This is the story of a man who had a mystery dog. The man's name is Don Bosco, he cared for many children, and he had a dog.
His real name is John, The Italians call their priest Don instead of Father, so in our story you will understand when sometimes he is called John, and sometimes he is called Don.
John's father died when he was just two years old. Everyone called Mrs. Bosco "Mama Margaret." She thought that one of the most important lessons for Johnny to learn was to say thank-you to God, because it was a wonderful thing that God let cows give milk and trees give apples. As John grew up he often thought about boys and girls who had nothing to eat in the middle of all these beautiful gifts from heaven. That was bad, little Johnny figured, and he began to hope that he could make helping orphans his special calling.
Is this beginning to sound as if Johnny sat around all day doing a lot of deep thinking? Not at all. One day at a fair, John spent all day watching a man who walked a tight rope and the men who did the juggling acts. When he came home, Johnny tied a rope real tight between two trees and began to practice. Day after day, he kept on trying until he was a really good tightrope walker. Then he started juggling, and after a while, he could put on a whole show by himself. And he did. The only price of admission for the children who came to watch was that they must say ten Hail Mary's with him before and after the greatest show on earth. "No pray - no stay" was his motto.
One day young John Bosco told Father Colosso, a pastor at a nearby town, that he wanted to be a priest. Under the guidance of Father Colosso, John began to study for the priesthood. Soon after the glorious day of his ordination, he was given an appointment that included visiting prisons. He was shocked to see young orphans there who had not been taught the difference between right and wrong. Don Bosco began collecting orphans wherever he could so they would never land in jail.
His biggest problem was finding a place for them. No one trusted these young boys, dressed up in rags. When Don Bosco did finally get a Sunday church for his growing crowd of young boys, they were soon told that the people living near the church did not want them around because "they might be a bad influence on their own children." So Don Bosco and his young crowd had to go out beyond the town, Their numbers grew - with the sky as their only roof. Don Bosco explained the catechism to them, and helped them to go to confession and then he would say Mass for them. For these poor children, it was a grand time.
That Don Bosco and his children were unwelcome can be seen from this story. Two elderly men tried to put our saint away in an asylum. They waited for Don Bosco one night, and when he came out of the house, they asked him to get into a carriage. Don Bosco realized something was wrong, so he quickly shoved the two men into the carriage and yelled to the driver to hurry up and take them out to the institution and not to listen to them because they were out of their minds. And the two wicked men were driven all the way out of town. When they were finally let out of the carriage, they realized that Don Bosco was very, very smart and not crazy at all.
Gradually, people began to see that Don Bosco was saving boys who might have become crooks in their city. That is when the people started to help and give money to Don Bosco. The children were not sitting around all day doing nothing. They were taught book-keeping, shoe-making, carpentering, and of course, their religion. An now we come to the part about Don Bosco's mystery dog. Our saint was often in trouble with certain people trying to trick him and kill him. So God gave him some help. This help was a big dog. No one knows where he went. If Don Bosco was in trouble he would just show up to protect him.
The dog was gray, do Don Bosco called him Il Grigio, which means, "the gray one" in Italian. One night, two bad men waited for Don Bosco in a dark road, then they grabbed him and gagged him. Big Gray showed up and the men didn't know what hit them. The robbers begged Don Bosco to call off the dog, Don Bosco did, and the gray one backed up, still standing guard. One night the dog came to say good-bye. (Of course, no one knew that then.) He just laid his head on Don Bosco's lap to be petted. Then he went away.
Then, one stormy night, thirty years later, Don Bosco and another priest were lost in a swamp. Don Bosco said softly to himself, "If only my Grigio were here," and suddenly the dog was there, waiting to lead them to safety. The other priest said to him later, "Why did you call that dog Grigio?" Don Bosco answered, "Because it was my Grigio. It was his size, his color, he knew me and came up to be petted as he always did."
One time an epidemic swept over the countryside. By insisting on cleanliness and lots of prayer, Don Bosco saved his children, although the hospitals were filled with the sick. Don Bosco said to his boys, "Now we are going to pay back these people who have given us a new chance in life. We are going to the hospital to take care of them. And, if any of us should die, we will accept death for the love of God and for our neighbor."
Not one of the boys who helped in the hospital became sick. And the people of the neighborhood were deeply thankful to our saint at last.
One more word about Don Bosco's boys. At the time of his death, not one of the thousand boys he had raised had ever been in trouble with the law.
If we are not always obedient to our parents and school teachers, and sometimes get into trouble, we can always ask Don Bosco to help us. Just as he always protected the children who lived with him.
Source: Bedtime stories. F. Lee.