Today, my dog Shelby turns 7 years old. She is such an amazing part of our lives. Everyone loves their pets, but I think my husband and I were blessed just a little bit more with this dog than most.
I have had one other dog before as a pet, and his name was Sherman. Our story with Shelby actually starts with Sherman. One day, out of the blue, back in December of 2006, we noticed quite a large lump in Sherman's tummy area. Neither my husband nor myself noticed this even the day before. It seemed, quite suddenly, that the lump appeared out of nowhere. We took him to the vet, only to find out that he had cancer. The vet indicated that cancer like this often shows up seemingly overnight. We were heart broken. Our 8 1/2 year old sweet chocolate lab was sick. We took him to a local vet hospital to get a blood transfusion and they further determined he was a very sick dog. After much discussion and lots of tears, we knew it was time, only after a few days, to put him down.
Putting a dog down is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my entire life. It is heart-wrenching. Sherman was my first dog ever. He was a bit high maintenance, yes, but he was wonderful. He had separation anxiety issues, but he loved us, and was so loyal. He misbehaved and jumped on guests when they came over, but he did so out of love.
My husband and I drove away from the vet's office that day, having put Sherman down, and we were beside ourselves. Anyone who has ever put a pet down knows this gut-wrenching feeling. There are few things in my life besides losing some loved ones that rivals this kind of pain. Tears running down our faces, we drove home.
This part of the story is when I get a bit hesitant, because I often wonder if people really believe me when I tell it. I've only told a handful of people, because I know they trust me and know I'm not telling a story just so it sounds good. This part of the story relates to what I feel God was showing me in the clouds. As we were driving home from the vet, I happened to glance out of the car window, up into the sky. And in the sky, I saw an image. That image was of a dog's head -- a Labrador dog's head. As clear as day. Through tears pouring down my face, I tried to get my husband to look over at the cloud formation, but since he was driving (in tears as well) and was on the other side of the car, he couldn't see it. Reflecting on it today, I wish we had just pulled over on the side of the road so that he could have taken a good look at the clarity of the cloud formation.
I'm not sure whether God was comforting me about the loss of Sherman that day, or whether He was providing me a promise of what was to come, but ever since that day, I knew that we would get another dog. We got Shelby just four months later. And now, seven years later, we have virtually the sweetest, most gentle, fun-loving, happy dog one could ever have. She brightens our days, helps us remain more youthful, gives us joy in the smallest of things (the pitter-patter of her feet running down the carpeted stairs, the unique and rare times she gives us a "wiggle shake" when she is really excited, the rare times she barks when play time is high-energy, the way she romps in the snow every winter...).
I'll always miss Sherman, my first dog. I'm sure all families miss their first pet. But having Shelby around each day gives me such perspective about life: Love those around you, laugh often, give the best of yourself, play often, and be loyal. Always.
Thank God for giving us the dog in the clouds.
Happy 7th Birthday, Shelby!
|Shelby, 7 weeks old|
|This is Sherman, a few days after we discovered he was sick.|