The “Abbey” Story


This is the story of a stray dog adopted by monks of Mepkin Abbey written by the Director of the St. Francis Retreat Center. A client brought "Abbey's" story to our attention when she was looking for advice on flea control. We gladly donated 6 months of Frontline Plus and were compelled to share her tale...enjoy!

In the summer of 2014, a stray dog started hanging around our new retreat center at Mepkin Abbey. Although she had beautiful features, she was terribly emaciated, had obviously been abused and still had a piece of the chain she had freed herself from attached to her collar. As the director of the retreat center, I become concerned about the safety of our retreatants. We called the local animal shelter, which offered to come and get her when we caught her. They came and set a cage for that purpose.

One day Br. John came around the corner at the store, greeted by intense barking and presumed we had caught her, only to find out that we had caught a raccoon and she was barking at the raccoon. It was only months later that I learned that, from the day she appeared, she was seen as special. Those who do our laundry started dropping off food for her from day one. One of our tour docents was putting food outside the cage so she wouldn’t be tempted to go inside.

As diligently as some tried, we could not catch her. Meanwhile one group of retreatants after another started falling in love with this dog. They would sneak her food from the dining room. Then, they started taking up a collection to buy her dog food and gave her the name Abbey. She gradually and gingerly began to allow folks to get close enough to pet her. I knew then there must be plans other than the shelter for this dog. I stood back in amazement when, at the end of a three-day retreat, I heard big burly men say, “I’m going to miss Abbey.” Some women would shed tears and Abbey began to whimper herself.

To this day, Abbey gets more tips than I do. It is not uncommon to get a $50 check or home-made dog biscuits in the mail for her. She occasionally gets prayed for at worship or mentioned in the preacher’s homily. Not being a real dog lover myself, I began to realize that there was another world out there that I wasn’t a part of.

About that time someone introduced me to Dr. Linda Bender’s book, Animal Wisdom: Learning from the Spiritual Lives of Animals. There is a line in that book that reached me, one about how stray dogs and cats appear and attach themselves to those who do not want a relationship with an animal, but need one. Abbey must have intuited that because she has been my shadow ever since.

This canine presence that we tried to move on has moved in to become a significant staff presence at the retreat center. I now call her our “spiritual therapy” dog.  She gently and unobstrusively greets people when they arrive and escorts them to their rooms and is right there at their heels when they venture out for a walk. She has a way of letting everyone who comes here know that they are loved.

Dr. Bender states in her book, “Among animals, as among humans, there exist saints and bodhisattvas: individuals who have outstripped their fellows in spiritual development.” She goes on to say, “the presence of animal bodhisattvas reminds us that altruism isn’t unique to humans. All living creatures possess the capacity to feel and act out of selfless love.” We could not have ordered a dog more suited to a monastery retreat center.

As retreatants leave our monastery, we ask them to give us feedback on what has contributed the most to making their retreat experience with us beneficial. I’m no longer surprised at the number of people who mention Abbey as a key factor in the experience. I continue to be amazed at the spiritual language they use to describe the benefit. Here are some verbatim quotes taken from those feedback sheets.

“The sweet little dog named ‘Abbey’ with the spirit of a shepherd has been a joy as I watched her ‘shepherd’ individuals to and from activities.”

“Abbey is a furry-faced Guardian Angel and should be treated as a therapy dog for weary guests.”

“Even our canine retreatant showed up this week. May she learn to trust kindness and heal from that which she fled.”

“Abbey, the retreat center mascot, is absolutely an angel in a funny ‘disguise.’ She is the most intelligent and kind creature I have ever met.”

“Walking the grounds with Abbey and spending time with the trees and river put the whole experience over the top! She really is the most wonderful animal, and I have loved a lot of dogs. May she help to heal and calm and guide retreatants, brothers and friends as long as she lives!”

“Abbey has almost a mystical presence and is very egalitarian in her approach to guests.” 

“Abbey, the dog, created a truly healing time for me. This was such a gift!”

“She represents what I feel to be true about this place—all are welcome!”

A few months ago a couple of friends came to Mepkin for a retreat. As one of them was sitting in the guest dining room for supper one evening at 5:10 p.m., she realized that her friend was still over in the Luce Garden about a half mile away. She knew that if the friend didn’t get there by 5:30 she would miss supper. So, she said, “I said a little prayer that Abbey, who was lying outside the dining room door, would go get her friend.” She thought nothing more of it. Her friend did make it for supper. But after supper her friend said to her, “I would have never made if Abbey had not come and gotten me.”

