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Letter to a New Military Chaplain: Part Two The Minefields of the Heart

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This is second part of a response to a question I had from a new Navy Chaplain. I have decided to post it here without any identification of the chaplain because I know that many men and women who are new to the military chaplaincy or who are exploring the possibilities of becoming a chaplain have the same questions. I was fortunate to have had a number of chaplains who at various points in my decision process and formation as a minister, Priest and Chaplain in both the Army and the Navy help me with many of these questions. Likewise I learned far too much the hard way and blew myself up on some of the “land mines” that almost all who serve as chaplains experience in their careers. This is the second of several parts to the letter and is my attempt to systematically explain my understanding of what it is to be a Chaplain serving in the military and in particularly the Navy. The first part is linked here:

Letter to a New Military Chaplain: Part One

“There is a twilight zone in our hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves-our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and our drives-large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness. This is a very good thing. We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends. That’s a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility, but to a deep trust in those who love us. It is the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born.”Henri J. M. Nouwen

Dear Chaplain

The next section of our discussion is about the “minefields” that we so often encounter as Chaplains and to some degree as Ministers, Priests or Rabbis or other religious leaders. As I noted in the first section I am dividing these “minefields” into three major areas; the personal, the behavioral and the professional.

This section is about the “personal” minefields which I call the “Minefields of the Heart.” I call it this because it seems from the Christian and Jewish Scriptures the heart is the figurative locus of what we are, good and bad alike as human beings.

Of course there is always some spillage between the areas personal, behavior and professional areas and our behaviors and professional relationships are certainly influenced by the things that we hide deep in our hearts. As human beings we may try to compartmentalize our life to keep things apart such as keeping our personal life separate from our professional life, or hide behaviors from our friends, families, peers or co-workers; but the cold hard fact is whether we are aware of it or not each area impacts the other. If we are not aware of this fact, if we have little self awareness, if we have self awareness but try to live our lives with the illusion that we can separate our lives into neat little boxes we will most undoubtedly hurt ourselves, and as spiritual leaders harm those that come to us.

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There is a scene of the last episode of Star Trek the Next Generation entitled “All Good Things” that comes to mind.  In it the being known simply as “Q” helps Captain Picard discover how his actions influence human history.

Q: You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.

Capt. Picard: When I realized the paradox.

Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.

You may wonder where I am going with this but it has to do with the personal minefields, those that exist inside of us, those that lurk beneath the surface which if we are unaware wreak havoc on everything else that we do. In the episode of Star Trek that I am referring to Captain Picard is allowed by Q to see the effects of his actions and to see how limited his thinking was.  The challenge for us is chaplains are to be aware of what Nouwen calls “the twilight zone in our hearts” and how what is at the depth of our heart impacts everything else that we do.

Too often though, mostly because of our own personal limitations and serious lack of real theological and pastoral formation involving self reflection and exploration we fail to see them. Like an uncharted minefield we are unaware of them until we either discover their existence through accident and “blow ourselves and others up” or until we listen to those that can see those twilight zones, those minefields better than we ourselves. Of course the latter, especially when it comes from those who love us, care for us and have our best at heart is the preferable method to learn about these things.

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However, that being said part of this can be done through reading. A lot of us simply read “how to” type books when it comes to ministry. We seek direct easy answers in how to run our programs be it in the church, in a para-church ministry or in the chaplaincy. Believe me there are plenty of those kinds of books out there, not only that but a plethora of “self help” books that tell us the “three things we must know” the “five whatever’s to success” or the Seven Habits of Highly Defective People.” The sad thing is, even when these books contain nuggets of truth, they serve it like fast food and reduce it to the lowest common denominator. In a sense, even the most well intentioned of these “how to” or “self help” books promote a reductionist view of faith, spirituality, psychology and in some cases ethics and doctrine.

Reading is important, especially the hard stuff, philosophy, history, moral theology, but also things that you might not expect science fiction for example. In addition classic literature from antiquity and from non-western traditions also sheds light on those personal minefields. Heck we can even find truth in television and film, note my continued references to Star Trek. I find that God can speak to us in many ways.

As Christians we may also find lessons, insights and inspiration from the Bible that can be quite helpful. Unfortunately most of us have so many theological filters in place that we often miss the very things that would be most helpful to us. They can serve as blinders that keep us from sensing what the Spirit of God is trying to teach us. Our church, denominational or theological traditions as well as our hermeneutical methods often cloud our minds to what God is trying so hard to say. It was a problem that the religious establishment of his time had with Jesus, and often with the various prophets that preceded him whose stories we read about in the Old Testament.

