I often say that there doesn't seem to be as many "characters" around as there used to be; people who stand out for their zaniness, humor, eccentricities etc. Finbar, my German Shorthaired Pointer, he was a real character. Yesterday, unexpectedly I had to put him down. It was and is a real heartbreaker. Pretty much I've spent all day every day for the past ten years with that dog. He came to work with me every day and went home with me every night.
As a puppy, he ate several phone cords, my glasses, somebody's phone, socks, gloves, those plastic Britta Filters with the charcoal inside, and a fish head that he found on the beach. I thought it would never end. I recall one late December day sitting in my rectory office and hearing people laughing. I looked out the window and saw about fifteen people watching Finbar whip the statue of Baby Jesus from the outdoor manger around the yard. He'd grab an arm or leg and fling it to the other side of the yard and then retrieve it. He was a character.
I swore he'd never get on my bed. But he wore me down. Around 5am each day, he'd appear at the foot of my bed and just stare until I said, "Fine." Then he'd jump up and go back to sleep. Then, 5am became 4am and 4am made it's way to Midnight. He was a character.
He had a knack for charging the rectory fence to scare unsuspecting passers by. More than one he sent into snowbanks as they tried to escape. Then, they'd laugh as they realized that Finbar wasn't a vicious dog, but just a clown. Well, most of them laughed. He was a character.
When my phone rang or beeped, Finbar would wake out of a sound sleep and wait for a cookie. He would whine and bark until I relented. The same thing went for anyone who came to my office to speak. It was a clever tactic. Since I couldn't hear the person I was speaking with--whether on the phone or in person--with Finbar barking, I would always have to give in to his demand. He was a character.
I've never been a fan of dogs at Mass, but the Catholic Center's
daily Mass chapel is more like a room in a big house, so there really wasn't a way to keep Finbar out. He'd often stay in another room, until he heard us singing the Alleluia for the Gospel. Then he'd make his move. He knew that's when everyone stood up, so he'd sneak in and steal a couple of seats. If you sat in the seats where the sun was, you were going to lose that seat. He was a character.
He was addicted to playing with his ball. If Finbar wasn't by my
side, I knew he would be laying on the ground somewhere staring pathetically at his ball, waiting for someone to give in and throw it. He could chase that thing for hours. He had an endless supply of tricks that he would do. He was a character.
A lot of people who might not ever speak to a priest, stopped and talked to me because of Finbar. I liked to tell people who were nervous about confession that Finbar had heard hundreds of confessions with me and never once revealed anything that he heard.
On the rare occasions when I actually got to go out without Finbar, I knew that if I looked up into the window, he'd be standing there staring pathetically down at me as though I had betrayed him. Yesterday as I left work and looked up, how I wished that my pal was there looking down at me.
"Man's best friend," they say, and that he most definitely was. He was a noble dog, a faithful friend, and a real character. Is it a bit crazy to write so warmly and glowingly about a dog? It probably is. Maybe that makes me a bit of a character too. But I needed to say a word or two about my buddy Finbar.
I'll miss him. He was a character.
He was a good boy. Thanks Finbar.