The Wonderful World of the Wiener Dog, Pt. 7

This is the seventh, and final post in a series about life through the eyes of a wiener-dog owner

Farewell to My Friend


Blog 1

Boomer died, yesterday. It was Aug. 26th… National Dog Day. On July 31, we found out that he had lung cancer. We had four more magical weeks with him before the end crashed in our door. It broke Debbie’s and my hearts. I couldn’t look at social media yesterday, because everyone was posting pictures of their dogs doing cute things. Not their fault, just too hard to process. How do you deal with the loss of your most devoted friend? I’ll let you know when I figure it out. I have written a series of blogs and devotions about lessons I learned from Boomer throughout the ten years he lived. I didn’t know he would save his best lessons for last.

The devotional series began with the story of him, as a puppy, being afraid of thunder, and progressed through adulthood into him beginning to eat dog food for “senior dogs.” Boomer was the teacher of great life lessons (not that he knew that…). Now, one day removed from the emotion of yesterday, I am realizing that he never stopped teaching. The last four weeks were his lesson in how to dignify the end of life. We had noticed him breathing fast and shallow for a while, but just thought maybe that was him getting older. We decided to get him checked and the vet showed us an x-ray of his lungs. There was no healthy tissue, at all, remaining. Here was why that was a shock to us: he didn’t act any differently. He ran wildly in circles, would eat anything in sight, would fetch until you begged for mercy, and remained alert and acutely aware of any movement or noise inside the house, or out. The vet said she couldn’t believe the way he acted when she looked at the x-rays. So, we took him home, determined to try to make his last few days pleasant. That wasn’t his plan, at all. It was to be business as usual, and then some. I awoke each morning expecting to see him deteriorating. He awoke each morning expecting to leap tall buildings in a single bound. There were three themes that encapsulated his last days.

First, his last days were some of his best days. He spent a couple of days in a cabin with a great view of the Smokies. One day, he went for a swim in the Little Pigeon River


Blog 2

Blog 3and then went shopping at Orvis.



Other days, he fetched balls for hours or watched preseason football games.

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He went for walks, ate whatever he wanted, and just lived life all-out. Wouldn’t you love for your last days to be like that? Wouldn’t you love to live each day, not like your last day, but like the first day of summer vacation? The final morning, it was a real struggle for him to catch his breath; however, every day up to then, was really normal. In fact, just the night before, he stayed up late with me, sitting in my lap watching TV.


Blog 5

The only sense he seemed to have of the impending end, was that he seemed hesitant to leave us and go to bed, and he often stopped at the door of his room and looked back over his shoulder at us for a long moment. I don’t know if he knew the end was coming, or if he just didn’t want another really good day to end. I knew, and I often stayed up extra late, because didn’t want another really good day to end.

The second lesson he taught me was that he remained on task… committed to his duty to protect and be a companion to Debbie and me. For his entire life, he has been our guardian. Every day, he barked a warning to the mailman, not to even think about coming into this house. Any loud engine, dog bark, or voice that he heard outside got the same stern warning. Once, a few years ago, we got a mouse in our house. It ran into the hall bathroom and hid behind a Canada Goose statue on the floor. I’ll be honest, I was conflicted. I am an animal lover and an absolute softie. On the other hand, my wife would have spent the next two years of her life standing on our bed, if she had seen him. Boomer, on the other hand, had no such indecision. His duty was to protect us. He walked into the bathroom, I heard the goose statue scoot aside, and he walked out and dropped the dead mouse at my feet. All of this happened in under 5 seconds. In his eyes, no conflict, just commitment. The very last morning, struggling just to move and breathe, he still barked at every potential threat. In fact, he seemed to bark more that morning; as if to say: “hey, don’t think that stuff is going to fly around here after I am gone. I’ll be watching you from somewhere… and don’t make me come back down here!” He was also totally committed to doing the things that he thought would make us happy. He assumed that fetching a ball would make us ecstatic. So, even as he grew more short of breath and needed more breaks, he still would bring the ball back over and over… for hours, until you finally had to take it and hide it from him. The very last picture I ever took of him was on the last morning. Though breathing was a real struggle, I got out one of his old balls and he began yelping at it and pushing it around with his nose.