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I am sure that others who are not Christians can say similar things about their faith, traditions and holy books. I remember an Iraqi General who I met who took the time to show me his well worn and read Arabic-English Bible. He was a Moslem, but he said that he learned so much from it because it was different than what was in the Koran and he meant no disrespect of his own faith by saying that. He had opened his mind to truth that others turn a blind eye to.

Some of the personal issues that prove to be deadly include what we don’t know about ourselves, usually dating back to childhood, how were raised, how we see God, if we perceive ourselves to be worthy of God’s love or worthy of the love and respect of others.  Those attitudes, especially those created as a result of negative relationships or even physical, emotional or sexual abuse, abandonment and rejection are powerful. Many of us like to pretend that we have gotten past those things but few of us actually do. Unfortunately there is a tendency for those issues to raise their heads in often very ugly ways as we minister as Chaplains.

For example: Let us say that we are distrustful of authority because of having an abuse parent, that we fear that no matter how well we do that there is always someone waiting to take us down. Let us say that we had previous experiences in the church, at work or maybe in prior military service where we were mistreated by those in authority.

I have found that if that condition is not dealt with that in a hierarchical organization such as the Chaplain Corps and the military that it is almost always fatal to the ability of the chaplain to minister in the organization. That is because the military is based on trust, our lives and mission depend on it. We have to trust the chain of command, we have to trust those that serve alongside of us and we have to trust our subordinates. There may be times when the chain of command fails and things don’t go right. There are toxic leaders and there are also toxic chaplains, one has to be aware that they are out there, know how to deal with them or survive under their command but one cannot presume that everyone is like that, trust is essential.

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I find it interesting that Jesus commended the faith of the Roman Centurion when instead of asking Jesus to come to his house and heal his servant simply said “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”Matthew 8: 8b-9 Jesus told the people around that “he had not seen such faith in all of Israel.” Jesus saw the virtue of the Centurion, a virtue that many of his own people were lacking.

That is just one of a myriad of personal issues that can trip up a Chaplain in the military. The fact is that issues of the heart those things that we don’t like to admit are true about us, things that we are unaware about or in outright denial about in our lives are the things that go to the “heart” of who we are.

As fa as the minefields of my heart, they too are many. However the one that gets me time and time again is my passion for justice and my visceral reaction to those that I believe are bullies. That comes from my childhood. As a Navy brat I was always the new kid in town, and being that I was kind of the short, shy and introverted kid I was also kind of a nerd, or geek. I was not gifted with speed or great athletic abilities and it took me a while to find my academic prowess. That meant that I often didn’t fit in and though I was generally well liked that I would on occasion be bullied and I learned to defend myself, not very well at times but well enough to as the Klingons say “to die an honorable death.”

Jeremiah the prophet, who admittedly was most certainly clinically depressed if you look at his writings did note that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 Depressed or not Jeremiah did seem to understand that what he and many writers of scripture call “the heart” is hard to understand, especially when it is our own.

Thus I go back to Nouwen’s comment about the “twilight zone of the heart” that we cannot see. That it is why as Chaplains we have to develop relationships with people who can help us see what is in the twilight zone of our hearts and lovingly come alongside of us, not just as colleagues but as friends.

Those people may be clergy or other chaplains, but then they may not be. Perhaps they are senior enlisted personnel, long time friends, teachers, spiritual directors, counselors or our God forbid our spouses, I jest about the latter because my wife can see things about things about me that I cannot see, she is incredibly wise.

The minefields that exist in our hearts are so varied, so diverse and so treacherous. They have the potential to affect so many other parts of our lives. Thus for us as chaplains if we are not careful they can be destructive not only to us, but to those that we serve as well as those that we presume to love.

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When I look back at my career and I am honest about it, I can say without a doubt that most of the things that hurt me were a direct reflection of the minefields that were already present in my heart. When things that happened that I felt were unjust or threatening I reacted and quite often my reactions caused problems greater than what I was reacting to. All they needed was something to set them off. What I have come to understand is even though I have had a very successful and that I am now a Senior Officer that what lies in my heart can still blow me up and that I need to always be careful of those minefields that exist in the twilight zone of my heart.

