don't think can sense anymore- humans are too far removed from the wild to understand a lot of what dogs do and know. Jeff was protector for our other dog, "B.T." who became blind. Jeff was BT's seeing eye dog, and I was his seeing eye person. Jeff did a way better job. Since then I have friended other dogs, and the lessons Jeff taught me are amazing and fulfilling. frustrating at times! <3

Posted by chris taylor

Rusty, a member of Therapy Dogs United
We have learned to love and accept people unconditionally as we watch our Rusty, a therapy dog, interact with all ages of people, those who suffer from dementia, those who have not spoken in a long time and will now utter the word "Rusty" with a smile or a hug! Rusty has taught us much about giving love freely! One outstanding memory is when we visited a gentleman on his deathbed. He was in and out of consciousness and we placed Rusty on his bed. Finally his daughter placed Rusty on his chest and said, "Dad, Rusty is here!" After several attempts he opened his eyes and wrapped his arms around Rusty and said, "my Rusty, my Rusty" with a smile. Not a dry eye in the room and that night he passed away. Thank you, Rusty, for teaching the art of love and acceptance!

Posted by Carolann McLaughlin, OSB and Rita Groner, OSB

My beloved Emma brought me to God. When, at 8 years old, she died suddenly I buried her in our flower garden. As I wept over the spot and felt a grief I had never felt before I found myself, a non-believer, asking a god, I professed not to believe in, to take care of her and to welcome her home. Emma's last gift to me was faith in a loving God.

Posted by Margaret McAvoy