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No matter how much effort it required, he never failed to produce what he thought we wanted or needed from him. What a tremendous lesson! Even though he was deteriorating, he didn’t make it all about him. On the contrary, it was all about us and his commitment to being there for us. Oh God, let me come somewhere close to that level of unselfishness.

The final lesson was the most poignant. He never took his eyes off of his master. He could be dead asleep or across the room engaged in some other thing, but let me make a move or sound and his head immediately snapped to attention and his gaze locked onto me. Even after he had gone to bed at night, I just had to click the footrest down on my recliner and he never failed to get out of bed and come out of his room to see what I was up to. It wasn’t just about duty, it was about affection. He couldn’t stand the thought of me doing anything without him tagging along. The last couple of days, I have realized that I never take a step around my house without first looking down. That is because he was always at my feet – sometimes nearly tripping me. He had another game, any time I went to the bathroom, he came and pushed the door open and came in to check on what I was doing; and any time it was the hall bathroom, he checked behind the resin Canada goose, in case the mouse had returned. Even when I would play the piano, he would come sit at my feet and sing! He never took his eyes off of me, unless he was taking a nap on me.

Blog 7

Fittingly, I was standing in front of him and petting his head when the vet gave him the final injection. He was staring straight into my eyes and took his last breath looking at me. His eyes didn’t close, they fixed… staring into my eyes. (What a way that would be to go… never taking my eyes off of my Master). And that’s why I love him so much… and miss him so much. He wasn’t my smartest friend, not at all. He wasn’t my most talented friend, either (unless you count running in circles as a talent, in which case he wins, paws down). He didn’t share words of wisdom with me or loan me money when I was down and out. In fact, he said nothing and had nothing tangible to give. What he had, and what he gave in abundance, was devotion. And that’s why he was my best friend. This must be how God felt about David. Solomon was smarter, richer, and more famous. He prayed eloquent prayers and wrote more books of the Bible than David. David just was devoted to God. He followed God around. He wrote songs about Him, he praised God, questioned God, fussed at God, and failed God. Yet, he did all of it… everything, right under God’s feet. God had to look down whenever He took a step to make sure David wasn’t going to get stepped on. If heaven has a bathroom and God uses it, David probably pushes the door open to check on Him. David’s devotion captured God’s heart like Boomer’s captured mine. I miss my boy very much.       Blog 8

The Wonderful World of the Wiener Dog, Pt. 6

This is the sixth post in a series about life through the eyes of a wiener-dog owner

Life as an Old Dog

1392243453119I’m not sure when it happened. I’m not really sure how it happened, but my puppy has become an older dog. How can I tell? Boomer’s hair on his face has turned white. He has begun to like shorter walks and he gets short of breath, occasionally. He has started going to bed earlier, too; and finally, he gets cramps sometimes. The first one he got scared me. He was sitting with me and started yelping and having a hard time standing up. I was afraid he had hurt his back or was having some kind of major physical attack (well, if you’ve ever had a cramp, you might argue that it is a major physical attack). I set him down on the ground and he walked it off. Now, I have gotten used to them, and I have also realized that he needs a little more special care. Boomer is nearly ten years old now, and according to people who know about such things, that is equal to being seventy years old for you or me. While there is very little in the world that is more lovable than a puppy, and most anyone looking to adopt a dog would choose a puppy over an older dog, I wouldn’t trade. Neither would God.

