Every Easter has special memories of God’s grace at work among God’s people, and every Christian community is an adventure of living the Easter mystery.
One such adventure was in 2011. Merlin was still young, about 10 months old, and still experiencing many firsts in his little-dog life. The trip to Iskut, a small Tahltan village in the heart of the Cassiar Mountains in the far northwest corner of British Columbia, would be Merlin’s first Easter road trip. Even as a young pup he must have known something was up because the delicious smell of chocolate Easter eggs in the front seat of the truck tantalized and overwhelmed his little nose.
We set out early Holy Thursday morning on the 700 km drive from Whitehorse to Iskut. Of course, in early April the far North is still plenty cold, with lots of snow and frozen lakes.
The next day was Good Friday, so I planned to go to the lake nearby where a nice creek trickled in and made a little opening in the ice so I could fish from shore for a trout dinner. Merlin had never seen fishing before and excitedly ran up and down the shore, trying to figure out what that line was doing sitting on top of the water with me attached to the other end. Curiosity can be a good thing!
Then Merlin's little puppy brain convinced him it would be a good idea to go out on the ice and get around to the other side of the opening. He tried to get close to my fishing line, near the edge of the ice, and as he got closer and closer I hollered louder and louder at him to Get back!—as if that would make a difference to a curious puppy.
Sure enough the ice started cracking and then splash! down he went! Of course, all dogs know how to swim instantly—it’s called the dog paddle!—but total shock in freezing cold water is not the best way to learn. Nevertheless, he swam fast, right to shore. It was still minus 8°C, so I grabbed the soaking little guy, who now looked like a big skinny rat, and got him to the truck to warm him up and dry him off.
One of the wonderful little lessons I learned that eventful Good Friday was, Don’t go out on thin spring ice, unless you want a real cold baptism.
After Easter Sunday Mass I brought Merlin to the Easter Egg Hunt. All the kids were so excited to see Merlin the puppy and invited him to run around with them, hunting for chocolate Easter eggs hidden under trees in the snow.
Well. A dog’s nose is just about the best sniffer in the world, and an enthusiastic, sniffer-driven puppy is great at outrunning little kids—so Merlin beat the kids to every hiding spot! Not only did he find the chocolate eggs, but he ate them, wrapper and all, before the kids could catch up.
Soon Merlin stopped running around and sauntered over to our campfire and plunked himself down, while the kids kept looking in vain for Easter eggs. After about half an hour they came back to the Easter fire in front of the church. Some of the little ones were very sad, as they had not found one single egg. Merlin got ‘em all.
Observing this, one of the grandparents suddenly appeared with a big box of chocolate eggs. I got one of the parents to run into the church and hide them, while the other parents were consoling the children. Then with a loud "1-2-3" the grandpa yelled “Go!” and the children ran into the little church with great squeals of laughter and joy. They found the eggs without the help of a somewhat sickened puppy, and we even joined the Elders in saying a little Easter prayer of thanks to Jesus.
What a wonderful Easter adventure with Merlin in Iskut—and what an opportunity for him (and the Bishop) to learn some great lessons. Lesson one: stay off thin ice and learn how to swim when the water is warmer. Lesson two: Easter is way more about Jesus than chocolate Easter eggs.
Merlin got pretty sick eating all those chocolate eggs (chocolate is not good for doggies of any age!)—and that was the last time anyone ever invited him to an Easter egg hunt.
Written by Bishop Gary Gordon