March 20, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Pithy canine philosopher has unique personality

Shirley Vogler MeisterLast year at this time, a charming 1946 book serendipitously came into my possession—Alec the Great.

For more than 10 years, Alec—a perky, shaggy little dog—“gave American newspaper readers the benefit of his cheerful, seasoned wisdom,” according to the book’s preface.

Alec the Great was the creation of a deft, perceptive artist named Edwina Dumm.

She collaborated with her brother,

Robert Dennis, a writer and poet who became Alec’s “voice.” They were from Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Their father and grandfather published and edited a country newspaper, often setting type and running the presses themselves. The father was also an actor and playwright.

Last March, when my husband and I went to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit family members, I took the book along to share with our now 9-year-old grandson, Sam.

The two of us placed pieces of paper as bookmarks in between the pages that interested us as we read Alec’s observations. Some made us smile and some prompted us to muse over or discuss a simple idea.

This is the first time I have ever spotlighted an imaginary dog in this column. He was modeled after a real canine named Lillie Jane II.

If readers wonder why I’m featuring a dog in “Faithful Lines,” this folklore—and the personal praise of so many good people who have been blessed by dogs in their lives—remind me repeatedly that the name of God spelled backwards is “dog.”

I imagine even Jesus had a dog, especially in his youth, and perhaps a cat or a pet bird, or … let your imagination take over.

We do know that he rode a donkey during his triumphal but humble entrance into Jerusalem (Mt 21:6).

Just for some Lenten fun, I share a few of Alec’s observations from the book:

  • “Life doesn’t change from day to day/and so I must conclude/that when life seems to be a trial/the fault is in my mood.”
  • “A bit of praise will stimulate/a fellow—it is said/but if you take too much of it/it may go to your head.”
  • “One thing a pup is always taught/to early realize/is that there’s nothing quite as strong/as good old family ties.”
  • “The trouble with me/it’s often been said/I start to wake up/when I should go to bed.”
  • “I wish my sense of humor/would show itself today/I’ve got a lot of worries/that should be laughed away.”
  • “It’s silly to sit here and envy/the people I see passing by/for they may have heavier burdens/but carry them lighter than I.”
  • “It’s good to have pride/in your ancestors, true/but it’s better to live/so they’d be proud of you.”
  • “Folks cling to their opinions/and I think that’s just fine/as long as they give me the right/to also cling to mine.”

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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