On Monday I had to unexpectedly put my dog down. Admittedly, this is a scattered reflection and may resonate for those among us who’ve been privileged to experience the devoted love of a dog or other companion animal. Fritz ended up with lymphoma that had already spread from his inner to outer lymph nodes. The humane decision was to put him down and prevent any further suffering. Fritz was around 8 years old and I adopted him when he was 7 months. I grew up with dogs—Seamus (the Irish Setter) was at home to greet me as an infant and from there my family had Golden Retrievers over the years: Cody, Max, Brody, and Murphy. Each of them were wonderful in their own ways. Though Fritz the foxhound was the first dog who was truly mine, and I was his person. His protection and devotion over the years were remarkable. As my best friend reflected in a Facebook post, Fritz was my guardian and loved me fiercely.
When I began my ministry in Lexington (and ended up with a parsonage with a fenced-in backyard), my parents kept bugging me about getting a dog. They knew a dog would be good for me (having had a dog all my life) and dogs just have a way of making a house feel like a home. I hesitated about taking care of a dog all on my own with a sometimes crazy work schedule and the cost of adequately caring for the animals with whom we share our lives. Though I knew that I needed a dog too, and that I would know when the time was right. In some ways, I was looking for a sign.
That happened after I performed a funeral for a wonderful member of my congregation. Fran was a character and we even shared the same birthday (8/8) so he was my birthday buddy. I visited him often and when he died his wife Betty gave a generous honorarium, the largest I’ve ever received—$350. For me, that was the sign that I could take that unexpected gift and get a dog. I went to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Massachusetts and found a malnourished young foxhound rescued from a kill shelter in Tennessee. It ended up that he was around 7 months old and his name was Fritz (a family name actually, which I took as another good sign.) Fritz the foxhound, after all the paperwork was signed from the animal shelter, was $345. It all aligned perfectly.
Somehow it always felt like Fritz was meant to be my dog and I was meant to be his person and Fran arranged the whole thing from heaven. This week I do grieve the loss of my dog who was a gift to me, and give thanks for those moments in our lives when things align and we just know that something was meant to be.
(This Week’s Thoughts 12.12.19)