A blogger friend of mine recently had her beloved dog called home to that that big doghouse in the sky. I’m firmly in the camp that dogs DO go to Heaven since our Good and Gracious Lord has provided us with their company and their ability to so easily capture our hearts, minds and affection with their four-legged, tail-wagging, soul-full eyes, expressions and actions. This blog is for everyone who’s ever been loved and cared for by a four-legged friend then had to say good-bye to them. It’s also for my friend Marilyn. You and your family have been in my prayers since Frankie’s passing.

George

My wife and I were newlyweds, as in only being married for a couplea months. Every Sunday I’d call home to speak with my parents who still lived on the farm that I grew up on. As I was talking with Dad my Mom got on the other line and asked Dad if he “had told me yet.” My Dad replied kind of quietly “no”. What concerned me was my Mom’s tone, it was rigid. My stomach dropped, what could it be? As it turns out our dog George had gotten run over by a car. Being an old dog and a serious injury they decided to put him down and take him out of his misery. Our conversation ended shortly after that. My wife walked into the room and saw me sitting on the edge of our bed, sobbing. Sobbing. She immediately was concerned and wanted to know what had happened.

Me…”George is dead” (in-between sobs)
Connie…”George?! (she didn’t know if I had any relatives named George) “Cousin George?”
Me…”no”
Connie…”Uncle George?”
Me…”NO…my dog George!!”

This was really uncharted waters for us. Connie grew up with pets but hadn’t known a dog as a pet. I, on the other hand, had grown up almost exclusively around dogs. Connie tried to comfort me as best as she could. I think that my emotional reaction over a dog that didn’t even live with us really kind of threw her, as in “what kind of deal did I get into with this guy?”

George came into my life about the time that I entered junior high. My older brothers had all moved off of the farm. It was just Dad, Mom, me and George. We had a great time. We’d head off into the creek bottoms and corn fields, him scaring up pheasants and driving out rabbits. We’d play catch (as in I’d throw a ball, George would get it, then I’d have to try to catch George to get it back). We’d wrestle, howl together, I’d ride my bike and George would run along side of it. In the winter he’d jump into a snow drift only to disappear under it, reappearing as he’d jump up and above the level of the snow for a second before descending back into the drift. He’d roll onto his back and I’d scratch his belly just under his ribs and his leg would involuntarily start to twitch, his lips would get tight across his teeth and his eyes would squint. “OOhhh baby that feels good!!” is the look he’d give me. George.

George was quite the meteorologist as well. George would typically be found lounging about in his favorite cool spots during the summer. However, when George disappeared you knew a big thunderstorm was coming. I’m as serious as a heart attack. I finally put it all together one summer when I found George hiding out under Dad’s work bench in the garage. George was way, way back under this bench and he wouldn’t come out unless you drug him out (I needed someone to play with and Mom wasn’t going to howl with me…so yeah). The look on George’s face gave me a reason to wonder why he was so adamant to stay put. Long story, short…every time he was under that bench we’d get socked with a ferocious thunderstorm. It got to the point that if I saw him under that bench I’d tune our radio to a station in the middle of Iowa only to hear the static of a thunderstorm interrupting the transmission…from three hours away. I don’t know if he sensed a drop in the barometer or could hear the thunder or what but he was uncanny with it. (side-note…if you don’t hear birds or bugs chirping…a storm is coming soon)

During bitterly cold nights Dad and Mom would let George sleep in our house on the mud-room. Occasionally, during bad weather with lightning and thunder, George would find his way into the house and tip-toe his way through the rooms to a hiding place behind Mom’s loveseat. Have you ever seen a dog tip-toe? I have. George.

As I went through high school George would continue to greet me whenever I got home. I remember getting home late at night from various games, parties or my shift as a cook at a truck-stop only to have him amble out of his dog house, tail slowly wagging with a look on his face that said “it’s late boy, you woke me up, but I’m glad that you’re home” as I pet him and talked to him about my day. He had a way of knowing my feelings. On a hot August afternoon my first girlfriend dumped me for my best friend Danny. I naively thought that we were going to get married, have a family, etc., etc. Puppy love (no pun intended). It was not to be and I felt betrayed, crushed, hurt, foolish and confused. As I sat on our patio, head hung low crying about my lost love, George came up and put his head up and under my hands that I had draped over my legs. The look on his face was that of a worried friend, an expression that said “I’m concerned. I don’t know what to do for you to feel better.” Others had come and gone…George was still there for me. Now that, ladies and gentleman, is a friend. George.

Time flies. I left home, went through college, got a job, got married and visited occasionally. George was getting old. White hairs lining his muzzle, a limp in his step and the energy out of his eyes told me that George was an old dog…but he was still mine and I was still his. Good old George. I loved him.

I returned to the farm sometime after George’s death. I asked where George was buried and went out to see him. In the shade of some pine trees, beside Mom’s garden is where George rests. Dad made a small cross that he used as a headstone and hung George’s collar on it. On the cross Dad wrote these words “George…he thought he was people“, which is exactly what George was to us…a member of our family. Irreplaceable in his own way. Loved and missed to this day.

It’s been said that after you enter Heaven you’re greeted by your loved ones that have gone on before you…I hope that’s the case. If true George will be standing there at Dad’s feet…tail slowly wagging, a smile on his face with a look that says “boy…it’s been awhile…but I’m glad that you’re finally home.”

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