Category Archives: Universalist Unitarian

Opal, a UU-Spirited Dog

Two of my favourite things to talk about (and I do so incessantly), are Opal and my church, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax. When I have a reason and opportunity to combine both in one conversation or text, my life seems very sweet indeed.

I’ve been under the blogospheric weather for a few days, but only because I have been busy….mostly singing. Last night, the UU church of Halifax held its rescheduled ‘gospel sing-along’ evening. What does this mean? Yes, of course, a bunch of  white folk singing gospel songs could potentially translate into a pretty lame event, however, when UU’s sing gospel, we REALLY try hard. Last night, we also provided cultural and racial acknowledgements, and historical information about the music that we were about to perform. As a member  of both performing choirs, I had been rehearsing full tilt and memorizing a plethora of song and hymn lyrics for weeks (SONGS GUARANTEED TO NEVER LEAVE MY BRAIN AGAIN!). An early snowstorm  had forced us to reschedule the event.  Finally, last night, we sang…and shone, perhaps not like blinding light, but certainly with spirited illumination.  Opal was well behaved (as usual )and slept, wrapped around the microphone stand at my rhythm- tapping feet. We finally got home after 10 PM and eventually got to bed, but not before her ritual settling period had passed. (Opal needs to relax when she finally gets out of harness, and usually does so by picking up a soft object and running around like a nut. Lately, my panties have been the object of choice. She turns them into lingerie confetti.  That’ll teach me to leave my dirty clothing lying about!). Early this morning, Opal  accepted my unreasonable demand to ‘saddle-up’, (good sport that she is), and off we went to church again. This time we were helping out in the UU orientation for the newcomers. We participated in the day-long UU boot camp until early afternoon and then left the group  to tend to our last UU mission of the day; A hospital visit to a church member who has been beset by surgeries and the aftermath of infection.

One of the perks of the harness which Opal wears, is its status and how it can act as a pass to enter into places where pet dogs can not go. A hospital is such a place. My friend, M. who is the unfortunate soul in ill health, has two dogs of her own…at home. What a smile I heard in her voice when Opal gave her a huge greeting!  She had no roommates in her hospital room and the place was oddly quiet, so I took Opal’s harness off for a minute to allow for some big time kissing and goofiness. THIS is true medicine, UU canine style.

Where Have You Been, Mum!?

I don’t know where my mum has been, but I don’t like it! She was gone for only a minute… said something about helping A. with his computer, and then she came back a while later smelling like….the German boy! Yes, I know she was playing around with my boyfriend, you know.. the guide dog who lives upstairs but who is also a shephard (two jobs! wow!),  mum says.  Oh, he’s not REALLY my boyfriend, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Mum came in and a wave of that boy’s smell hit me like a sack of bricks. Hmmm. He’s so dreamy. I long to play with him…I long to play with ANY dog at this point. Maybe someday I’ll be running around that service dog park that mum’s trying to jig up with HRM. In the meantime, she has started allowing me to play off-leash in our special place. She told me not to tell, and that she’s not sure how appropriate it is to run around this place…you know, being the Worship room at church, and all. I can’t see why anyone would mind. Dogs worship and celebrate life in their own way, I tried to tell her. She got this idea while  we were waiting and waiting for choir practice time to come around. We spend a lot of time alone in the church house just waiting, ’cause we have no where else to go. We  are usually waiting  for a meeting or choir practice. I get bored. Yesterday, one of those ‘ah ha’ light bulbs went off in her head. She said, “There’s nothing but a big, empty room  here with no obstacles…  If we close the doors,  there’s no chance you’ll  escape… You won’t damage anything, Opal and I  know that you NEVER relieve anywhere indoors…so, let’s play!!!” We didn’t have a toy, but mum threw her glove across the room and we played ‘chase-the-dog-until-mum-collapses-giggling-and-I lick-her-face’ game. Then we had a nap together. Mum eventually confessed to the choir director about our playing in the Worship room. The choir director seemed to think it was a great idea. “Thank goodness we’re Universalist Unitarians!”, mum said. I’m glad we are  too.

Choirpractor Award

At a minor gala yesterday evening, Opal was presented with  the 2008 annual UU Choirpractor award. This award is unique (ie. a spur-of-the-moment invention of her mum’s) in that it recognizes Guide dogs who attend endless hours of choir practice at the  Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax. Guide dogs (especially Opal) are forced into all manner of situations because of their mums and dads varied activities and interests. Judo classes, chess club, work, swimming lessons, excruciatingly boring meetings, shopping, air travel, picnics, physiotherapy appointments and on and on. But choir? Listening to Peter, Paul and Mary wannabes and others who insist on experimenting with annoying-sounding instruments like Kazoos and slide whistles as they  prepare for an upcoming Gospel sing-along evening? and then, to follow up with yet another choir practice, one of a  more traditional type, but still equally loud and boring? “This is Service Dog hell week”, read the thought bubble above her head yesterday. Opal’s saving grace (NOT Amazing), was the power nap between the two gigs on the floor in the worship room and the pot luck snack-a-thon to end off the evening. So, in the true spirit of UU recognition (UU’s are VERY big on patting each other on the back…we are after all, very kind, fair folk), I presented  Opal  with the 2008 Choirpractor award when we got home (and a cookie). It is for service above and beyond the call of duty, but I truly believe, that deep in her heart and doggie soul, she LOVES CHOIR PRACTICE!

UU’s Lovin’ The Music

Ya gotta love a UU (Universalist Unitarian) choir practice. I love to sing. I do so incessantly and not particularly well. I go to choir practice at church. Heck, I go to practices for TWO UU choirs (Only a UU church with a congregation of 102 people in total–many old or living out of town–would dream of accommodating more than one choir). The Chalice Singers (not to be confused with the UU Family Singers) meet Thursday nights. Under Deborah’s patient and devoted tutelage, a handful of aspiring voices gathering to practice hymns and songs for upcoming events at our church. Some of these voices are, umm, shall we say,  less than ‘on pitch’ (and I’m not talking about ME).  It doesn’t matter here. We start out with stretching and follow up with a few voice warm ups. The first time Opal attended choir practice, she was a little puzzled as she watched us do calisthenics and listened to the funny sounds coming out of us..the rising sigh, (“aahhhhhhhh” and  the lowering sigh (uhhhhaaaah) , the “shee, shees” , “la, la, las” etc. Now she just goes to sleep on her beach towel and ignores us until break time when sometimes, food comes out.  Everyone is welcome at choir practice,  no matter how badly they sing. And we’re not THAT bad, probably because we try so hard. It’s the earnest commitment to the song that makes us sound good.  There is something totally rejuvenating about singing, especially the hymns and gospel tunes we perform, not to mention the show tunes with adapted lyrics.  No matter what kind of funk I arrive to choir practice in, I always leave feeling satisfied, happy, and energized. I also (with a little trepidation) started attending Tuesday’s ‘After Choir’ practice. The ‘After Choir’ is the ‘hip’ choir that sings contemporary songs with instruments (plento-o-guitars here). I love the ‘band’ feeling to it. Who doesn’t want to pretend they are on stage performing with Peter, Paul and Mary? ( and if you don’t know who THEY are, then you need a course in folk music 101). The camaraderie and intimate setting, combined with the sheer joy of singing,  makes joining a church choir (at least, a UU choir) a choice worth making.