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The Dogs in my Life

I had always wanted a dog as a child, but Mama wasn’t too keen on the idea. Neither was Daddy. Daddy had served in the Philippines in World War II, and came home afraid of the family dog even though he had known Fritz before he went to war. Fritz was in the family photo with his father and five sisters that he and his brother carried in their gear while they served. I later learned that the Japanese used dogs in warfare, but my father never spoke of it. So growing up, I made do with Fritz and with Wimpy – my aunt’s black cocker spaniel.

I remember going to our pastor’s house in Roseland which was down the hill from the church. They had a great dane who loved children and wanted to play with me, but I was so much smaller than it was and I was afraid. I stood up against a basement post with my dad behind me as a shield until they could corral him.
Finally, when I was in high school, Daddy got an overweight dachshund I named Toby which was from a Hungarian word for sausage. He wasn’t much for playing, but it didn’t matter at the time. He was very keen on protecting his bone, and when Mamma reached into the kennel for his dish not seeing the bone, he bit her and Daddy returned him to the man who gave him to us.

When I got married, my husband decided it was time for another dog. I don’t remember where we got Sandy from, but she loved being out in the yard. She was a pretty dog with little beige eyebrows. One night I was coming down the train station stairs and knew my hubby had come to walk home with me – I kept hearing, “Oh, look at the pretty dog!”

On the other side of our back fence was a set of railroad tracks, complete with the usual critters. One night, Sandy tangled with a skunk. We knew a skunk had been around when we got home, but didn’t really think anything of it at first. Up close, Sandy smelled fine, so we let her into the house for the night. As we were putting groceries away, we began to notice a funny odor. That’s when we put two and two together and took her downstairs for a tomato bath, which only made the odor more pronounced. She spent the rest of the week completely outdoors and managed to get skunked several more times that summer.

One evening we came home and Sandy was nowhere to be found. We searched the neighborhood and went to the nearest dog pound. We didn’t find her, but while we were walking down the aisle, I spotted a little buff colored cocker spaniel cowering in the back corner of her kennel. That’s how we came home with Chaya.
One night shortly after we got her, a friend was over. Chaya greeted Chuck and then disappeared upstairs. Chuck wanted to see more of her, so we called and called, but she wouldn’t come down. Finally, an exasperated Chuck called “Come here you ugly dog”, and she bounded down the stairs. That’s how Chaya become Ugly (much to my mother-in-law’s dismay and disappointment).

My husband worked nights on occasion, and one night I was awakened in the middle of the night by several loud thuds. I was scared to death, but slowly crept down the stairs. That’s when I heard the other sound – dog paws running and sliding. Ugly was using her nylabone as a hockey puck and having a grand time!

Then there was the night I got up to go to the bathroom. There was a full moon, so the bedroom was dimly lit. Enough to see Ugly lying on her back with all four paws straight up in the air. She had been sick that day and evening so I thought she had died in her sleep and scared her for a change when I dove down to the floor to check on her.

Ugly loved to sit in the front of the full length window screen door and watch the world go by. The mailbox was next to the door, and Ugly would watch the mailman come up the walk, deposit the mail in the box and walk away. THEN she would bark. We imagined coming downstairs someday to an empty first floor if she wouldn’t bark until the burglars were long gone!

Ugly had to be top dog. She tolerated Hawkeye, the English springer spaniel puppy my husband brought home, but when we added Beulah (to mate with Hawkeye) a year or so later, she was miserable, so we gave her to a good friend where she lived a long and happy life (and kept the ugly name!).

Buster Brown’s Surgery

Buster Brown was a 57-pound English springer spaniel. I worked with him as a therapy dog. I didn’t realize that I would be his first patient.

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Janet Jean: Buster Brown had knee surgery yesterday. I brought home a pretty sore puppy. He was hurting – I could see it in his eyes. He was restless – it hurt so much, he just wandered around.

God: Janet Jean had divorce surgery. I brought home a pretty sore little girl. She’s hurting – I can see it in her heart. She’s restless – it hurts so much, she just wanders around.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown, I know it hurts. It hurts a whole lot. But you see, your knee was in pretty bad shape and the vet had to go in and take the knee apart and deepen the groove in the bone and tighten up the ligaments and then put everything back together again.

