May 3rd 2012 7:39 am
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Sunday mornings are a leisurely time in many households, but they certainly weren't in our Ogilvie, Minnesota home back in the late 1920s.
Church services began at nine-thirty in the morning. Mother was the organist, so she had to be there early. That meant all of us kids had to be washed and dressed with our hair neatly combed by the time Mother left the house.
As you'd expect, there was a lot of hurrying around to make sure everyone was ready on time. That was trouble enough, but one day we had another problem on our hands -- our dog, Brownie.
Every morning, Brownie was let out by the first person who got up. When we called him back in, he'd usually come running right away...but not on this particular Sunday.
We called and coaxed for as long as we could, but Brownie was simply nowhere to be found. Unable to locate our disappearing dog, we gave up in despair and headed off to church, leaving Brownie outdoors somewhere.
We arrived at church and got settled in, with Mother at the organ. After some hymns and prayers, the minister began his sermon. We kids tried to sit still, just as we had been told to do, and not fidget. But as the preacher began to warm to his subject, I thought I heard something unusual. No one else seemed to hear it though. But then it came again, louder. It sounded like something was scratching at the church door. We kids all exchanged silent glances and stifled our giggles. Then the scratching sound was followed by the plaintive sound of a lonely dog howling. All the grown-ups pretended not to hear anything, leaning forward in their pews so they could hear every word of the minister's oration. But we kids knew that howl. Only one dog in the neighborhood made that sound.
The wailing continued and the minister paused for a moment, furrowing his brow in frustration. He didn't want to have to compete with a howling hound, so he signaled to the usher to open the door and shoo the dog away. But the usher was not quick enough for Brownie. As soon as he opened the door, in bounded our dog with a smug look on his face! He strolled up the aisle, cool as you please, as congregation and minister looked on aghast. When Brownie got to where Mother sat at the organ, he just plopped down and sat quietly. A murmur went around the church and there were some smiles and nodding of heads. The minister, determined to ignore this unusual canine caper, resumed his sermon.
The following Sunday happened to be one of those rare Sundays when we didn't go to the morning service. However, no one had informed Brownie of the change in our schedule. After we attended the evening service, we heard the story: In the morning, Brownie had made a commotion at the church door until once again he was let in. Again, he sauntered down the aisle until he reached the organist, who was about to begin playing. Brownie stood stock-still for a moment, staring at the female organist. Then, when he had determined to his satisfaction that she was definitely not Mother, he returned to the church door and made it clear that he was not interested in attending this particular service.
There were many Sundays when Brownie repeated his demonstrations of religious piety and family loyalty. As you can imagine, this was quite embarrassing for Mother. There were some people who weren't all that happy to see a dog in church. And each time we got a new preacher, Mother had to explain our unusual dog to him. Since Brownie lived to be nineteen years old, quite a few preachers got used to having that little brown dog interrupt their Sunday services.
Shortly after Brownie passed away, our minister came to call. After consoling us over our loss, he said, "If there is a heaven for dogs, you can be assured Brownie will be scratching at the door -- and when it is opened, he will be given a place right up front with the best of them."