Count Your Blessings

Furry Blessings

Happy woofs! Did you know that National Dog Day was celebrated on August 26? I love that! We’ve had some great dogs during the course of our marriage. You could say they are like our children since we have no children. They have brought joy and blessing to our lives in countless ways. I can’t imagine my life without dogs. Not one day out of my 38 years of marriage has been without a dog. Well . . . I guess there were a few months without one after Parky and I got married. But that was soon remedied when I found an awful-looking mangy puppy walking along the highway. The pup had obviously been born in the woods and was ~6 weeks old. His patchy skin was hot to the touch; you could literally feel the mites crawling underneath. Gag! Rosco came home with us much to my new husband’s dismay. The timing was terrible as we were in the midst of moving to Louisiana. Rosco made the trip with us and then back home to Alabama three-and-a-half years later. This time he had a thick, beautiful coat of fur and a new Cajun spelling to his name, Rosceaux. He lived out his life with us as has every dog we’ve ever owned, save one.

When Rosco died, we were heartbroken and desired a “brother” for our other dog Jonah. I found a puppy similar to Rosco while I was serving as an adoption counselor for the local shelter. Alamo was a Rottweiler breeder mistake, we think. Someone had cut off one of his toes on both back feet and his tail was improperly cropped. Alamo had a unique gait and a quick-wagging short tail that stuck straight up. He was probably the best watch dog we ever had. To this day, my friend calls me “Alamo” when she is in need of a protective voice. Alamo required orthopedic intervention on his hip and then knee before reaching the age of two. He taught us the wiles of orthopedic rehabilitation. Several of our later dogs (Frezno, Skippy, and Geronimo) also required similar surgeries.

My two certified pet therapy dogs, Frezno and Skippy

Frezno was a long-haired retriever mix who came from the local humane society. On the way home I told Parky his back leg looked misaligned. It was! Frezno challenged us with chewed-through casts for his reset leg until we wised up and started taking him to doggy day care. Frezno recovered nicely and lived to be a ripe old age of 16. He lived through two vestibular episodes causing us to have to carry him down the stairs, and our house has a lot of stairs. For over two years we toted our 75-pound baby up and down. He was worth it though. His mild-mannered personality earned him the privilege of becoming a certified pet therapy dog for seven years. Skippy became one, too.

Her story is one of heartbreak and triumph – heartbreak because she was neglected by her owner for years. Her last Houdini escape garnered no sympathy from her owner, and she became a neighborhood dog. When she broke her foot getting into mischief, we took her in despite not really wanting a third dog. How could we not? I had laid awake praying for her in the bitter cold winter nights as I listened to her barking down the street. Skippy required a lot of taming, but she ultimately conformed to pet therapy standards and accompanied me on hospital visits. When I went through my cancer, she, along with the other dogs, was there to offer me a big dose of pet therapy. Skippy’s death was sudden and sad, but I am convinced she waited to die until the day after my 50th birthday party. She will qualify as our most persevering, happiest, love-starved, and affectionate pet.

Dressing up for Halloween to debut my hair following cancer treatments

Susie, the Chihuahua, will undoubtedly be the only small dog we ever own. We inherited her from my mother-in-law when she moved into assisted living. Susie adjusted well even though she came from “Seventh Heaven” with daily prepared eggs and inside comforts to “Allen Boot Camp” with forced back yard bugs and heat until we got home. As Chihuahuas tend to do, she held her ground with our three big dogs. I finally found a more suitable home for her, and she lived out her life in a one-dog loving family.

When we lost our beloved Frezno, I wanted another retriever mix. Enter Geronimo. He, too, came from an animal shelter and had a gentle personality. He also required leg surgery. One vet recommended amputation, but I refused. I never regretted the decision as his leg never gave him major problems. However, that could be because he didn’t live long enough. My devoted Geronimo died at the age of 8 from mast cell cancer. He died brave and appreciative. I still miss him and wonder if I could have done more for him.

A new era of Allen dogs was introduced with O’Malley. In continuing with the tradition of being male and having a “long O” in their name (Skippy and Susie were immigrants!), we decided to have the “O” at the beginning. Since he was an Irish setter, it was only fitting. With a (maiden) last name like O’Kelley, we had a few Irish Setters growing up. Parky had one, too, so we decided to give it a try. O’Malley brought a lot of energy into the house. He is a beautiful dog with regal qualities. Rio, our red-and-white Irish setter, carried on the Energizer bunny role when he came into our household years later. Rio has been a delight. He loves to snuggle with pillows or next to a warm body. We love our Rio and his funny antics. He keeps us moving.

Geronimo

Each of our dogs have a marble epitaph in our backyard. Each dog carved a niche in our hearts bringing unique blessings to our lives. Each of our dogs were prayed over, cried over, and kissed and hugged many times over. God brought each dog into our home with a purpose to not only be loved and cared for but to give back to us many-fold and teach us lessons of life. Rosco taught us how to be parents. Jonah taught us that life is but a breath. Alamo taught us about overcoming. Frezno taught us how to grow old with grace. Skippy taught us how to make lemonade out of lemons, and Susie taught us how to adapt. Sweet Geronimo taught us how to die. O’Malley and Rio teach us every day how to play well and rest well.

“For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being” (Job 12:10). This is the verse written on my vet’s wall as you walk in. I am grateful to worship a Creator God, a Loving Savior, and a Caretaker of every living thing especially those of the canine persuasion.

O’Malley and Rio enjoying a family vacation at the beach

5 Comments

  • J.D. Wininger

    Of course, I fell in love with O’Malley at least 18 months ago, but in reading this article I had to stop and thank God for sharing a writing friend who has such a generous and gentle heart for the animals she cares for. What a blessing it was to read how each pet brought their unique character and blend of mutual admiration into your family. God’s blessings ma’am. Prayers as you begin your latest journey as an animal adoption counselor.

    • Karen

      Awwww, many thanks, J.D. You gave me goosebumps. I am hoping God will give me duties in heaven to help tend for the animals!

  • Donna Rentfrow

    A tear jerking story! If only all humans could appreciate loving God’s fur babies and know the unconditional love they share.

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