Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The best dog I ever had

When I was a little boy, my first pet was a border collie puppy we named Tippy. He was black and white, full of life, and a joy to be around. We lived in the country and no one used leashes in those days. Tippy lived three years until he was hit one day by a car. My dad found him in a ditch with his nose pointed toward home. He was the best dog I ever had.

Next came Sandy, a collie-shepherd mix, who also loved to chase cars down the dirt lane and bark ferociously at their wheels. Same story; three years; a car. He was the best dog I ever had.

Friskie was a mixture of collie and shepherd as well. Mama made up a little song about him: "I have a little dog named Friskie; he is a very intelligent pup. He can stand on his hind legs if you hold the front ones up." Another three years; another car. He was the best dog I ever had.

I had no dog for a while because life was happening: college, the Air Force, a wedding. My wife's experience with dogs is similar to mine; only the breeds were different. She had two black cocker spaniels, one after another, both named Nellie, and a Dachshund-Chihuahua mix named Tangie, short for tangerine. They were the best dogs she ever had.

In our first, small apartment we acquired a Manchester, also small, that we called Koko; she was very spoiled. We also acquired a son, and when he began playing a little too rough with her, we feared for Koko's safety. An older lady in the neighborhood agreed to take her. The last time we saw Koko she was wearing a mink coat. She was the best dog we ever had.

The poodles stayed with us the longest. Gigi, a black miniature, lived 10 years. Cricket, a gray toy, lived 11 years. P.J., short for Pierre Jean-Jacques DuBois, was a white miniature who lived with us for almost 13 years; one afternoon he had a stroke before our eyes. I held him in my arms and told him what a good dog he was while the vet put him to sleep, and I cried all the way home. All three of those poodles were undoubtedly the best dogs we ever had.

We had a couple of short-timers over the years, too. Spot, a beagle, liked to dig in the flower beds and jump through the screens on the porch. Rudy, a lively Dachshund whose full name was Rudolph Valentino because we got him on Valentine's day, thought he should be the Alpha male in the house. Even though they went to new homes, in their own ways they were the best dogs we ever had.

Now we have Jethro, a cream-colored Havanese. He's three. He is great with the grandchildren, an absolute love, a bit of a clown, a good watchdog, everything you could want in a pet. You guessed it, he's the best dog we ever had.

From Tippy and Nellie to Jethro, all of them have loved us unconditionally; all of them gave us the best they had to give, and we tried to do the same in return. All of them were the best dogs we ever had. Our pastor says there won't be any dogs in Heaven, but I read in the last chapter of the book of Revelation that a tree of life is there that bears twelve kinds of fruit, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. Surely anywhere there's a tree, eventually a dog will find it.

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