We Methodists don't talk a lot about St. Francis, although I do know that he was revered for his gentle ways with animals. I even have a statue of him on the window sill - he is holding three doves.
I believe that it was the spirit of St. Francis that lured me down a back country road last week.
I was furious that signs on freshly tarred roads forbade passage home, and that the road commission wasn't considerate enough to suggest a detour. Fortunately, most of us know a second way home.
And with St. Francis' guidance, I obviously picked the right one.
All of my instincts as an animal lover and defender came into play when I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a small bundle of black curly fur with four legs and floppy ears.
The small poodle ran from one side of the road to the other, and then right into a bush. It shook its head and ran into another bush.
Could this poor dog be blind?
I gathered up the squirming dog and put it in the back seat of the car, where Digby had been watching the entire procedure with little interest. I wouldn't say that he is a snob, but he doesn't pay much attention to small dogs and not much to big ones, unless they are moving toward me or his food.
Digby was deposited at home, and after letting the little poodle run for a while and deciding he definitely was blind, I returned to the neighborhood where I had found him. I asked Peggy and Gene Christianson if they had ever seen the dog in the neighborhood.
They answered no. With St. Francis holding me tight to the spot and the little poodle curled up in my back seat, we hailed down an auto with a lone driver who looked as if he might be looking for a dog.
Sure enough, 14-year old Peppy had wandered away and his master was frantic to find him. He reported that he was not only blind but deaf.
I was happy about this turn of events. Then Peggy and Gene suggested, in a warm neighborly way, that I might like the black cat that had been hanging around their home at Posey Lake. After all, I had gotten rid of the black dog, why not a black cat?
No, I don't want another cat. I already have a cat.
But you know how it goes. The half-grown black cat walked toward me and nuzzled his head on my leg. I picked him up and he snuggled, starved for attention.
He's a good mouser, Peggy said in her sales pitch to get the cat out of her yard and woodpile and into mine. Having a mouser didn't interest me. Now something that eats mosquitoes is another thing.
As a child I took stray cats and dogs home, a habit that has continued through my life, and was renewed like lightning when I left Peggy and Gene's house with the black cat in the back seat. With the stray dog and cat population in this country at an all-time high, it's an easy habit to follow.
This black cat with yellow eyes could be Sullivan's daughter if Sullivan weren't neutered. With long fur and a bushy Persian-like tail, she is really more handsome than old Sully, but I won't tell the adult cat. It's bad enough that they met in the garage and that the young one swatted him.
So that's the way it is, St. Francis. Now I have a cat to find a home for. But first, it must be neutered.
The black cat with the bushy tail has been named Mickey. It just fit, not that she will be around here long enough to learn her name. She is quite content living in the garage and only leaves it when I do, and then follows like a puppy. She eats incessantly.
Many people I have asked to take my new ward have said their dog would be jealous. That is not the case with Digby. He knows he's king of the roost and seems to understand that there will be a new animal around the house from time to time. He is tolerant, and mystified that the new addition can climb a tree when chased. Sullivan can't because his claws are removed.
People without animals fail to realize that they can help lower the stress level in your life. I truly believe that a cat or a dog, or both, produces an uncanny balance that may be as basic as making us feel needed and loved.
So there you have it; Miss Powell's excitement in the country last week. Thank you, St. Francis. I think.
Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.