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Jurrasic Bark ~ A Pagan Parable
Rufus, the shih tzu puppy, was so excited he could barely keep still. Even though he tried to stay calm, his tail seemed to have a mind of its own. It wagged furiously as he danced around and around Mama's legs.
“OK, little boy, settle down,” she said, as she read over again the piece of paper in her hand.
He didn't care what was written on it. All he cared about were those nine words Mama said when she unfolded the mail. “Oh! The Mid-Winter Pagan costume ball. Want to go?”
Want to go?
For two years Rufus had watched from the window over the living room couch as Mama got into a van full of coveners and their pets. Some were in full regalia, some in Circle robes. Some pets (like the white kitten owned by the group's newest member) wore only fancy ribbons or collars, whereas the High Priest's boxer was dressed as either a wizard or something equally cool. Rufus would whimper as the van pulled out of the driveway, and watch until the vehicle, music and voices were long gone.
“Your time will come,” Mama used to explain. Well, it sounded like his time was HERE!
“If you don't relax, I can change my mind,” Mama warned, wagging her finger faster than he wagged his tail. With a supreme effort, he circled 'round one more time and sat. “Much better. I think you're old enough to behave around other animals and people in fancy dress. We'll have to see about getting you an outfit, however. There's no time to sew one up, so we'll have to see what's in the catalog.” Together, they walked into the dining room, where Mama dug through a pile of magazines. “Ah, here we go,” she said, selecting one mid-way down.
She sat on the floor with him, curling her legs beneath her, and started to thumb through the pages. “Say, they have some cute things, Rufus. Look!” She placed the magazine open in front of him, pointing to the various pictures. “There are some great ideas here. See, here's a nice ladybug outfit, or a bumble bee?” Rufus looked into her face, unblinking. “Alright. Moving on. Hey, this lobster costume looks easy to get on and off. So does this pink pig get-up...” Rufus let his eyes roam over the page. This was his first Pagan ball and he wanted to look special, not like some girlie insect or lame farm animal. Suddenly, he stopped and stared. What was that costume in the page corner? It was green, and look, it had scales and ...YES! That was it! It was a dinosaur. How cool was THAT? He put his paw over the picture and barked.
“...we could tie a bandanna around your head and..what? What are you barking at? Let me see.” Rufus picked up his paw and touched the picture again. “What, that one? You want to be a dinosaur?”
Rufus barked and wagged his tail. Now she was getting the picture!
“Oh, I don't know, honey. This looks complicated. There's a big head piece, and your back legs and tail will be in the legs and tail of the dinosaur. It's not going to be easy for you to drink or scratch or ANYTHING...if you get my drift. I think you should pick something else. How about the cape with the pumpkin face? I won't even make you wear the stem hat.”
Rufus was crestfallen. He whimpered in disappointment, turned his back to Mama and sat down again. Pumpkin cape? He was going to look stupid next to a Merlin or a Dracula.
“You're SURE that's what you want, huh?” Mama asked. “And if I do buy this, do you promise to actually wear it, without a fuss or complaint?”
Rufus turned around, placed his two front paws on Mama's thigh and licked her face.
“Alright. But don't say I didn't warn you,” she sighed.
The evening of the ball had arrived. Mama decided to dress in something green, so she and Rufus wouldn't clash. She chose to be a dragonfly. “Think anyone will get the joke?” she asked, as they waited downstairs for their ride. “You're a dinosaur. I'm a 'dragon' fly? Get it?” Rufus sighed. “Everyone's a critic,” Mama laughed.
The headlights of a car lit up the front porch. “OK. Here we go!” Mama and Rufus got into the back seat of the van amid greetings and laughter.
“Look at the little man, all in green,” one friend exclaimed. “He makes an adorable lizard!”
Rufus picked up his head and barked. Who's a lizard? Not ME!
“Oh no. Watch it! He's a dinosaur, Phyllis. Not a lizard. And he's very proud of that fact.”
“A regular Jurassic 'bark', right?” Called the High Priest from the driver's seat.
Rufus barked in agreement, and tried to wag his tail--but couldn't. The costume's own tail held his tightly in place. No problem, he thought. Who needs to wag their tail anyway?
Once at the ball, Mama and Rufus walked into the middle of the room. From the comments he heard swirling around them, he could tell that his costume was a hit. He wanted to turn his head and see what the other pets were wearing, but he couldn't see. The front arms of his outfit acted as blinders, and he could only see what was directly in front of him. Ah well, he thought. I don't have to see them. I know my costume is the best. An hour later, he had greatly changed his mind.
His legs started to itch a little, as they sometimes did from his allergies. He usually just licked them a bit and the itch went away, but when he went to lick this time, he ended up with a mouthful of felt fuzz. Not only that, his head piece kept him from getting anywhere near the itchy spot.
With a mouthful of fuzz, he really needed a drink. He found the large bowls of water, set out for pets, along the far wall. Here again, the head piece was his enemy. Whenever he drank it would fall forward and cover his eyes. He ended up with more water down his front than down his throat. The cold water made him feel chilly and, with that, he suddenly realized he had to relieve himself. No problem, he thought.
The hosts of the ball had established a nice section of grass outside for just this purpose. Rufus tugged on his leash and Mama recognized the signal. Together they made their way outside to the designated spot. Rufus started to lift his leg when panic suddenly gripped him. If he did now what he desperately HAD to do, he would end up wetting his costume. Then, for the rest of the evening, he'd be stuck in a prison of wet, smelly felt!
What was he going to do?
He couldn't ignore the urges much longer. Mama reached down to the now whining puppy and undid the head piece. She unfastened the Velcro straps under his stomach, and slipped his back and tail out of the rear of the dinosaur suit. The second he was free, Rufus dashed for the grass and had a minute of blessed relief. When he was done, he came back over to Mama with his head down. He really blew the whole costume thing, even though Mama warned him. Now his first ball would end prematurely, and he didn't even have a chance to enjoy himself.
Mama reached down into her costume pocket and pulled out something orange and black. “I thought this might come in handy,” she said, tying the pumpkin cape around his neck. “It's not fancy, and it's more Fall than Mid-winter, but it's easy to wear and let's you do what a dog's gotta do. Come on, let's go have fun!”
A grateful Rufus trotted back into the ballroom and his first real taste of a Mid-winter party.
Moral: Listen to your elders and your parents. Sometimes the things that look cool to you can end up being inappropriate or harmful. And if you think the story of Jurassic Bark is just a morality “tail,” look below...
by Katharine Clark, Art by Robin Ator
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