Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thank You For Being A Friend

This picture best describes Dorcas: Always happy to see you.

"Thank you for being a friend, traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant
I'm not ashamed to say, I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off won't you stand up and take a bow"

Thank You For Being A Friend - Andrew Gold

A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

Haciko, Where The Red Fern Grows, My Dog Skip, Marley And Me, and Old Yeller. If these stories and films have one thing in common, it's about a boy/man and his dog. I admit that I am an avid dog lover. One person observed that for males, dogs are the one safe being that we can turn to to help us express our emotions in a very safe and accepting manner. Dogs are the most loving, most caring and most forgiving pets in my opinion. They possess qualities that Christ has in the most pure way. Growing up, my family dog's name was Cindy. She was a German Shepherd with a deep loving loyalty and smart beyond compare. She seemed to always be happy to see me, play with me and just allow me to be me. I think it was in God's mercy I had her growing up to help me through so many troubled times. I loved that dog and still have a picture of her on my desk at work.

As an adult, my beloved dog's name was Dorcas. I've had her for over 17 years. She was the first dog that was my own. It is hard to think of life without her. Today, I am facing that reality. 17 years for a dog is an almost unthinkably long time. Being a mutt, she clearly had genetic blending in her favor. I think her sweet personality had a lot to do with it as well. But as pet ownership requires, there's a day when you have to make the hardest choice. It's a day that I knew was on the horizon but just waited in denial that I'd have to face it. It's the very difficult day in which you have to choose to put your dog down. Sometimes I just wish in this one time I could hear her loud and clear and tell me that she's ready to go. I only can look at her very arthritic hind legs and just recently her limping on her right front leg. She was clearly in pain. All the pain medications didn't help. It was clearly nearing that difficult time and I had to say goodbye.

The process was difficult. She was given a sedative. As I held her, I started to cry. Was I really going through with this? I knew that in a few moments I would never see her again. It was a huge emotional weight on me. After she fell into a sleep, the second shot was given. In a short few moments she was gone. She went peacefully and without and pain. Unfortunately, I was feeling all of the pain. I know that it was the right thing to do, but it was the hardest thing I had to do for her.

Looking like a fox in the wild...

I'm writing these memories (long winded as they may be) only because perhaps it gives me some closure. Yes, I'm eulogizing a dog. For me, it's a way to stay engaged with what I'm feeling and go through the mouring process. So if you'll indulge me...

In 1997 Ariel as a little 7 year old ask me to get a dog. Not soon afterwards they met Poochie who was owned by two college aged girls who couldn't keep Poochie because of their apartment rules. I was asked to meet this dog and see if I wanted her. Sure enough this little red ball of fur was running up to me and licking me in the face. To be honest, I'm a sucker for a puppy. I'm also too easily wanting to make my daughter happy so after a weekend of deliberating I decided that we were getting Poochie with the one condition that I got to name her...

Acts 9:36
"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor."

Knowing that the girls loved the movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" (Julie Newmar played Dorcas) and knowing that the name was a Biblical one I landed on Dorcas. Of course I didn't want to tell the girls that there was another reason - I wanted to be able to call her a dork if I needed. I later thought just how kind and loving Dorcas was that the name fit the historical woman in the Bible.

They picked up Dorcas and brought her home while I was still at work. Knowing I had my own dog at home to meet me, I was like a little kid waiting to see my new puppy. I still can see the little red ball of fur running towards me jumping on my lay and licking my face. She was so excited that she peed all over me as well. For some reason, I didn't mind.

As she grew she morphed into such a strange combination of looks that the vet kept changing his mind as to what kind of dog she was. She eventually grew in to looking like a red fox. That is pretty much the theme whenever someone sees her - "She looks like a fox." Ironic that we ended up adopting a son named Fox. Today, I live in Fox Den Village.

One time in San Jose, she broke into the neighbors yard because they had chickens. The roosters were crowing at 4AM so even though it scared the chickens, it gave us the chance to tell them that they couldn't have livestock with in the city limits. When she was really happy and wanted to express her love for you, she'd give a deep "roo roo". We decided it was her way of saying "I love you." When we moved to Sweetwater, the DirecTV installer left the back gate open and she got out. I was really upset since this was wide open land and she could be anywhere. Stragely enough I found her in the installer's van sitting in the front seat. She was waiting for him to take her for a drive (or "car go bye bye"). She loved riding in the car! On the campground she was the host dog. We even had treats for pet owners with a greeting from Dorcas. Since the campground was out in the pastures of Sweetwater we would have cows wander onto the property. This was a special treat for Dorcas as she had the natural ability to herd cattle. She was very happy doing in and would guide them home. After that she came running back happy and very excited. She truly loved her "moo moo cow" friends.

When we moved to Knoxville, she once again became the suburb dog. As a testament to how sweet she was, she used to wander over to our next door neighbor's house. Ivan was deathly afraid of dogs from a childhood attack that he went through. She was so kind and sweet to him that he ended up enjoying her visits and even took care of her when we were away on vacation. He said how much he loved Dorcas and even asked for me to keep him posted if and when the inevitable day came about. Sadly, he was out of town on business.

"And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it's hard to hear
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend."

Over the past few years her walks got shorter. He limping became more pronounced. She slept more and was deaf. I knew at some point the eventual was getting nearer. How do you decide to say goodbye to a pet that was always happy to see you, loved you unconditionally, loyal to a fault and friendly to all? You have to talk yourself into the truth that she was in pain. That she really wasn't living much at all anymore. It's hard stuff to look at, but you also need to decide that she's just not the same anymore. Even then, I know I second guess myself. Perhaps I'm in the denial stage of grief.

I guess I just know that through my adult life, like my childhood it's nice that God had given me a wonderful pet to help smooth over the rough spots. Dorcas was always there and happy to see me. She had a love that only can be described as unconditional. I will miss her dearly.

"And when we die and float away
Into the night, the Milky Way
You'll hear me call as we ascend
I'll say your name, then once again
Thank you for being a ... friend!"

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