Remembering furry friends who warm our lives

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

I CAN’T RECALL HOW MANY YEARS it has been since my son came running in to our house sure that there was a bear in our yard. He had had been out riding his snowmobile in the track he and his dad had established in our yard. We were keeping an eye on him through the picture window. He was young and somehow he decided that it would be quicker to jump off his sled and run in to the house rather than ride there. But I digress…

What we discovered was a big black dog. She wandered in through the woods and calmly walked to the door. I was standing strong, determined not to let her in. Of course, I did check for tags and identification and came up empty handed. By the next morning she was lying on our living room floor. My husband didn’t have the heart to listen to her begging to come in all night. She was such a gentle giant, good with the kids and our dog and cats. But still I answered no to the cries of “Can we keep her?”

We made all the correct calls to the shelters, we looked at local store windows for Lost Dog signs, we called the vets and animal control. No one, it seemed, was looking for her. It is not unheard of for dogs to be left to fend for themselves in our neck of the woods. We began to look for a home for her.


No, this is not the dog in our story today, but he reminds us all of the inspiring love we often find in big working dogs like the Newfoundland. This breed can weigh more than 150 pounds. While terrific companions, they have big appetites, too. See the note, below, about a new nationwide FILL THE BOWL project. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

My father-in-law came to mind. He had lost his beloved boxer, Buster, a while before this. When we mentioned that we had this “bear,” he didn’t seem to be very interested. My husband suggested a trial run. If he didn’t want to keep her after the weekend we would take her back. He agreed.

That was at least five years ago. We never got a call to come get her. The dog now has a name. Josie. Very creative when you consider that our last name is Jose.

She hasn’t been an easy dog. Initially she was terrified of riding in the car. She still has anxiety at times. Have I said that she is big and black and sheds a lot? She has trouble controlling herself sometimes on a walk, wanting more than anything to chase a squirrel or a cat or another dog. And then there were the fleas from lying in the dirt all summer!

Despite all the issues, I am grateful for Josie. My father-in-law takes his job of pet owner very seriously. He walks Josie (and also the other furry friend Pudgie) three times a day. If you are there at the correct time you will see the pacing begin when walk time approaches.

The dogs are so good for him. They provide structure for his days and someone to come home to. Especially since my mother-in-law passed away in February. It makes us feel a little better to know that he has someone depending on him and therefore keeping him going. The dogs are someone to chat with and snuggle with too. I also think we all know he wouldn’t walk the neighborhood without a dog—and walking is good for his health.

This year for Christmas my gift for my father-in-law will be dog related. It only seems right.


Humane Society Fill the Bowl Logo

Click the photo to visit the Humane Society website.

IN YOUR HOLIDAY GIVING: Remember that pets need food as well as love! And big dogs like the one in today’s story? You know: Lots of love—and lots of food. A tragic trend in winter months, when other household bills rise for the elderly, is a wave of pets given away to shelters simply because their human companions can no longer afford to feed them.

The Humane Society in the United States (HSUS) has an inspiring new FILL THE BOWL campaign. Visit this HSUS website for more about the campaign and details about receiving a free kit to help promote the idea in your area. The kit includes a poster, plus a couple of big, full-color stickers, plus a packet of hand-out cards. The cards have the color logo on one side and on the back say: Fill the Bowl Project is part of the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Protection Ministries program. Every year, thousands of churches across the country donate food to local food pantries and other programs that help fight hunger. Pets are a vital part of our community but are often overlooked in times of need. Through the Fill the Bowl Project, faith communities can help by collecting cans and bags of pet food. One simple donation provides food for a pet and peace of mind for an owner.


STOCKING STUFFER: One of our most popular books, by therapist and business consultant Rob Pasick, is his memoir of reflections written as his own beloved dog was aging: Conversations with My Old Dog. Got a pet lover on your holiday list? Especially a pet lover with an elderly dog? You’ll warm their heart with a copy of Rob’s book.

ANOTHER FURRY (AND FREE) STORY: ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm was inspired by my column, today, and added a family photo of a border collie Shooter, who came to the rescue—yes, much like Lassie—of David’s mother in law one night. That photo and brief story is in our GodSigns Photo Gallery.


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  1. Joan Schutes says

    Larry told me about your story and sent it to my e-mail. Larry is so faithful walking those dogs. We love seeing Pudgy looking out the front window waiting for Larry to come back from walking Josie as he knows his turn is next.

    I ask Larry what he thinks would happen if he reversed the order and walked Pudgy first. He said he tried that one day and neither dog was very happy.

    Have a nice holiday.