God: Janet Jean, I know it hurts. It hurts a whole lot. But you see, your life was in pretty bad shape and I had to go in and take your life apart and deepen the groove in your heart and tighten up your attitudes and ligaments of faith and then put everything back together again.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown, it hurts a whole lot right now. But it’s going to get better. Every day it will hurt a little less. Every day you’ll get stronger. And I have an antibiotic and a pain pill to help. Remember how you used to hobble along on three legs? When your knee heals, you’ll be able to run better than you did before. Honest. I’m sorry you’re hurting now, but it’s for the best – really it is.

God: Janet Jean, it hurts a whole lot right now. But it’s going to get better. Every day it will hurt a little less. Every day you’ll get stronger. And I have the blood of Jesus, My Word and the Holy Spirit to help. Remember how you used to hobble along depressed and unfulfilled? When your heart heals, you’ll be able to live and love better than you did before. Honest. I’m sorry you’re hurting now, but it’s for the best – really it is.

Janet Jean: I love you Buster Brown. I’ll be here for you. Please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t do it to hurt you or be mean. It’s for your own good. It’s what’s best. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I wish I could take it away.

God: I love you Janet Jean. I’m here for you. Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t allow this to punish you or be cruel. It’s for your own good. It’s what’s best. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m hurting too. Let Me take it away. That’s why my Son Jesus died for you.

Janet Jean: Dear Jesus,

I see the pain in Buster Brown’s limp, in his eyes. The physical pain You suffered was so great it killed You. Buster Brown didn’t have a choice. You did. You chose to suffer and die so that I could be forgiven and spend eternity in heaven with You.

I know the pain of rejection. Rejected by a husband whom I loved deeply. Rejected, ignored by people I thought were friends. How You must hurt every time one of us goes our own way, leaves you out, misses the still small voice, forgets to say thank you. My pain is nothing compared to Yours. The prayer of Jabez says, “that I may not cause pain”. Help me to stop causing You pain.

God: Janet Jean, what else can you learn from Buster Brown?

Janet Jean: Buster Brown is always glad to see me.

God: I am always glad to see you. Be glad to see Me.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown is always so expectant, so excited about everything.

God: I expect the best from and for you. Expect the best from Me. I am thrilled to be part of your life. Be excited about everything.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown always wags his tail, even in pain.

God: Be positive, Janet Jean.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown wants to cuddle, but can’t until he’s invited.

God: Cuddle me Janet Jean.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown wants to be with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

God: Here I am Janet Jean. Come, take my hand.

June, 2003

A Volunteer’s Reward

This post is dedicated to the innumerable volunteers who give so much of themselves to serve others.  Sometimes it is a thankless and unappreciated service.  There are times when we have to get ready to go out serve when we’re tired and have so many other things calling for attention in our lives and we wonder if it’s worth continuing because we have no idea whether or not we’re making a difference.  Once in a great while God allows us to see the difference we’re making or have made.

One of the volunteer positions I served in was called Read Fur Fun at our local library.  We would bring our therapy dogs on a Saturday morning, the children would pick a book and read it to the dog of their choice.  One Saturday our time was up, but I saw a young boy who had that “love at first sight” look when he saw Buster Brown, so we lingered.  Tommy (not his real name) was developmentally challenged and wanted to know why a dog was in the library.  We explained the program to him and he started to get a book, when he was told we were done for the day, but he could sign up for next month.  He eagerly looked at his mom.  She was the kind of mom who was doing everything she possibly could to help her son.

A month later Tommy came and slowly read to Buster Brown, his finger under each word.  His mom was trying to get him to put more feeling in to his reading, but Buster Brown listened attentively nevertheless.  As they were leaving, his mom said, “He practiced every day for the last month so he could read to the dog”.  Tears came to my eyes and I never forgot him.  I looked for him each time we went, but he was involved in several other therapeutic programs and didn’t make it back to the library. 

It’s been five or six years since that Saturday.  I was at the library this afternoon for a performance of Old Time Radio Players.  I recognized Tommy at the counter as soon as I saw him.  He came to the show and sat in the front row.  The performers asked for two volunteers to read from the scripts for the next skit.  Tommy was the first to volunteer and I admit I cringed a bit – some of the old time radio shows were rather fast-paced.  His turn came and he had no problem following the script or reciting his lines.  His expressiveness was much better than it was years ago.  I was so proud of him!

I was also very touched to have been a minute part of his progress, and grateful to God for allowing me to see a glimpse of what we encouraged.  Don’t give up.  Don’t doubt your effectiveness.  Keep volunteering!

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