Whoever declared dogs don't belong in the church never met Erin, witnessed her impact upon others, nor felt the persuasive power of her personality. I never believed animals could be allowed into a place of worship and the notion wasn't given much thought but sheer luck or a higher power would convince me otherwise. Sunday mornings were usually spent strolling about downtown Savannah and the route took us past a major congregation where folks were often spotted outside engaging passersby into a conversation about the perks of attending service with that particular church. Usually Erin was guided to the other side of the street to avoid conversation in which I was unwilling to enter but one day a dialogue was initiated by me with a young lady bustling about the doorway.
She was promptly disarmed at the sight of a dog thus the topic of conversation revolved around my fur-kid instead of whether I wanted to attend church. Turns out her name was Erin as well and she was impressed by her canine namesake accomplishments as a therapy dog and then an invitation to attend church was extended my direction. It was revealed to them how I'd only attend if they permitted Erin to accompany myself inside the sanctuary and while I figured there was no possibility of that happening; the pastors decided she would not be a distraction so permission was granted for upcoming services. It was really surprising as who permits non-humans into a place of worship but then again there are very few four-legged creatures with the charm, temperament, and obedience skills of my girl.
We appeared the following week prepared to blend in with the crowd to hear God's message but instead of being shown to our pew, Erin was used as an instrument and immediately we were asked to be door greeters where her irresistible personality would put congregation members at ease, nothing like stroking a lovable pooch to ease tension. The masses that streamed past us offered nothing but compliments, positive remarks or paused to give Erin the attention she yearned for, it was a great beginning to our religious days. Over time, we continued in our capacity as door greeters with occasional stints as bulletin distributors thrown in and regardless of our function, the feedback remained upbeat.
Once the service began, an available seat was located near the back where Erin laid at my feet for the duration; she remained prone as I stood during hymns and I reiterated the command “stay” as she remained alone during communion. She waited patiently, not moving an inch as I departed the vicinity and upon return, she happily greeted me with a tail wag while praise was heaped upon her as that’s a difficult feat for any dog. On occasion she would drift asleep and snores could be heard much to the delight of folks around us, I’d be embarrassed but neither Erin nor our seat mates seemed to care. If nothing else, I learned to have thicker skin while being more tolerant of snoring doggies in public :)
Due to Erin’s background with children and her popularity amongst the church youth, it was suggested that we become part of a youth group. That was an easy decision as I loved to see my angel interact with kids; it was so satisfying to watch her neck being hugged, belly being rubbed, or to witness her lying atop some youngsters lap without a care in the world. Unfortunately, this only lasted a few weeks as I witnessed the kids battling for control over her leash and undivided attention so we stopped participating and returned to greeting duties. It was a good assignment with great kids but my fur kid overshadowed everything else so it ended despite the protests. Life at church continued for several years until I felt a break from service was needed and Erin deserved to become a dog again. I’m very proud as I recall how she had so much fun, positively touched life’s, broke another ceiling for canines, and made many new friends along the way; it was an amazing experience that will live on forever in the hearts of many!!
"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us" ~ Robert Louis Stevenson