The villa in Barga where I spent Christmas with my home community has two permanent Italian residents, the dogs! They each have beautifully decorated and inscribed certificates upstairs to prove it. These dogs, one white and short-haired, and one a fluffy, curly black poodle are different as night and day, one mischievous and one with a daily agenda. However, since they were puppies I am told, they have gone to the daily divine offices, Lauds, Midday, and Vespers, in the small Oratory. Whether or not they needed the discipline of the daily Gregorian chant I do not presume to know, but they were going as faithful monastic dogs. Maybe they are called and vowed — who knows! At any rate, there is a lovely cozy bed for them near the heater in the Oratory, where they snuggle together and go promptly to sleep while we monastics sing the Gregorian office. A blanket is there for the days the heater does not work! What is both amusing and amazing to me is that the dogs know when chant is over…. They know the tunes of the ending verses and the Our Father, Latin or Italian. They are immediately awake and ready to get out of the bed and go back into the villa usually scooped up by a returning sister or brother.
On my return to the Beguinnage….Lo and behold there was a dog, a little one to be sure, in Compline. The little doggie obediently followed her or his mom to the side vestry where the Ave Regina Caelorum is sung. There she sat peacefully by her mother’s feet all the way through the singing. She looked up as the water blessing was sprinkled and I wondered if she too would catch a drop of holy water. Doggie seemed very interested and totally respectful. What do dogs know/sense that we do not? She was there again today for a full vespers service and scripture service seated again respectfully by her mother’s feet in the first row of the congregation. We will see if she returns…maybe this dog is called also.