On Memorial Day, I tried to sit on the front steps of my parish to watch the town parade. But our 10-month-old puggle, who had just joined our family, wouldn't sit still. Riley ran all over the stairs, annoying other families, knocking over water bottles, tangling her leash with the leashes of other small dogs calmly watching the parade. My friend Dan, who witnessed the unfolding drama, said to me: "You've got to lose that retractable leash and start reading the monks' books on dog training." After the parade, he offered to walk Riley part of the way home I walked behind them, astonished to see how Dan was able to keep Riley calm and walking right beside him.
I have spent the intervening weeks poring over "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" by the Monks of New Skete. In the process, Riley and I have been transformed.
New Skete, which is in rural New York State, is one of three stavropegial institutions of the Orthodox Church of America. Yeah, I had to look that word up. Stravropegial means churches, monastic communities and theological schools under the direct supervision of a primate. New Skete is a contemplative monastic community of men and women. It includes the Monks of New Skete, the Nuns of New Skete and the Companions of New Skete. Each group lives in separate houses within three miles of one another.
The monks, originally Byzantine Rite Franciscans, have been breeding German Shepherd dogs for more than 25 years. While doing so, they have become authorities on how to be your dog's companion.