Lao Tzu said: “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

That is the key, those things that emanate from the deepest recesses of our hearts are full of minefields and we need to guard our hearts and minds in this ministry that we are privileged to have as military chaplains.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under christian life, faith, Military, ministry, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Tour in Iraq, US Navy

A Tangled Mass of Emotions: Dad, the Boss, an ICU Death and the All-Star Game

The Big “A” that I knew

I am a mess the past day or so. Not that anything is bad or going wrong it is just that emotionally I am a mess.  As I try to get back into normal life I find emotions brought up by my dad’s death three weeks ago going all over the place.  Today was so strange; it actually began a couple of days ago when I finished the third chapter of my series on “Meeting Jesus and the Team at 7-11” entitled “A Death, a Rain Delay and a Visit from Saint Pete.” Since my dad’s death due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease I have experienced number of things that sent my emotions into overload because they somehow connected with dad and his death.  Over the past couple of days these intense emotional surges, I cannot call them swings because they are not swings, I am not going between depression and elation but rather experiencing strong emotional impulses as things remind me of my dad or of childhood.  I know that I am okay because grief and the emotions that follow the loss of a parent particularly your father if you are the oldest son are guaranteed to mess with you. They are normal, I am a highly trained pastoral caregiver but since I am not a Vulcan but a Romulan with probably a bit of Klingon mixed in the emotional surges that well up from under my normally cold and logical exterior are a real bitch, no wonder the Romulans wage war with such ferocity and the Klingons appear to be in a perpetually foul mood.  But I digress…

The past couple of weeks have been weird because I never know when something is going to trigger emotions that remind me of my dad.  Much of this of course revolves around baseball as it was my dad that taught me to love the game and through the connection between baseball and dad there has been, even when he was no longer himself due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s something that brought a sense of stability and peace to life, even when I was a post-Iraq PTSD mess.

Now I am a mess again as things that I see, hear and experience things that bring me back to dad.  At this moment my excrement is together but I have no idea what or when the next emotional surge will hit and I will be blubbering like I girl, not that there is anything wrong with that.

The past few days are a case in point. I went to Harbor Park on both Saturday and Sunday and had a great time, at the same time I felt like my dad was there. He never came to Norfolk during my time here because of his physical and deteriorating mental state but now since his death it almost feels like he is there with me.  I went to work Monday and had the on-call overnight duty at the Medical Center and was doing pretty well but in the late afternoon I was called for a cardiac arrest of an 81 year old man and off and on throughout the evening was called back as he continued to get worse to take care of his family, a wife of 63 years and a son a couple of years old than me.  I really wanted this man to live but it became apparent as the night wore on that he would not survive the night and his wife asked me to perform the Sacrament of Healing or what some used to refer to as “Last Rights” which I did with she and her son present using the rite form the Book of Common Prayer.  With his condition somewhat stable I went to our call room where I attempted to get a little rest on the bed from hell.   Of course getting to sleep on said bed is difficult at best and since when I am on duty the hyper vigilance factor is real and present it takes a while to get to sleep.  About 0215 my fitful sleep was interrupted by the pager going off and with it the message to come back to the ICU as the patient was dying.  I went back and was with the family when he died and until they left the building about 0315.

The next morning or rather later in the morning, but not much later I was back up and preparing for a meeting across the bay at the VA Medical Center. While I prepared I found out that George Steinbrenner had died.  When I felt the emotions well up in me, especially while I was watching ESPN’s Sports Center and various players, managers and other sports figures were interviewed about the Boss the emotions started coming in waves, funny how that happens.  As I reflect on this I guess it is because in many ways my dad and Steinbrenner were similar, passionate, outspoken, driven but also caring and good fathers who often showed compassion to others but in a private manner. Now my dad was not a fan of Steinbrenner or the Yankees, but the Boss engendered such emotions in people, positive and negative I am not surprised my dad had little regard for the American League after all he was a National League man.  When I heard Derek Jeter, Joe Morgan, Paul O’Neil and so many others talk of their relationship with Steinbrenner I laughed, cried and reflected on dad.  Strange connection but a connection anyway.

Photo Day 1970 with Angels Manager “Lefty” Phillips

Later in the evening I went to Gordon Biersch for a salad, beer and to watch some of the Major League Baseball All-Star game which was being played at the home of the Los Angeles Angels, at one time th California Angels, Anaheim Stadium, the place where more than any my dad taught me a love and respect of the game of Baseball.  As I looked at this cathedral of baseball, now expanded and Disneyfied since I was a child shagging foul balls and collecting autographs I was taken back in time.  I remember the very first game that dad took us to at Anaheim Stadium as it was then known as the “Big A” like it was yesterday, July 4th 1970 the day after Clyde Wright pitched a no-hitter. On this day the Angels did not win, the A’s won 7-4.  I saw the first major league home runs that I can remember seeing in person that night as we sat in the lower level of the right field corner near the foul pole. At that time the bullpen was adjacent to the grandstand and there were no mountains, valleys, palm trees or whatever else is out there, a log ride perhaps, but I digress. Back then there was a warning track and a fence as well as an amazing scoreboard in the shape of a big block “A” with a halo near the top.

