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It all started when my father, a now retired Army Major General, was deployed to Vietnam. My mother, who loved all animals big and small, decided that her four children needed a puppy. And this puppy would need to be loved in our home only while my father was away for a year because we could not have any furry babies in the house.

That puppy was named Dukie. He arrived in my mother’s arms looking like a little puffball of fur, so tiny and cuddly. He grew to be a feisty dog in a year’s time. We always found time to play with him and chase him in the basement. He did what puppies do…pooped and nibbled at our hands. When we received word that my dad was, thankfully, returning safely from Vietnam, my mom was able to secure another home for Dukie, and we said our goodbyes as we welcomed our dad home. We never had a dog again in our home.

Many years later, as my younger sister and I were walking home one day in a neighborhood easement, a large dog jumped to the top of its fence and attacked my sister, viciously biting her lower back. The emotional scarring from that traumatic event still haunts me today when I remember watching that dog take a piece of her right in front of my eyes. I felt helpless and afraid. She was treated medically and recovered well, but it left a terrifying image deep in my soul.

So, as Robert’s seizure activity increased as he grew into a teenager, my husband and I curiously researched acquiring a dog trained to help seizure patients for Robert. Our other kids were elated at the prospect. I was scared to death. Of course, the idea of a large dog caring for my Robert raised all kinds of concerns in my mind. Fortunately, I have a close friend whose daughter has been blessed to live her life fully aided by her service dogs. Watching them up close gave me more comfort that I, too, could have a dog for Robert. Training would take place in California for several weeks, and then Robert could live safely and somewhat independently with his service dog.

As the years passed though, it became clear that Robert would need more help than we had imagined. The increase in medical emergencies would change our plans for a service companion.

This year I have seen my voice students’ furry dogs of all shapes and sizes in the background during their FaceTime and Zoom lessons, and I have warmed to the idea of a dog again. Not that our adult daughter’s new puppy melted my heart or anything. Lol!

She stayed with us for a few months and did what puppies do…pooped and nibbled at our hands. However, I now can say that dogs don’t scare me. I don’t fear an unexpected attack as I had for so many years.

There have been so many changes that have brought me to this place. Dogs, I am learning, can bring great fear, but also great joy. Today, I give honor to all those furry companions that continue to serve our community well.

Listening Library: “Heavenly Day” (Patty Griffin)

(When introducing this song at her live shows, Griffin shared that she wrote this song about her dog, which symbolizes the inherent peace and beauty in the world.)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV)

Heavenly Day

Oh, heavenly day

All the clouds blew away

Got no trouble today with anyone

The smile on your face, I live only to see

It's enough for me, baby, it's enough for me

Oh, heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

Tomorrow may rain with sorrow

Here's a little time we can borrow

Forget all our troubles in these moments so few

Oh because right now is only thing

That all that we really have to do

Is have ourselves, a heavenly day

Lay here and watch the trees sway

Oh, can't see no other way, no way, no way

Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

No one at my shoulder bringing me fears

Got no clouds up above me bringing me tears

Got nothing to tell you, I've got nothing much to say

Only I'm glad to be here with you

On this heavenly, heavenly, heavenly, heavenly day

Oh, all the trouble gone away, oh

For a while anyway, for a while anyway

Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

Heavenly day, heavenly day, oh, heavenly day

Songwriters: Patricia J. Griffin

Heavenly Day lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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