What do I mean? Well, I am getting older, too. The hair on my face is white, I like my walks a little shorter, and yes, I do occasionally get cramps (still working on the whole going to bed earlier thing… some habits die hard). It would be easy for me to feel like God would prefer someone younger, cuter, faster, and with more stamina… easy to feel like God must love the puppies more than an old dog like me. Yes, to an impartial observer, a puppy would be way more desirable than Boomer. Here’s the rub: I’m not an impartial observer; I’m Boomer’s master, and I’ve known him for just about his entire life. We’ve spent the last decade adjusting to each other… becoming more comfortable with each other. For example, for the first several years we had Boomer, he would never fall asleep when he was with us. Whether we were in the car on a long drive or sitting on the couch, he would fight off sleep, doggedly (pun intended) refusing to take his eyes off of us, even as his head grew heavier and heavier. It seemed that he was afraid that if he took his eyes off of us, we might be gone when he woke up. Now, he will snooze while he sits with us. In fact, on most nights, he’ll go put himself in bed before I go to bed. He is no longer insecure; he knows we will be there in the morning. He also used to refuse to eat when we took him to new places on vacation. He just wasn’t comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Now, he is fine, as long as we are with him. His sleep patterns match ours and he actually has begun to like for me to bring his food dish out of his room and into the room with us so that he can eat with us. Sure, he’s spoiled; but we spoiled him, so he is spoiled to our schedules and preferences. He barks at the mailman every day. All the houses on our street have the same type of mailbox and our houses are close together, yet he doesn’t bark when the mailman shuts the doors on either of our next-door neighbors’ mailboxes… just ours. They all sound pretty much alike to me, but he knows which house is ours and therefore, his responsibility to guard from that treacherous mailman. I guess the best way to sum it up is that we are really comfortable with each other… like a broken-in couch or pair of jeans. A new puppy would have to be house-trained, potty-trained, broken of chewing, made to learn to sleep all night, yada, yada, yada. Boomer trusts his master in a way a new puppy would never, could never do. The new guy just wouldn’t have known me long enough or know me well enough. Boomer also knows our desires and the house rules in a way that only time together can produce.

That’s the way it is with God and us. As we get older, He doesn’t wistfully stare in the pet store window at the new puppies, wishing for a newer model. He treasures our time together. He appreciates every passing year. He is more comfortable trusting us with important tasks and leaving us in charge of His house and His stuff (mailmen, beware!). Just as importantly, we are comfortable with Him. We are secure in His presence, not straining to keep our eyes open because we are afraid He’ll be gone when we wake up – or mess up. We trust Him to come through in our difficult times because we’ve seen Him come through a hundred times before. A few days ago, I was driving down the road with my mom and dad. They are both in their eighties, now. I asked them if they ever wonder if all of this God-stuff is true. Do they ever, in the darkness and quietness of the night, wonder if God is really there. As their lives are nearer to the end than to the beginning, I wondered if doubt began to creep in. My mom gave me a very scriptural answer, yet the more interesting (and immediate) answer came from my dad, who was in the back seat. Dad’s memory isn’t what it once was, and he often sits and observes conversations rather than joining in and possibly embarrassing himself by saying the wrong thing. However, he immediately just said, “nope, I’ve seen too much.” It was matter-of-fact, based on over 80 years of life, most of which has been lived with the same Master. As the years of serving God turn into decades, we become much more comfortable just sitting with God. We don’t have to be fetching or straining to pull the leash out of His hand. We don’t feel like we have to prove our worth to Him every day or else He might get rid of us. We recognize His voice more quickly and respond more obediently; and our schedules and patterns begin to revolve around Him. One day Boomer will die and there will be another puppy moving into our house, and I will love him. I don’t want that day to come quickly, though, because he won’t be Boomer. God feels the same way about you and me, old dog. One day we will pass and other pups will live in our houses and fill our places in the workplace and in God’s church. However, He isn’t in a rush for that. He treasures our older days and the comfort level we have with Him. He also knows that we may need extra care from time to time, and He isn’t just willing to give it, He enjoys those moments of sitting and holding us as we face sicknesses, surgeries, losses of loved ones, and even death.

One last thought. Boomer sleeps in the laundry room. First thing in the morning I look forward to opening that door and letting him come into the room with me. When He passes on, one of the things I will really miss will be seeing his face and wagging tail when I open that door. In some ways, it is the same with God and us. We are in this laundry room called life. When we spend time in prayer, worship, and corporate worship gatherings, it is like God opening that door and letting us move more into His presence. Here’s the difference, though: when Boomer is gone, there will be no more wagging tail and happy face to greet me. Our time together will have ended. When we pass, God will simply tear the door off of this life’s laundry room and let us into the house once and for all.

The Wonderful World of the Wiener Dog, Pt. 5

This is the fifth post in a series about life through the eyes of a Wiener-dog owner

Who Me? Trust? 