That night I saw home runs by Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris and Sal Bando for the A’s and Jim Spencer for the Angels.  Jim “Catfish” Hunter got the win and Jim “Mudcat” Grant got the save. Rudy May took the loss for the Angels.  The fact that I saw two future Hall of Fame players in this game was amazing, the winning pitcher, Hunter and Reggie Jackson.  Later in the year I entered a contest and wrote why Jim Spencer was my favorite Angel.  I had met Spencer at an autograph signing event at the local Von’s grocery store and when the contest winners were announced I was a runner up. I got tickets behind home plate and my name announced by legendary sportscaster Dick Enberg on the radio and my name in the Long Beach newspaper that sponsored the contest.  Dad took us probably to 30 or more games that year and I fell in love with the game.

Back in those days teams still had photo days where players would be available on the field for pictures and autographs and on autograph day in 1970 my dad took my brother and I onto a major league ball field for the first time and I was in awe.  The warning track was a red clay and the field was lush green as I looked back in toward home plate I wondered what it would be like to play in such a place.  From that season on the game had a hold on me. Dad and I did not have much in common, my brother I think is actually more like him than me but Dad taught me about the game at the stadium and in our back yard and gave me a gift that connected him to me more than anything else, something that I didn;t realize until much later in life.  I looked at that stadium on television and I saw the field, the main part of the stadium is still so much like it was when dad took us there and as I looked at it and remembered him I was in tears, I had a hard time keeping my emotions in, kind of embarrassing to be in tears at a bar during a baseball game but I was doing my best to hold it in.  Judy told me that I probably needed to talk to Elmer the Shrink about this but he is out of town until next week.  So I’ll wait, everyone deserves time off.

While we were still there and I was working on my second Kölsch style sömmerbrau a friend came up to me. He was a bit lit up having consumed his fair share and maybe more for the night but God used him and in his own way to bring comfort to me in what appeared rather earthy and even ludicrous manner but when he was said and done I felt better.  I think that he will need to serve as a model for some character in the Meeting Jesus and the Team series, I have no idea which figure from the Bible or Church history just yet but I will look around because what he said even though a tad under the influence of decidedly good beer was profound.  God does use people in strange and mysterious ways.

So I will continue I am sure to have emotional surges whenever something reminds me of my dad and I guess in the long run that is a good thing as my friend said it would make me better at what I do, I have now experienced the loss of my dad and am that much closer to the time that I will pass away, a generation has been removed between me and the end of my earthly life. This is something that so many people that I know already deal with.  It allows me to be connected to them in a way that just a few weeks back that I could not be.  It makes me a bit more human and more connected.

Dad, the Boss and the All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium, it is amazing what this concoction of images, memories and feelings can turn me into, a blubbering girl, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Trials and Tribble-ations

“If you eliminate the impossible – anything that remains, however unlikely, must be the truth” Commander Spock

I think that I am starting to recover from my trip to California.  If you read some of my posts from 666 Lake of Fire Circle last week you’ll know that it was difficult.  If I recall there is a passage in Scripture where Jesus tells his disciples that “in this world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”  In fact being a fairly well trained theologian, though I do Church history better I know that the passage is there verily even in the Gospel according to Saint John Chapter 16, verse 33.  So there, my Seminary education was not a waste of time.  However if I had used the original language of the King James Version I might have a better time of it.

Tonight after purchasing the new Star Trek movie and watching it, yea verily even for the 3rd time, I realized that as a graduate of Starfleet Academy, no kidding, see the picture,  I know that there are some things that I know defy logic just as Spock said and as strange as they may be must be the truth.  The past week has seemed like a venture into an alternate reality.  I think that I I somehow altered a timeline when I left 666 Lake of Fire Circle for the hotel.  As of yet I know not how this timeline will play out, even as I did not know how the last timeline would but like in the new Star Trek the timeline has been altered, the present reset.

