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Can I Bring My Pet to the Bruderhof?

August 1, 2021 by

My dad brought home a little runt piglet one morning when I was in kindergarten. Because the piglet was lame, we named him Amahl, after the shepherd boy in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Amahl’s leg soon healed and he enjoyed running back and forth in his cardboard box, squealing loudly, which my siblings and I thought was adorable. My mom was patient with the squealing (and the increasing stench) for quite a while. Eventually, we said goodbye to Amahl and brought him back to his mommy in the barn. At the time I firmly believed he was headed for a bright future. Years later I heard that his mommy rolled on top of him by accident and he died, a detail my parents decided to spare me. Amahl was our first family pet, followed by Midnight Shadow, my sister’s rabbit, who died tragically. Then came the second rabbit, unloved and nameless, who could not replace Midnight Shadow and resorted to barking and biting people. And most recently we had a border collie named Shayna. She is now living the border collie dream, herding sheep.

I’ve often heard people ask whether they could bring along their pets if they moved to the Bruderhof. Well, since we have a common purse and can’t buy dog food, cat food, or fish food on our own, people who want pets just have to ask the person in charge of buying things at their location, also known as the steward. The steward will almost always say yes. If you have some cats or dogs that have been your faithful companions for years, the steward is not heartless. He will almost certainly allow you to bring them along when you move to the Bruderhof, unless your pet is too big and exotic – we can’t accommodate pet tigers. There is also a barn on most large communities that has horses, sheep, pigs, and other big friendly animals to love.

AyanaEmbedAyana poses with Sonny, Snickers, and Star, her pet goats.

If the steward does object to your pet, do not be afraid to argue and present your case. Count on the Bruderhof’s principles of brotherhood, sisterhood, and open admonition and say, “if you don’t let me bring my ferret, I’m not sure I want to come.” If people badly want a pet, they usually can get one.

My tenth grade biology teacher at the Mount Academy had a pet snake. Sometimes our whole class would stand around and watch that snake eat a terrified mouse. The mouse would become a little lump in the snake’s body, moved along by snaky stomach muscles. I feel sick just writing about it. Our teacher did not force us to watch this process. It was peer pressure that forced us. We all stood around saying, “Wow, that is so cool!” But it wasn’t. So if my teacher could justify a pet snake, then I bet you could justify a cat, a dog, or even a hamster.

When I moved from Platte Clove to Fox Hill one of my friends from Platte Clove advised me to ask for a dog. “If you get a dog,” she told me, “then you probably won’t have to have a roommate.” This advice sounded fascinating, but the choice between dog and roommate does not present itself in the same way to me as it did to her. I enjoy roommates, other young single women from Fox Hill, who help me keep up-to-date with the social calendar of the Shalom group. If I had a dog, I’d love it, but I think I’d be much too introverted. “Look at that,” people would say, shaking their heads, “there goes Esther. She never talks to anyone except her dog.”

Yes, pets certainly have a place in community. We’re all human and we sometimes hurt each other with our words. But animals have a much more understanding love than humans and if you’re down, they’ll give you the assurance you need to face the world again. So if I ever really need to, I’ll ask for a pet. A runt pig would certainly drive away my roommates, but I have not ruled out the possibility of a fish. Fish are noiseless and certainly give us all a wonderful example of being content whatever the circumstances.

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About the author

Esther Keiderling

Esther Keiderling

Esther Keiderling lives and works at the Fox Hill Bruderhof.

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