Archive for September, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My sanctified dog, Gus

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I think I’ll miss our morning conversations the most.

Every morning, I’d go outside to see my dogs. While they were both happy to see me, Gus expressed his joy in a much more vocal way. It was almost as if he were singing to me, with a “roo roo roo” type of sound that must have been an annoyance to the neighbors. Sometimes I had to go back in the house just to get him to stop.

He was always thrilled to see me at any time of the day, but only in the mornings was I greeted in such a raucous manner. I came to call it my morning conversation with Gus. It was like he had been waiting all night to see me, and he simply wanted to tell me how his night had been.

My mornings will be a lot quieter now. At 11 years of age, Gus had been dealing with arthritis in his legs for some time. His condition had steadily worsened over the past few days, despite an increase in the pain-killing medication he was taking. It got to where he could hardly walk.

So on Saturday, we had to say goodbye. I’ve known for weeks that the day was coming, and had tried to prepare myself as best as I could. But it still was terribly difficult. He was my good and faithful friend, and a kind and gentle soul to everyone in my family.

I got Gus when he was just a puppy, probably only about three weeks old. He and his mama, who was half golden retriever, were residents of the local dog pound when I came in looking for two new dogs to replace the two we had just lost. Gus was the only pup to survive from her litter of seven, and I took both him and his mom.

Gus (whom we named after the great Christian thinker Augustine) was a tiny little guy at first, fitting in the palm of my hand. He was entirely dependent upon his mama Suzy, and anytime she’d walk off and leave him behind, he’d sit down, throw his head back and let loose with this mournful cry. You’d think his world had come to an end because his mom was a few yards away. He eventually grew to be almost twice her size, but he never stopped being her pup.

We moved to the country a few days after getting Gus and Suzy, and they lived in a dog’s paradise. We went for daily walks along the gravel road, and that was the highlight of Gus’ day. His wiry coat typically collected all manner of burrs as he scouted the surrounding fields. When we’d return home, he’d sit down and patiently let Suzy pick all the burrs out of him and clean him up.

A few years ago I bought my first truck, and Gus loved riding in the back. He was especially popular among strangers. Suzy was this beautiful dog with golden brown fur who looked like a miniature golden retriever. Gus was white and shaggy with brown spots all over him. I considered Suzy to be a prettier dog than Gus, but he was always the one that people asked about when they saw him in my truck. He certainly had a unique look, and I think that’s what caught people’s attention.

Gus was deathly afraid of storms. For several years, I had to give him a tranquilizer when a storm was brewing, or he’d go bonkers. At one house, we had a vinyl picket fence in the back yard. If Gus hadn’t gotten a pill when it started storming, he’d break through the picket fence and hightail it out of our yard. Typically, I’d find him sitting on the neighbor’s front porch. I don’t know why that porch was a more desirable location than our garage, which provided Gus all the shelter from a storm he would need. But in Gus’ mind, it certainly was.

Suzy died suddenly almost two years ago, causing no small amount of grief in our family. I felt especially bad for Gus, who had never known life without his mama. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. But he was a resilient thing, and he eventually became friends with our new dog Katie. He was always delighted when we went on our daily walks through the woods, though his walking got slower in recent months as the arthritis began taking its toll.

But through the pain he experienced late in life, Gus demonstrated to me what I grew to love about him the most. The older he got, and the more his legs hurt, the sweeter his disposition became. Nobody would have blamed him for being grumpy and sour, but that’s not how Gus reacted. He simply loved us more and was all the more cheerful about life. Maybe he knew his days were numbered, and he wanted to make those days count.

I don’t know if it’s possible for a dog to be godly and to grow in sanctification. I guess it probably isn’t. But all the same, Gus showed me what I hope and pray to be, by God’s grace, as I get older. Assuming that I live for at least a few more years, I’ll most likely have to deal with a variety of aches and pains down the road. Most people do. And a lot of them don’t adjust well. They become cranky and grouchy and seem to take no enjoyment in their daily living.

Gus wasn’t that way at all. Just the opposite, really. Even until the day of his death, he was a jolly, loving and sweet fellow, perhaps more so than he’d ever been. I hope the same will one day be said of me – that at the time I die, my life was more reflective of Christ than it had ever been.

My mornings may be quieter now without Gus, and I’ll certainly miss his daily greeting. But maybe the silence will give me the opportunity to ponder the lessons he taught me, to ask myself if I’m growing in grace and in love for the Lord and his people, and to pray that God would make it so.

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