In the last few days, I have had a number of good friends experience the death of a much-loved pet. Their stories brought to mind an article I wrote several years ago right after we had done the same. For these friends, and any anyone else fortunate enough to know this kind of love, I thought I would share it here today.
In my favorite article by the great Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard, he wrote about the passing of his beloved black lab, Catfish. Just days before his own death, Lewis closed the piece with these touching words; “My heart, or what’s left of it, is breaking.” Today, I think I know how just how he felt.
Six years ago we impulsively accepted the offer of an abandoned, mostly golden retriever puppy. After some thought, we named the little fella Obie. It was a three-fold namesake after the Old Testament prophet Obadiah and Obi-Won Kenobi from Star Wars. And for you children of the 70s, throw in the arresting Officer Obie from Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant. We brought him home to share a backyard with his new dog brother Boudreaux. But it didn’t take long before this glorious dog had taken his primary residence in my heart.
Of all the gifts Obie gave to me, the greatest was enormous, unbridled joy. Long before Rick Warren made the phrase famous, he exemplified the purpose-driven life. It was a sight to watch him in all his glory, doing the things he was uniquely created to do. He ran forever through fields, chasing deer and other such critters. He swam endlessly across lakes and would retrieve anything you could throw for as long as you cared to throw it. He even pulled me along on several local 5K races. Obie loved our boys. He loved me too, and let me love him. It was a trade that I know I got the best of.
Obadiah was the highest form of dog there ever was; a truck dog. He rode majestically in the back of my daddy’s S-10, towering over its cab as I drove him around. He did a happy dance whenever I walked toward that truck and took personal offense if I used it for any purpose that did not involve him. Folks would wave and smile as we rode through town together. I could park downtown, leave Obie in the bed of that old Chevy and wander into Buckle’s Hardware for some tool and one of Miss Betty’s hugs. And he would be right there when I returned, usually with a new friend who had stopped to give him a little love. He made everybody smile, which made me smile all the more.
We lost Obie last Saturday. Cancer got him, just as it did his predecessor, Casey. A few hours before the Bulldogs took the field in Jacksonville, we laid him in a field in Monroe. I want to thank my friend who helped me dig a big grave the day before, and let me bury him in the place he loved the most. And I appreciate how our friend and vet kindly put Obie down on the tailgate of our truck, and then stood quietly as his friend cried harder and longer than I care to admit. When I think of all the sacred steps in life that you invite this pastor to take with you, it seems selfishly silly to go on about the death of a dog. Such things should not so shake a grounded soul. But it has. And as one who gathers much meaning from the life we willingly share, I just felt you ought to know.