Bless All Creatures, Great and Small

Last Saturday morning on July 7, Our Lady of the Isle held its annual Blessing of the Pets event. There was a very healthy turnout, and all pets were welcome from all walks of faith—being a Catholic pet was not a prerequisite. There was even a Sugar Dog, a new kind of service dog for diabetics. Pets have the same status as people on Shelter Island. There’s no such thing as a stray dog here, because they can’t cross over on the ferries alone, so every dog belongs to somebody.

My mother had to put down her 19-year-old tuxedo cat a few days ago. I am convinced that one of the reasons for her longevity was years of eating fresh fish scraps, creamy clam chowder, sardines on cheese crackers and other tasty bits from the kitchen. It good to be a cat on Shelter Island.

But I have to say, I think it’s even better to be a dog. Dogs have car privileges. Just take a tour through the IGA parking lot any morning and there are dogs in cars all over. Over the years I have learned a lot about dog personalities just from their car behavior.

Terriers are the best a guarding the car. They have an early warning system in the car. First they run to the window to watch you. If they decide you’re getting too close to the car, they make a low growl, and if you get any closer, they go berserk and bark at you, running the whole length of the car if they can.

The fancy breeds, like maltese and shihtzu, yip and yelp as you go by the car. But they’re not guarding the car, they’re just irritated that you had the nerve to walk past THEIR car.

I saw a beautiful pair of Corgies in a car once at the IGA. One barked a warning at me, and the other was guarding the other side of the car. I thought that was really smart. They had divided up their car guarding duties.

Labradors are commonly found in the drivers seat, trying to work out a way to start the car. They never bark as you go by. They just look up at you with a look that says, “Yo, how you doin’ today?” They never bark. They are just too cool to get their tail in a knot over anything.

Huskies and Samoyeds are the worst at guarding your car. They love everybody and anyone can walk by the car or talk to them. They are just lovers. Not a mean bone in them.

Saint Bernards and Newfoundland dogs make terrific guards without trying. They take up the whole back seat and if you are stupid enough to try to steal the car they are in, they’ll just raise their big head and look at you as if to say, “Don’t even THINK about it, because if I have to get up off this comfortable seat, I’m eating you.”

The dogs who I feel for most in the cars are the tiny ones—the Chihuahuas. They just shake and try to hide under a sweater or tote bag. I feel guilty for upsetting them.

To the tourists who visit in summer, I’d ask all of you to remember that, like I said, there are no stray dogs on the Island because every dog belongs to somebody. If you want to know who owns a particular dog, ask the kids in the area. Kids always know who owns which cats and dogs.

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