Every morning as I go on my 1-4 mile walk (depending on the weather and how much time I have), I listen to a book on my I-Pod. It has proven to be a great use of my time, plus it makes the time go so much faster and my dog (Zeke) doesn’t seem to mind.
I finally got around to listening to John Grogan’s huge hit Marley and Me. Once I got over the reader of the book, whom I could not stand (which happened to be John Grogan himself), I loved the book.
If you are not familiar with the book, or the movie, Marley and Me is a “true” story of Grogan and his family pet, a very large, very neurotic Labrador Retriever. At times you think that the family is as crazy as the dog because the put up with his behavior. But overall it was a powerful book.
As I walked an cried, listening to the story of having to put Marley “to sleep,” my mind couldn’t help wander back to Nahum and Zephie, the two dogs that nancy and I have had the privilege of sharing our home with and had to make the horrible choice of putting to sleep.
Nahum (named after the Biblical prophet – find out what the word means in Hebrew and you will know why I chose it!) was the first dog I had as an adult. I got him from a pound in Stanley County, NC while I was a student pastor attending Duke Divinity School. I would drive the 100 miles into Durham and drop Nahum off at the apartment of a beautiful young woman that I happened to be dating. While I was in class he would chew up whatever he could find, including the vanity in her bathroom. What is amazing is that a little less than a year later she decided to become my wife and accepted my wayward dog as well. When the girls were all young (Haley was just a baby) we had to put him down, and buried him with my childhood dog Zorro at my parent’s lake cottage in North Webster.
It took almost five years before the girls and I could convince Nancy that we needed a dog (You have to understand that Nancy is/was a cat person). Finally, once cold spring morning we came home with a Shitzu of questionable parentage and home life from the South Suburban Humane shelter in Chicago Heights. In keeping with our biblical theme we named him Zephaniah, or Zephie for short.
Zephie was the most wonderful dog I have ever owned (not counting Zeke, of course). Zephie would greet me at the door, and was known to run at me and jump into my arms. There is no greater joy that to be greeted with unconditional love when you come home. We had no idea where he had come from, other than he had some weird quirks about him. But he loved people (and unfortunately loved joggers and bicycles), and was a great companion. The only thing I knew about him was that he had a heart murmur. Doc Matthews (the greatest vet I know!), would tell me every now and again, “you know he has a heart murmur”, and I would say, “sure I know.” But I never understood what he was trying to tell me.
Suddenly, Zephie became sick and when I took him to see Doc Matthews he said to me, “You remember how he has a heart murmur, well it is catching up with him.” Our wonderful boy was suffering from congestive heart failure. We did everything we could to help with the problem, but finally it was just too much.
I will never forget that last day, September 24th 2007, when I took him for one last walk, (and had to carry him back home), his last ride in the car to Doc Matthew’s clinic in Cal City, or the ride to Crown Point and Burns Funeral home and animal crematory. I carried him all the way. And like Marley, he will never be forgotten!
Animals bring such joy to our lives. This time it wasn’t as hard to convince Nancy that we needed a new puppy in our lives, and with a little help from Laura Cyrus, Ezekiel (Zeke for short) came into our home and into our hearts. Every day, Zeke and I enjoy God’s great creation together. No he doesn’t jump into my arms, but as soon as I sit down at home, he is in my lap. He is, truly, my best friend!