Lady and the Monks – Hamilton County Reporter

By SCOTT SAALMAN

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Her name was Lady. The first childhood dog that I remember clearly. A collie. Looked like TV Kid. Mrs.

A rural road existence was a lonely existence for a little boy, but Lady made me forget all about it. She was my best friend. Our summer was spent exploring the southern Indiana countryside and lazily lounging in the shade until the sun went down and the fireflies flickered, just a boy and his dog. Twilight didn’t know better best friends. Timmy and Lassie had nothing on us. I loved removing daytime ticks from him at night, just like mom did for me. Mrs.

One day, Lady disappeared.

I asked where she was. My straight-faced parents informed me that she had been taken to the seminary of Saint-Meinrad. They assured me that the monks would take good care of Lady.

I don’t remember being told why Lady was taken to live with the monks. Had she killed a neighbor’s chicken? I’m not sure our neighbors even had chickens. Maybe I’m mixing that with a Kid episode. It looks like the chickens were still dying on this show, with Lassie being blamed before proving her innocence through the closing credits.

At the time, I would have preferred Lady to be taken to “the farm” I had always heard of. It seemed like a better place for a dog, especially since I knew a lot of kids whose dogs had been taken there. I imagined a farm with tons of relocated dogs playing with each other. Never a day alone on a dog farm. What a beautiful thought.

My straight-faced parents told me that maybe we could visit her one day, but that never happened. Apparently the monks needed a lot of quiet time and were rarely allowed to have visitors. At least Lady was in a place where she was undeniably safe and loved.

Lady had successors, with each outdoor dog meeting her violent death. Rural roads can be difficult for dogs. Patches was hit by a car, a lifeless little piece of white fur I spotted in a snowy ditch. Barney met his tragic end in a neighbor’s barn giving birth to his last litter of puppies. Barney had done so many litters in her life that she should have been in the Guinness Book of World Records. (My Aunt Carol, knowing we were heartbroken about Patches, found Barney for us. She told us Barney was male. Aunt Carol was a nurse. We trusted she knew the difference between dogs males and females of our new dog. To our surprise, Barney was really a Bernice. Yet we kept the name Barney.) Schooner was another victim on the side of the road, as was Captain, as was Jack .

But ma’am. She was something special. I never had to deal with Lady’s death. She was protected by monks – a surety always carried in my heart. Nothing bad could happen to him there with God’s people in a land so special that he was named after a saint. She was in heaven before she was in heaven. A beautiful thought.

Fast forward to 2012. I was 48. To celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I decided to offer them a professional photo session with the bucolic seminar as a backdrop.

As we walked through the seminary campus, I called Lady back. I hadn’t thought of her for decades. Finally, after all these years, my parents and I actually visited the seminary grounds together for the first time. I said to them, “Hey, I wonder if Lady is still here.

I knew there was no way Lady was still alive. Still, it was a comforting thought.

My parents stopped dead in their tracks. They looked at each other without saying a word. After 50 years together, I’m sure telepathy came easily to them. They finally looked at me.

“What did you say?” Dad asked.

“You brought Lady here to live.”

“We didn’t bring Lady here,” Mom said.

“Lady and the monks,” I said.

“We didn’t bring a dog here,” Dad said.

“Lady and the monks,” I repeated. They had been going up there for years. Clearly, their fading memories needed a boost.

They looked at each other again. They were both smiling, as if freed from the burden of an old lie.

“Madame and the monks? I persisted.

“We didn’t bring Lady here.”

“My God. All my life I thought Lady was here.

I remember Mom telling me about the bunnies she and her siblings always got as gifts at Easter. How they were the cutest things. How they would mysteriously disappear after a few months. How fried rabbit was served for dinner the day after each disappearance. This vicious circle lasted for years.

“What the hell happened to Lady?”

I prepared myself for a terrible truth. She was crushed. Slaughtered by a chicken farmer. Fallen into a well. My God, did we eat Lady for dinner?

Mom started to deliver the bad news, but Dad intervened. “We took Lady to the farm.”

It took a few seconds to process the news. “Thank God,” I said. “I was afraid something bad had happened to my Lady.”

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