The Dog Days of Summer

“Dog days, dog days…it’s always about the dog days!”, my sister blurted out in frustration. You see, our great grandmother was always talking about the “dog days” when the weather got hot. That’s really all I knew of the term…hot and muggy. According to Wikipedia, the origins of the term is one of Greek and Roman astrological origins. I want to talk about the “dog days” in a different way.

Recently after watching “Old Yeller” on the classic movie channel, my poor dog got more attention that he really wanted from all of the members of our household. The kids were laying on him, petting him, holding him and I was scratching behind his ears…and all the while that grumpy ole hound was looking at us as if to say, ‘C’mon people…it’s still naptime!” My dog is a “dogs dog”. He’s big, goofy, gentle and loving and I will miss him when he’s gone. While he is a dog, he is a member of our family and still evokes emotion like that of any other family member.

Today, my sisters dog Chloe finished out her final day with her family. There will never be another meal in which she is bumping an elbow in hopes of flipping a scrap of something…anything…off of the fork and into her general direction. Anyone with a furry family member knows that they ALL are special in so many ways, but THIS dog was really special. So, when my sister cried on the phone tonight saying, “I never want another dog because I can’t possibly do this again,” it broke my heart. I feel her pain. As I sit here looking at my own dog, who is getting up there in years I can definitely appreciate the heartache that she is feeling. But, does this one day…the last day…really trump all of the others? Roughly 5475 days in the family and the final day makes her never want to go through this experience again. I’m going to take a look back for a moment.

This dog mastered the art of chewing on unauthorized items in a manner that was so slick- it usually went undetected until the damage was done. While she was performing this incredible feat, her mouth was barely moving…head cocked to the side, looking up in the most angelic fashion. She was one slick chick! She and my Dad (who coincidentally “never wanted another dog in this house” as a result of the very same heartache that is ensuing now) seemed to be connected kind of like E.T. and Elliott. One would take a drink and the other would burp. (I won’t say which was which.) The joy that children gave her when they entered the room was quickly rivaled by the joy we all felt watching her skip around in circles upon the arrival of those children. She was a Sheltie mix which meant she was a natural herder. But, this became a problem when she wanted to herd and another family dog wanted to retrieve resulting in an epic tug-of-war battle over a rabbit that will not too soon be forgotten. So she stuck to herding children…and Paw when she wanted to go on a walk or wanted to gently push him toward the refrigerator for a treat. She was a natural born mother though she had no pups of her own. Each and every child who slept under the same roof could count on having a loyal watchdog at the foot of the bed. If there were too many children spread out through the house, she would find a spot where she would have a view of them all. She was a therapy dog and went to nursing homes to care for others in need of a pick-me-up from a pure heart. More remarkably, she could anticipate seizures before they happened and quietly gave the alert as she moved near my sister’s side. One who didn’t know her could mistake this gentle lady as a docile domesticated diva; but when her territory (especially with “her” children) was invaded her demeanor was more of a fierce lioness protecting her cubs. As a matter of fact- while she was visiting my home recently and was in the back yard with the kids, she saw another dog approaching the fence line about 50 feet off. She shot off of the deck at top speed…as if she were a spry 3 year old pup. However, when she reached the fence and announced her presence with authority, she turned- only to realize that her 15 year old body was going to have to take her time getting back to the house because she had spent all of her energy for the day. It didn’t matter that her vision was fading, her hearing was dull and her joints were aching- those were her kids. She was a companion, a mother to many, a cousin to other mutts, a grand-dog and kindred spirit.  Let me pass on this thought…

 ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson

Does the pain of the last day really overshadow all of the others? Absolutely not. This particular dog lived each moment to please her master and care for others. We could all learn something from Chloe’s dog days.

Chew on a shoe today? Repent and move forward. Give and receive forgiveness. Give…serve…love…protect…be kind…sacrifice…be alert…use your natural God-give talents…help a friend in need…be constant, faithful and true.

As we enter these “Dog Days of Summer” and go gallivanting off on our vacations- remember that all of our days matter. God has given us each talents and gifts to be shared, the message of the Gospel, the love of Christ and the task of stewarding all that we have been given here on earth. Celebrate life…and live a life worth celebrating according to God’s will! Don’t throw up fences hoping to keep heartache out~ they only keep you captive. Embrace the life that God has given to you. Each day is a blessing as is each moment within. Count them all- but, don’t wait until the last day to look back in reflection. Reflect daily. It’s nice to be blessed, but be a blessing regardless of the circumstance. I am not just talking about dogs here folks…this applies to people, too.I pray that I will live a life for the Lord, one that will reflect Him. I want to hear those words…

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:23

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