My dog, Boomer, likes coffee. Alright, I’ll admit that is pretty weird, but he drinks the last of my coffee every morning. This is relevant because I was sitting on our sofa this morning and Boomer was at my feet whining to come up in my lap (with legs less than 2 inches long, sofas must seem like the Rocky Mountains to him). At least I thought he wanted to come up in my lap. So, in expectation of his full attention and affection, I picked him up. After a quick cursory lick in the general direction of my chin, his true motive became clear. My coffee cup was the object of his desire. I was simply a means to an end, and that end was sticking his long pointed nose into my coffee cup and draining its remaining contents. Let’s withhold our criticism of him for a second, though. A verse in Isaiah 26 came to my mind: You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on youI thought about how often my approaching God, or spending time with Him, isn’t based on my desire to be with Him… it is about something in His hand that I want. Is it just me, or do your prayers often turn into “give me” and “bless me” sessions? I think there is a key in the above verse that I mentioned: trusting God and fixing our thoughts on Him will bring us peace – not just peace, but perfect peace.  Man, couldn’t we use some of that? Just a couple of other quick thoughts: first of all, trust means we don’t have to beg God for the things we need (or think we need). Look what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31,32:   “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” We will never find peace in worrying about daily provision. Sometimes it is only one day’s provision, but it is enough for that day. In Exodus 16:4, God told Moses “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” The Israelites were like me… they grabbed lots of extra to make sure they had enough for a “rainy day.” Alas, it spoiled after one day. Trust is knowing that provision will be there again tomorrow. Lamentations 3:22,23 says, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” The other part of the perfect peace equation is keeping our thoughts fixed on Him. After telling us not to worry about our needs in Matthew 6, Jesus ended that thought with this phrase, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” If anyone ever needed this message, it is me today. Peace is often a fleeting commodity in my life, choked out by the weeds of worry and need. How about you? Could you use a little more peace today? Try fixing your thought on God and His kingdom, and forget about that coffee cup in His hand.

The Wonderful World of the Wiener Dog, Pt. 4

This is the fourth post in a series about life through the eyes of a wiener-dog owner

Posted: February 24, 2011 in Inspirational

 Okay, contrary to any heretofore claims by yours truly, Boomer isn’t perfect. In fact, he has a serious problem (well, as serious as you can take a problem that involves a dog shaped like an empty toilet paper tube with legs). His problem is that he has a tendency to fixate. Now, when I say tendency, understand the understatement involved… sort of like saying San Antonio has a tendency to be humid. For instance, if you begin to play fetch with him, he totally fixates on that activity, to the exclusion of being conscious of anything else happening on the planet. When you are ready to stop, you can try to ignore him but he’ll come drop the toy on your foot and whine; next, you can place it on a counter top that he can’t reach. In answer to this, he will jump up over and over whining and barking at the counter. You may also attempt to hide it. This, too, avails little, as he will walk around the room whining and sniffing the air to ascertain where his toy has gone. No matter what other activity or treat I wish to give him at this point, he is totally fixated on the one thing. Sometimes, I just want him to sit with me and allow me to pet him and enjoy his company. Alas, he is totally in one-track mode. In fact, the only way to break this obsession is to hide the object in a different room until he forgets it. Luckily, while his body is long, his memory is short.

Here again, I see a picture of myself (and I suspect many of you, too). I have a tendency to obsess, don’t you? Whether it is a good thing or a bad one, the result is similar. Perhaps I may catch a glimpse of something God wants to do in my future and at that moment I become fixated on the dream of what is to come. I have seen this often in the lives of young men and women who are called to some area of ministry. Once they get a vision of where they are headed, they suddenly lose their willingness to stay in their place and remain faithful as they are learning the lessons that will serve them well in the future. We are also prone to begin to cherish the ministry more than the presence of God. Just like me, God may want to hold us and enjoy us for a while; and, just like Boomer, we can only think of chasing that rubber bone. Destiny can be a powerful obsession. So can religion. At one point, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23 – NKJV). In other words, He is saying, you get all the religious rituals and requirements right, but you miss the main point. In some respects it was the same thing He told Martha when she complained of all the work that needed to be done while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. He said, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42 – NIV)

Bad things can be equally powerful in their ability to consume us. Whether it is financial worries, health problems, family issues, or any number of other things, we can fixate on those things just as easily… with even more damaging consequences. Jesus chides His disciples throughout His time on earth to not worry, and He often questions where their faith has gone. I think I can easily slip into the trap of totally ignoring a loving, doting Heavenly Father’s presence as I focus all my attention on those unpaid bills or that unfavorable doctor’s report. Sometimes, it seems God is forced to do the same thing I have to do with Boomer – hide the object of my obsession until I forget about it. Unfortunately, my memory is much longer than Boomer’s, so this is not the best option for me. I do see it happen in our lives, though, as those dreams we have of a great destiny seem to vanish into mid-air. I think this was the test God was giving Abraham when He asked him to sacrifice Isaac. That was God’s promise of Abraham’s destiny of being a great nation. God’s question was, do you love me more than the promise I gave you? Abraham passed the test with flying colors. How about us?