What followed this story was a wonderful conversation about this woman’s experience with newborns who are so sensitive to energy because their minds are not filled with knowledge. They can be very calm and peaceful but, when they feel negative energy, they start fussing. We spoke of the similarities with animals as well. This made me wonder what further ways Abbey may help us gain insight into our own spiritual lives. For that reason I have chosen to make this the first of what I hope may be many “Abbey Stories.” I see this story as the beginning of an open book. Anyone who feels that Abbey has helped them gain spiritual insight and would like to write a poem or story about it can submit it to the editorial committee to be considered as an addition to this book.

Fr. Guerric Heckel, ocso

Director, St. Francis Retreat Center

January 24, 2015

Ask the Trainer: Monday, July 14, 2014

Thinking about hiring a dog trainer? Michelle Rodriguez from Bark Busters of Charleston will be on hand Monday, July 14, for a free dog behavior assessment! Call or email our office to reserve your time.

Celebrating 10 Years!

Choosing Daniel Island

When the Flood family moved to Daniel Island in 1998, it was a sleepy collection of homes in the middle of nowhere.  The town existed only as a concept on paper.  To get to our home, we exited the interstate and drove miles on a winding, two-lane road, across a creek, through woods, meadows and corn fields, to reach what would become a town someday - we hoped.

A nostalgic town, with neighborhood parks, churches, schools, sidewalks, front porches, bike paths and pedestrians appealed to us as a place we might want to stay.  For several years, we watched as homes were built in park-centered neighborhoods as promised.   Our boys rode the school bus to a county school across the river, and played on recreation teams from other towns.  We drove across the river to go to church, shop or eat out.  Eventually, a bank, a general store and a gas station were opened and the Department of Transportation created an interstate exit for Daniel Island.  Our town center started to grow.  As we watched the progress, I realized the town would need a veterinarian, and I started to look into opening a hospital of my own.

Building Our Hospital

I had worked as an associate veterinarian in six different veterinary practices in four different states as my husband's army career moved us around.  All that experience contributed to my idea of an ideal animal hospital, so I sketched out a floor plan and hired an architect to turn that sketch into drawings which could be approved by the Daniel Island Architecture Review Board and the City of Charleston.  I worked with a builder to turn those drawings into reality, and a licensed veterinary technician I trusted helped me order equipment and supplies, choose a practice management software program, and develop a schedule.  For months Missy Baldwin and I worked to make our dream a reality.

In January of 2004, we opened Daniel Island Animal Hospital; not a particularly original name but I liked the idea of being an old-fashioned "town doc" and we wanted to emphasize the island town location.  We anticipated being slow at first, waiting for people to discover us, but the day we opened, and for days afterward, we had trouble getting any work done while the telephone rang constantly!

Ten years later, we have grown from a one doctor, one technician practice to a team of seventeen. We now employ five veterinarians, four licensed veterinary technicians, a practice manager, receptionists, assistants, and administrative personnel; and last year we added 1250 square feet to the original facility!  Our hospital also houses Island Dog Cuts by Teri, an independent grooming salon established in 2007.  In 2013, we founded DIAH on Wheels, a non-profit organization offering pet food and veterinary care to needy, homebound seniors in Berkeley County.

Our Passion and Promise

For ten years, Daniel Island Animal Hospital has been blessed to help this community of animal lovers care for their pets as members of the family.  Our goal is to treat each pet as if they were our own, and we strive to work with pet owners as we would our personal family and friends.  We make recommendations based upon best medicine and we continually educate ourselves to stay current.

Though veterinary medicine is how we make a living, we practice a calling in our love for pets and pet owners.  We strive to be good neighbors to our clients because we honestly like what we do and we respect the pet owners with whom we work.  I hope these priorities are communicated to you each and every time you call us on the telephone or enter our hospital.

Thanks to the support and commitment of our team, clients, vendors, and community, our hospital is celebrating 10 years of business on Daniel Island. We look forward to growing and thriving within our island town for many years to come, sharing in the joys of caring for your furry, four-legged family members.

Lynne M. Flood, DVM

Owner Veterinarian


Ask the Trainer Day!