The Bishop of Castine

By: Patricia Conway

How he got his name is a mystery: maybe those silky ears are the answer, bare and bald when he arrived but now fully furred, perking straight up to bishops’ mitres when he senses adventure.  Like most of Bishop’s history, we merely guess, knowing that he sailed on choppy seas just before his soft landing on our shores 2 years ago.  Healthy food, play group, stylish grooming, utter devotion from his humans all replaced what went on before, his gentlemanly rascality finally allowed to shine, a big bundle of canine talents zippered into a tiny 9 pound body.  And a fine traveler, living the dream with us on our 3 week holiday in the serene escape of heavenly Castine.

Early in the mellow briny mornings, stillness interrupted only by gull cries, the Bishop and I would stride up and down the curving hills into a downtown that is the quintessence of our beloved native New England. A place like this can’t possibly exist today, yet it does, wide streets with stately historic homes shaded by elms, a genteel fairyland, Switzerland on the Atlantic. We walked to the diminutive charming harbor and paused to view the boats and the slow drizzle of visitors with their morning coffee before we worked our way back to our marvelous vacation house, its rolling green lawn and tall pines majestically opening onto shores of breathtaking beauty and peace and the endless, glistening Penobscot Bay, our temporary corner of Paradise.

It was Bishop’s first trip with us, his third but forever home. An upstate NY boy who is quite content to hike along the Erie Canal towpath, he had his first taste of the vast openness of the  Maine coast, the endless promise of the Atlantic Ocean.  At least we think it was his first taste, ignorant as we are of most details of his past lives. Maybe it’s the first time he stayed in an unfamiliar house without being abandoned there by those he thought had loved him, transferred to yet another human like so much used furniture.  After a 12 hour ride to Castine, the foreign smells and surroundings heightened his terrier nerves for 2 days until he finally figured out that he could vacation with his family, settling in to the familiar morning laptime routine before exploring new places, the exotic feel of the rocky sandy pebbly coast and the cold salty ocean on his tiny paws, tasting miniscule portions of lobster, being the same cuddly rascally family member he is at home, only the venue different. A weeklong visit with small exuberant family members proved wildly exciting, new playmates bearing squeaky gifts and big escapades, Bishop generously bestowing his blessings on all of us.

3 years earlier on our first Castine visit, our sweet geriatric Evie was able to venture no further than the yard of our rented house or the small grassy park barely a block away. I observed dog walkers marching purposefully through town, their companions padding along joyfully, their charmed canine lives ahead of them. I wished for my old girl to be prancing along with me, being admired for her peachy blonde beauty, sharing an ice cream with me at the dock. Those times had passed for us. I felt guilty for envying the other dogs for having their day and those brisk walkers on exquisite Maine days breathing in the briny air with their canines at their sides. Were they even aware of such perfect joy?

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