The Wonderful World of the Wiener Dog, Pt. 3

This is the third post in a series on life through the eyes of a wiener-dog owner

Posted: February 24, 2011

I was walking Boomer a few days ago. You see, I have one of those fancy retractable leashes so that I can keep him right beside me, or I can let him have more leash to explore (or use the bathroom further away from me). At any rate, I was keeping him close beside me – mastering the walk for you Dog Whisperer watchers. Well, he was straining for more freedom, as well as pulling my arm out of socket, so I let him have a little more leash (don’t tell Cesar). Well, predictably, he pulled just as hard on the leash after I had let more out. It was as if the thing he really wanted was just beyond his reach. The cycle repeated until I finally just let the leash all the way out, figuring that would give him plenty of slack… and give my arm a break. How many of you already know what happened next? Yeah, he pulled just as hard at the end of that length of leash. That started me thinking about how the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence and how we are never satisfied, and that we all need a trip to Africa to realize how good we have it. All that is true, but… I realized that I am the chief among leash-pullers (apologies to the Apostle Paul for the plagiarism). I realized that I want to be surrounded by leash-pullers. Things change because of leash-pullers who aren’t satisfied. Walt Disney was a leash-puller. He said things like “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” and “if you can dream it, you can do it.” Actually, there is another dog in our neighborhood that figures in this story. His name is Rugby, and Rugby lives in a fence. He can’t help that, but here’s the thing: he has become resigned to his fate. When I walk Boomer by, he gives us a couple of barks and just sits there… satisfied. The yard is the sum total of his world. Debbie use to have a beagle named Barney. Now, if you are familiar with beagles, you know that no fence can hold them. They are the Harry Houdinis of the dog world. When Jesus came to Earth and looked for His team, he could have picked the Scribes and Pharisees – the Rugbys of His day. They were resigned to the religious dogma (pardon the pun) and restrictions of their day. They probably would have been easier to control. They wouldn’t have wanted to call down fire out of Heaven to burn up villages or cut off people’s ears with swords. Yet He picked the Barneys and Boomers: Peter, who wielded his sword in Gethsemane, jumped out of perfectly good boats, and had a foot-shaped mouth. He picked James and John, who were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder.” They are the ones who wanted to burn up villages and sit on His right and left. He picked a guy named Simon, the Zealot. I don’t know much about this Simon’s life, but you don’t get nicknamed “the Zealot” for walking nicely at the end of the leash. He even picked a suspected thief (Matthew) and a proven one (Judas). Yet, when these guys bought in, they made revelatory statements like, thou art the Christ…,” walked on water, and stood with Jesus while He wrecked the temple. Eventually some of them were crucified, boiled in oil, jailed and scourged repeatedly, and even saw Heaven from a rocky island in the Mediterranean. Do you think fence dwellers would have gone that far? I doubt it. Great things are often built by great malcontents. Look at our nation: America was started by people who just couldn’t take the status quo any longer. In fact, Georgia was actually a bunch of criminals (some things haven’t changed much, have they? TEASING!). In fact, the entry criteria for our country are carved on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. It hardly asks for bluebloods and aristocrats. It says, “give me your tired, your poor…” In fact, listen to the poem by Emma Lazarus from which the quote is takenNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
with conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
”Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she 
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (Emphasis mine)

So, though our services and rehearsals sometimes resemble controlled chaos, that’s fine with me… didn’t Jesus have to break up an argument in the upper room before He could wash their feet? Though our band may, at times, resemble that jailbird colony in Georgia, I am right at home. I love every leash-pulling one of you… opinions and all; and I’ve seen the greatness that resides in our group, because of your striving for more.

Let me leave you with one last Walt Disney quote: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”