The title of this post Trials and Tribble-ations” comes from an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine where Captain Sisko and company end up traveling back in time in search of a modified Klingon named Arn Darvin from the 23rd Century who is traveling back in time to attempt to kill Captain Kirk and alter the timeline.  I like the title and it was a fun episode very well done with the actor Charlie Brill who played Darvin in the original series episode The Trouble with Tribbles reprising the role as an older and vengeful Darvin.

“In this world you will have Tribble-ation but be of good cheer…unless you are a Klingon as Tribbles don’t like you.”  The past few weeks have been filled with Tribble-ations as I went back to see my parents to a dad who no longer knows me and a mother who I no longer know, returned to flood waters and knocked down fences.  However, in all things I am still blessed.  I have a great wife, brother and wonderful friends at work.  Somehow things will work out.  I know people though who have also suffered from bad family situations, personal tragedy and recently significant storm damage including flooded homes damaged or destroyed cars and other property damage caused by our recent Nor’easter.  The lady who runs our little coffee shop and serves up my Southern Pecan coffee had her house flooded while one of our nurses had her car float away and sink into the Elizabeth River from our hospital. There are also those killed or wounded at Fort Hood and those that they leave behind as well as those who suffer illness, disease, poverty and violence that is a daily ordeal.

I am grateful for those that have prayed for and encouraged me through my Tribble-ations not only this past week but the past 16 months or so since returning from Iraq.  I am finding that what I have gone through will in the long run integrate my war experiences, PTSD, emotional turmoil and grief as well as the way I have changed since Iraq into my life.  I will be stronger and my life richer for them.  My Tribble-ations will end up being no Tribble at all. And that, though it seem at times impossible is the truth.

Peace,

Steve+

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Let Lying Dogs Sleep

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Frieda glaring and sulking after surgery to remove a tumor on her tail at the age of 10. We sometimes refer to this picture as “The Ass in a Sling.”

The term “Little Shit” in reference to  a Wiener Dog is one which may offend some people who have not been owned by one.  However as a descriptive term there is little better to describe them.  Those of us owned by them who struggle against them also mean it as a term of endearment.  Using the term in this post I mean no offense to the unenlightened, yet as we who know and love them understand deep in our hearts, that these little shits are to be treasured each in their own way.

Wiener Dogs, sometimes known as Dachshunds are among the most peculiar animals. Almost anyone who has been owned by one can tell you stories of how these little shits manage to do things that, well….to put it mildly convince you of the existence of purgatory.  They will make your life Purgatory for the 12-16 years or more that they will own you.  Sorry Protestants who don’t believe, if you aren’t owned by one here there will be one in Purgatory.  She is a Wire Hair named Frieda to run your life until you get straightened out enough to get to heaven.  After all, Purgatory is, like my home of record, West Virginia, Almost Heaven.

Judy and I have had these little wonders for oh… the last 25 years or so.   We have grown attached to them, much as hostages attach to their terrorist captors in the Stockholm Syndrome. We are convinced John, no I’m not having fun Calvin had a Wiener Dog.  Probably a Wire Hair, although I don’t think that the Wire Hair was around quite by JC’s time.  I do think that they came later.  However, that being said and despite the influence of Augustine’s understanding of predestination, Calvin had to have one of these little shits to come up with the doctrine of  Total Depravity. There is no question in my Anglo-Catholic mind of this fact. Likewise,  I’m sure that the Deity Herself will confirm this someday. Maybe John Calvin himself will thank me for bringing this up as we warm up on heaven’s lush green outfield.

For those of you who don’t believe, all you need to do is look at the first chapter of the orginal edition of Jame’s Dobson’s book The Strong Willed Child. Even Dobson cannot escape a power fight with his Wiener Dog named Max.

