By: Jeff Norris
Cosmo is a dog. His owner is Anthony. Cosmo lives with Father Phelps in the apartment attached to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church because Anthony can’t have pets at his apartment. Cosmo lives his life as most dogs, he is just a little spoiled and he is well loved. Cosmo knows secrets! I know that seems like a strange thing to say but let me tell you what I saw.
It was a very warm and muggy Sunday evening in East Chicago Indiana. Evening prayer was finished and we were finishing up serving dinner in the church basement. I guess I must have looked a little haggard because Father Phelps asked me to come upstairs and cool off. No one was waiting to be served and things were winding down so I decided I wouldn’t be missed and joined Father upstairs. I sat down and watched as Father was giving Popsicles (a real treat) to the children from the neighborhood. Well it wasn’t just the children there were some adults too. It’s funny how when an adult gets a treat like that they can light up just like the children do, I had to chuckle to myself at that. I did catch a thread of the conversation and quickly realized the adult whose eyes had just lit up was someone who is way down on his luck and my chuckle left me as I thought about where I was and what I was doing there. I was once “down on my luck” and spent the night at a mission. They fed me and gave me a safe place to sleep that night. Before I had been sleeping on the streets and doing what I thought was necessary to survive. Seeing that man get the Popsicle and some encouraging words took me back over thirty years ago to a mission in Florida. Wow, I hadn’t remembered that for a long time, but this visit tonight is stirring memories and emotions that I have not wanted to deal with. I am starting to get sad and then out comes Cosmo! He came right up to me and demanded to be petted, any sad thoughts quickly departed as Cosmo got my attention. I petted, I patted and scratched I even got a few doggy kisses, and all was right with the world again.
Now there is not much that can distract children away from Popsicles on a hot muggy Midwest July evening, but Cosmo can! A small boy came in and as soon as he saw Cosmo thoughts of a Popsicle was gone. He fell down to his knees and hugged Cosmo like he was a long lost friend. This boys face lit up like fireworks at the fair. Some more children came in and of course had to greet and pet Cosmo, but as they left the first boy remained with Cosmo. Father Phelps and I continued our conversation as much as we could amongst the parade of visitors. But I was glad for those breaks because it gave me time to watch Cosmo and the boy. He was telling Cosmo all his secrets! He would talk, then get quiet and whisper in Cosmos ears and I knew I was witnessing something special, something magical. The boy in a very poor some would say bad area had someone to share his inner most thoughts with. We can only guess at what he was saying to the dog, but he was very serious and very intent on telling him things. And Cosmo was just the kind of listener he needed, no judgment, no advice, no interruptions just listening. All to soon it was over, I returned to the kitchen, Cosmo went for a nap and the young boy went to play water balloons with the other children and of course Anthony.
I know this may sound silly or superfluous to you, but I know what I witnessed was special. I wish I could ask Cosmo about it but I guess all I would get would be a wag of his tail and a kiss on the face. I guess that’s ok because that young mans secrets are safe with Cosmo.