Last June, Nancy and I lost a constant companion and an incredible friend of the 4-pawed variety. Zoe, known to a lot of people as “Foster Dog” and to many neighborhood children as the “big white wolf-dog,” was a delightful mix of solid fun and iconic stoicism.
She demanded a lot of attention, but we learned to surpass those demands with our own ideas of what Zoe wanted and what she needed. For example, she had her own electric fan for the back porch and a water mister to keep her cool when she wanted to hang out in the flower bed.
Zoe was aloof. She wagged her tail slowly, if at all, when she greeted you. She never jumped up on anybody — at least not in the years we had her. When I would need some special time with her, I would sit down beside her on the porch — only to have her walk off and watch me from a distance a few minutes later.
She hated thunderstorms. Just to emphasize . . . She hated thunderstorms. From the first flash of lightning, every ounce of her energy was invested into getting inside the house and waiting it out.
Her love of walking was a turning point in our lives. We learned that, if we didn’t take her on walks that she would arrange to get out and about on her own. Digging, breaking fences, whatever it took. After burying a lot of concrete paver stones at critical locations and completely replacing the fence, we noticed that her desire to run free was largely offset by the walks. She would go as many times a day as we would offer. She was impervious to cold temperatures and she pulled us shamelessly through the snow and the rain. We drew the line at ice, but she considered that to be a moral failure on our part.
She was fun to walk. People loved seeing her. We learned more about her personality on walks than anywhere else. And Nancy and I became more healthy — in more than physical ways. Walks took us out of the house. We came to know our neighbors. We talked.
Foster Dog was an incredible balm for our weary souls during a difficult time in our lives.
And then she was gone.
For six months we went from “never again, we can’t survive another loss” to “someday, maybe.”
And then, on Christmas Eve, our son, Jeremy, directed us to look out back. And we met Togo.
Togo is named for a famous sled dog — one of two lead dogs whose heroics on a medical mission inspired the annual Iditarod Sled Race. He’s unlikely to see a lot of snow living in West Texas. And something tells me he probably has few, if any, medical missions in his future.
Yet, Togo, the Wonder Pup, does have a mission. He is here to live life and bring us joy. And . . . to chew up our stuff and to go to the bathroom in inappropriate places.
Being the Wonder Pup presents Togo with a lot of opportunities. He makes us laugh, he makes us work, and he reminds us of an important part of living life.
We are constantly called to start over. Things change. Good times come to an end. Relationships fade. Prosperity, once won, is lost.
Amazingly, in countless ways, God presents the opportunity and the spark to start over even as chapters close.
So, we’ll replace the chewed-up things and replant the shrubs that have been excavated. We’ll go to puppy school and buy large bags of dog food … and toys . . . and snacks. We’ll do all of the things we never wanted to do again.
Because we’ll laugh and we’ll walk and we’ll take care of a dog destined to grow large and loud. We’ll be licked and we’ll be chased. Sure there will be some pain along the way. And it will all be worthwhile . . . to start over.