For us we had Frieda, a beautiful classic Wire Hair Dackel (what the Germans call them) from deep in Bayern (Bavaria). Frieda  took ownership of us on Christmas Eve 1984.  We also had Greta, a fat little red Dachshund from San Antonio who we got in 1988. Finally we have our current little shit and mischlinge (mixed) Long Hair Dachshund-Papillon and defender of the realm, Molly, in 2001.    We lost Frieda at the age of 16 1/2 in 2001. Greta at 15 1/2 in 2003.  Molly still acts like a puppy at 8.  Molly though a mixed breed flips from being the happy and obedient papillon to the obnoxious and stubborn Wiener Dog in nothing flat.  There is no in between setting for her, she goes from the good side of the Force to the Dark side at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes I think that she is channeling Frieda when this happens. Though they never met, they are somewhat kindred spirits.  Molly is not nearly as extreme as Frieda and  we can thank heaven for that. As it were we spent 16 plus years in a constant power fight with Frieda. Despite being a  little shit, Frieda weighed in at 28 pounds and had teeth and jaws like a German Shepherd.  Patently the little shits in Germany are bred to hunt badgers and foxes.  They are incredibly strong and have an attitude just this side of a Klingon in a bad mood.  Most dogs, once you have established dominance as the “Alpha Dog” in your little pack accept their place.  Not Wiener Dogs, especially Frieda. She spent 16 years trying to force us into doing what she wanted be it through passive or aggressive means.  If you have ever seen the Peter Sellers movie The Pink Panther Strikes Again where Inspector Cleauseau visits Oktoberfest and gets a room at a small hotel, you will see what I am referring to here. The good inspector sees a dog laying on the floor near the front desk. He asks the desk clerk if his dog bites.  The clerk replies no and Cleauseau reaches to pet the dog who attacks him.  Cleauseau tells the desk clerk “I thought you said your dog did not bite.” To which the clerk replied; “that’s not my dog.”  The dog is a Wire Hair, who looks just like Frieda in her early years. This was our life for 16 years.

Going back to the subject line of this post, it is more about Frieda than the other two. Although both Greta, as we affectionately called her Poo had her moments, and Molly like I said sometimes channels Frieda.  Frieda was unique. From what I hear from others owned by Wire Hairs that some of what she did are common to all of these miscreant creatures.  I can’t go into too many details and like John the Evangelist I would have to say that there are many more things that Frieda did which cannot be contained in this one blog.

Among other things, Frieda was a liar.  This began early when as a puppy in Germany she would try to fake Judy out about taking a pee.  She knew that if she went outside that she would be rewarded.  Rapidly catching on the little shit began to do “touch and goes’  faking the pee and hoping to still get a reward.  Judy noticed this and thus began an intricate dance of death with the little shit attempting to fool us, and us trying to catch her.  This usually involved looking to make sure that there was wetness where wetness should be on a female dog after they urinate.   If there was no wetness Frieda would not get her reward.  Likewise, Frieda lied about other things.  When she did something that she shouldn’t and you discovered it she could act more innocent than a Nazi at the Nurnberg Trials.  “What? Me? Do something wrong, I was in the Hofbrauhaus while the others we making those decsions.”  If you decided to push the issue she became 28 pounds of razor blades.  Actually it was more like a Sherman tank blundering into an ambush by a Wehrmacht Jagdpanther with the long 88.  Not a fun and often violent.  I think Judy and I still have scars from some of these encounters.

Frieda lied in other ways, occasionally we would catch her.  Once while living in Texas we went to take a blind friend to the store.  This was just before Christmas and Judy had just made a butt-load of cookies.  We didn’t expect the call from our friend so we left the apartment rather quickly.  When we got to our friends’ house we were struck by a terrible thought, the cookies were in striking distance of Frieda and Poo.  Reacting quickly I asked our friend for his phone. This being in the dark ages before cell phones we affordable to the average person.  Calling my house I waited for my version of Bill Clinton’s voice to play through the message on the machine and as soon as the “beep” signaled I was live I began to talk.  “Dammit, get away from the cookies now! I’m coming home and if I catch you you’re dead!” Slamming the phone down I ran to the car and raced the 5 miles back to our apartment.  As I rushed the door I noticed that indeed to cookies had been pilfered, However the dogs were nowhere to be found. I found Poo hiding in the bedroom and Frieda behind the toilet.  I can only imagine the looks on their faces when my voice called them out in the middle of the crime.

Frieda would also play dead.  I mean play dead enough to make that you think that she was dead.  She would be on her back, eyes fixed forward and unblinking, chest not moving. She would do this until we or her various puppy sitters were screaming “Oh may God she’s dead!” When she was happy the little shit would wag the very tip of her tail as if to say gotcha!

If you asked if she knew about the ripped up clothing, eaten socks, opened child proof medicine bottles her eyes would turn to steel.  Molly can do this too when caught.  Thankfully she is only half of Frieda’s weight and not as heavily armed. She also being a mischlinge has to fight the Papillon urge to please, something that Frieda did not have to contend with being fully in tune with the Dark Side of the Force.

As I said before the stories about Frieda could fill volumes.  Those who knew her can attest to these and many other nearly unbelievable stories.  Maybe she was an X-File. I don’t know, but if so she was our X-File and we loved the little shit, we still miss her.  One thing that we know.  Always let lying dogs sleep.

Peace, Steve+

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