Sunday mornings are a leisurely time in many households,
but they certainly weren't in our Ogilvie, Minnesota home back
in the late 1920s.
Church services began at nine-thirty in the morning.
Mother was the organist, so she had to be there early. That
meant all of us kids had to be washed and dressed with our hair
neatly combed by the time Mother left the house.
As you'd expect, there was a lot of hurrying around to make
sure everyone was ready on time. That was trouble enough, but
one day we had another problem on our hands -- our dog, Brownie.
Every morning, Brownie was let out by the first person who
got up. When we called him back in, he'd usually come running
right away...but not on this particular Sunday.
We called and coaxed for as long as we could, but Brownie
was simply nowhere to be found. Unable to locate our
disappearing dog, we gave up in despair and headed off to
church, leaving Brownie outdoors somewhere.
We arrived at church and got settled in, with Mother at the
organ. After some hymns and prayers, the minister began his
sermon. We kids tried to sit still, just as we had been told to
do, and not fidget. But as the preacher began to warm to his
subject, I thought I heard something unusual. No one else
seemed to hear it though. But then it came again, louder. It
sounded like something was scratching at the church door. We
kids all exchanged silent glances and stifled our giggles. Then
the scratching sound was followed by the plaintive sound of a
lonely dog howling. All the grown-ups pretended not to hear
anything, leaning forward in their pews so they could hear every
word of the minister's oration. But we kids knew that howl.
Only one dog in the neighborhood made that sound.
The wailing continued and the minister paused for a moment,
furrowing his brow in frustration. He didn't want to have to
compete with a howling hound, so he signaled to the usher to
open the door and shoo the dog away. But the usher was not
quick enough for Brownie. As soon as he opened the door, in
bounded our dog with a smug look on his face! He strolled up
the aisle, cool as you please, as congregation and minister
looked on aghast. When Brownie got to where Mother sat at the
organ, he just plopped down and sat quietly. A murmur went
around the church and there were some smiles and nodding of
heads. The minister, determined to ignore this unusual canine
caper, resumed his sermon.
The following Sunday happened to be one of those rare
Sundays when we didn't go to the morning service. However, no
one had informed Brownie of the change in our schedule. After
we attended the evening service, we heard the story: In the
morning, Brownie had made a commotion at the church door until
once again he was let in. Again, he sauntered down the aisle
until he reached the organist, who was about to begin playing.
Brownie stood stock-still for a moment, staring at the female
organist. Then, when he had determined to his satisfaction that
she was definitely not Mother, he returned to the church door
and made it clear that he was not interested in attending this
There were many Sundays when Brownie repeated his
demonstrations of religious piety and family loyalty. As you
can imagine, this was quite embarrassing for Mother. There were
some people who weren't all that happy to see a dog in church.
And each time we got a new preacher, Mother had to explain our
unusual dog to him. Since Brownie lived to be nineteen years
old, quite a few preachers got used to having that little brown
dog interrupt their Sunday services.
Shortly after Brownie passed away, our minister came to
call. After consoling us over our loss, he said, "If there is a
heaven for dogs, you can be assured Brownie will be scratching
at the door -- and when it is opened, he will be given a place
right up front with the best of them."