On Monday, August 14, we said goodbye to Ash, our dog. It was heartbreaking.
12 years ago, on Ash Wednesday (thus the name), I took the kids to the Dog Pound to get a dog (what else, right). Although I had promised my wife that we would never have another pet, yet I felt it necessary to get a puppy, because our youngest son was developing a n irrational fear of dogs. So, I thought the remedy might be to get a pup that our children could raise. And it worked!
The moment that I told my kids that we were getting a puppy, they were so excited. It’s all they could talk about. So, we got to the pound and there he was. A majestic, black pup showing a great deal of confidence and looking very strong. I looked him in the eye and he looked right back at me. He stood out all the more because his kennel was right next to a sickly looking puppy that couldn’t even hold his head without shaking. So, I told the kids, “we’ll take the black one.”
But they weren’t looking at the dogs with a critical eye, like I was. They were looking at the dogs through the eyes of their hearts. And they said, “can we have the other one?” Of course, I objected. I said, “He looks sick. He’ll probably die and then what?” But they looked at me with their Betsy Clark faces and said, “But he’s so cute.” Well, what could I say? When they look at me like that, I’m putty.
So, we went home with a sickly dog. But, I was encouraged, because my youngest held him all the way home.
We named him on the way home. They were all throwing out names. But I suggested Ash. He was white with a bunch of dirty spots. Not like a dalmation. More like someone had spilled an ash tray on a white dog. I said, “Well, you guys like Ash Ketchum (of Pokeman fame) and today is Ash Wednesday, why don’t we name him Ash?” And they loved it. So, it stuck.
At first, he just laid around. I was afraid that he wouldn’t make it. But after a couple of days, the sickly pup was jumping around acting like any other pup. The only fear I had left was that my kids would love him to death. At the Pound, they told us that Ash was a “German Shepherd mix”. But, as he grew up, he looked more and more like a Catahoula.
It was a match made in heaven. My kids slept on him and he slept on them. If he was on the floor, they slept with him on the floor. If they were on the bed, he got into the bed. They slept on top of him. He slept on top of them. I’m surprised the little pup that fit into the palm of my hand when we got him, survived. But he did. And he thrived. Ash grew to be 40 pounds of sleek muscle. He was fast and he was gentle. And he was quiet. He wasn’t a barky dog. He would bark occasionally, to be let out. And to be let back in. And when strangers knocked at the door. He played with the kids and slept with the kids and they grew up together.
There were the usual growing pains. “Dad! Ash is biting us!” “Dad! Ash is scratching us!” They ran together, they wrestled. It was awesome!
He never did get the hang of “fetch” though. He’d go get that first one. But then, it was like, “Look, if you insist on throwing that, you’ll have to get it yourself. I’ll be here when you get back.”
And, of course, if he wasn’t playing or eating, he was sleeping. He loved to find a sunbeam and curl up under it, as he’s doing in the photo.
As for me, he was my eating companion. On my midnight sojourns to the fridge, or whenever we were alone in the house together, he would sit with me as I ate and tossed him some of my food. He always caught it in the air and swallowed it without chewing. We used to go on walks and I loved to let him go when we got to an area where he had room to run. He loved to run. And, oh man! Could he run. When I went to work, he would chase my car to the end of the block. Then the kids, who were trying to keep up, would call him back. When I came home from work, he would run down the stairs to greet me as soon as I walked in the door.
But then came a day, about a year or so ago, when I tossed him some food and he missed it. And then came a day when I took him for a walk and let him go, but he didn’t run. Then came a day when he just watched me drive away. And a day when he didn’t run down to greet me.
Sometimes we would jokingly say, “Ash is getting lazier and lazier.” Sometimes we would realize that he was getting older.
But we never thought this day would come.
The day when he couldn’t get up. When he couldn’t raise his head. He could barely wag his tail. The day when he would leave us.
Today is Tuesday, August 15th. Whether it was a dream or what, I don’t know. But Ash woke me up this morning. It was 5am and I heard him bark the way he would when he wanted someone to let him out . I threw my blanket off,… then I remembered. I smiled and I said, “Good morning, Ash.”
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful blessing you bestowed upon us, in the form of a little sickly dog. Ash enlarged all of our hearts and gave all of us a greater capacity to love. I can never thank you enough for the grace of our lovely little dog, Ash.