A Higher Calling


I was at a party recently, chatting with a woman who is a hospice volunteer. She was unique, in that she brings her dog with her to visit dying people. What a lovely idea, right? She said she was inspired to do it after visiting relatives in nursing homes, whose only stimulation was the television blaring in the background. She wanted to provide the tactile stimulation and evocative memories that people can experience when petting a dog.

I have a social work background, am very comfortable with the hospice clientele, and I have a dog…hmmm, maybe this was something I could consider, I thought. Is there a certification a dog has to have, another woman asked? Yes, of course we were told.

“Well my dog’s certifiably cute,” I offered. I think he would bring joy to people at the end of their lives.

The hospice volunteer went on to explain that her dog is a standard poodle who was in fact a rescue dog. She said that he seemed to have a calling for this kind of work. Once, a patient with advanced dementia who barely spoke, reached out and patted the dog and said, “I had a poodle too.”

Her dog has a calling. Huh – imagine that. I wondered if my dog has a calling.

I told my sister about it the next day.

“Great,” she said, “now you not only have to worry about your children achieving their potential, but you have to search for your dog’s calling. Sheesh.”

I thought I just had a run-of-the-mill, rear-end sniffing, self-licking, squirrel-chasing, laying-around kind of adorable dog. Maybe he’s destined for greater things. Do I get him tested to see what his skills, strength and weaknesses are? Or take him to doggy therapy to work out his neuroses and self-image so he can lead a happy, fulfilled life?

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I think his calling may be simply to bring joy to our family. If I have the energy, maybe I’ll see if he has a knack for making other people happy. I suspect he will. As the late, great Andy Rooney said, ““The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”

We should all strive for a higher calling.