“She’s adorable! How old is she?”
“What a beautiful puppy! What breed is she?”
Men, women, and children were all drawn to her – the girls were smitten by her. When I was in high school, I would have given my left arm to attract the girls like that!
The attention-magnet was none other than Bella, my in-laws’ 6 month old, 13 pound Cockalier (mix of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Cocker Spaniel). Adorned with patches of brown, black, and white fur and with big brown eyes Bella is a cute dog by anyone’s standards. She exudes frenetic excitement whenever she sees someone new as if the person is a long-lost friend that she hasn’t seen in years. Bella is a bundle of joy with a pleasant disposition. The white fur on the bottom of her chest even forms a cross. No kidding! I wouldn’t make that up.
All this attention came on the streets of Annapolis, MD on a Saturday night in early March, but the scene had taken place in other locations. Bella attracts attention wherever she goes! St. Therese herself had a beloved Spaniel named Tom when she was growing up. She had to leave Tom behind when she entered the Carmelite Monastery in Lisieux at the age of 15. The family home that Therese grew up in, Les Buissonnets (the little bushes), had to be vacated in 1889 due to her father’s illness and some of the furniture was given to the Carmel. The day of the delivery of the furniture, “A low cart went into the Carmelites’ garden through the workmen’s entrance. Faithful Tom had followed. Bursting in, he broke the enclosure, where several sisters, their large veils lowered, awaited the convoy. Instinctively the white spaniel threw himself on his young mistress to lick her tears.” (The Story of A Life, p. 106)
My wife, Maria, my in-laws, Dan and Anita, Bella, and I strolled the quaint streets of Annapolis for a long time that evening. It was unseasonably warm for early March and throngs of people were out enjoying the Spring-like weather. Revelers in green hats and shirts seemed unwilling to delay the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day for another week. I didn’t know for sure what beverage was in the red party cups that some of the revelers carried, but I could put up a guess!
Sometimes it took us 10 minutes to walk 100 yards because admirers kept stopping us to pet Bella. We got used to the pace and enjoyed some pleasant conversations with couples and families along the way. What was the rush, anyway? It was a pristine evening on the Chesapeake Bay.
Boats of all imaginable shapes and sizes were moored to the pier along the boardwalk. People on some of the boats waved and some appeared eager to set off into the bay. In some places the sunlight danced off the water and sparkled like diamonds and the 5 mile long Bay Bridge could be seen off in the distance. The smell of the salt water was pervasive.
St. Therese herself related in her Autobiography the first time she saw the English Channel off of the coast of Normandy. “I was six or seven years old when Papa brought us to Trouville. Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power. In the evening at the moment when the sun seems to bathe itself in the immensity of the waves, leaving a luminous trail behind, I went and sat down on a huge rock with Pauline (Therese’s older sister). Then I recalled the touching story of the “Golden Trail.” I contemplated this luminous trail for a long time. It was to me the image of God’s grace shedding its light across the path the little white-sailed vessel had to travel. And near Pauline, I made the resolution never to wander far away from the glance of Jesus in order to travel peacefully toward the eternal shore!” (Story of a Soul, p. 48-49)
Our perambulation took us past the Maryland State House where the Continental Congress met after the Revolutionary War and where George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1783. It was a majestic building set on a small hill and must have towered over the other structures in the 18th Century. We walked onto the beautiful grounds of the United States Naval Academy and saw the outside of the football stadium. The Midshipmen are proud to have owned Army over the past decade!
We departed after dark from our day on the west banks of the Chesapeake Bay and settled in for the 2 1/2 hour ride home with Bella curled up contentedly in the back seat.