Not many churches can boast they have a dog as a member — one who occasionally howls along with the choir and congregation. But Shannon, a 7-month-old black Labrador, regularly attends worship at Grace Lutheran Church, Villa Park, Ill., with her temporary owner, Tony Meers.
Shannon "sings" with Meers in the choir loft and is blessed by Joanne Fitzgerald, the pastor, when she comes to communion each week. "With her left hand, not the hand with which she distributes the wafers," Meers quickly points out.
This isn't an indulged pet. Shannon is being raised to be a Seeing Eye dog. Meers contacted Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Mich., and volunteered to take a puppy for a year. Shannon can't feed on table scraps or treats. Fetch and tug-of-war are also off-limits since she can't be taught to be dominant or aggressive.
"Socialization is the primary goal for the dogs in the first year," Meers says. "They learn obedience and commands when they are older, but if they don't get used to other people, animals and traffic as puppies, they won't adjust when they are older.
The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.
© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers