Monday, March 17, 2008

My Sixteen Year Long Visiting Teaching Blessing

My first book is a fictionalized story about visiting teaching, but sixteen years ago I really did go visiting teaching and from it got a blessing that changed my life. The woman I was assigned to visit hardly ever came to church and hated making appointments. She had a small farm and never left it, but I found that on Saturdays she loved it if my boys would come to play with her son.

One sunny Saturday afternoon we were sitting in lawn chairs watching our boys on the backs of three geldings kicking their heels against the sides of the fat horses who were far more interested in eating than in walking forward. I gave her the lesson and then the conversation drifted to what we were facing in our lives. Renee sighed, "I've got to drown a puppy today."

"What?" I asked horrified.

"Yeah, the sheltie got in with Pearl our blue heeler and so now we have a worthless mutt. If I don't get rid of it today, I won't be able to sell the rest of litter as purebreds."

"I'll take it," I practically begged. With a new baby the thought of ending a new life was more than I could handle.

Renee shook her head, "You don't want this dog. Its worthless. You'll have to be up hours every night to feed it." But despite her best attempts to talk me out of it, I went home that day with a little ball of fur. She really wasn't a pretty dog either with the coloring of a sheltie except the white had the grey mottled look of a blue heeler so she always looked dirty.

My daughter Anna was a toddler at the time and fell in love with her new living doll. I don't think she let that poor creature touch the ground the entire first year of its existence. I'd often come outside to find the puppy dressed in doll clothes strapped to the stroller or stuck in a big cardboard box with cut out windows and filled with doll furniture. Thinking I'd free the dog from its torture, invaribly I'd find Tinker panting happily, wagging her tail and loving the attention.

A few years later we had a tornado hit our area in the middle of the night. At that time we had a barn and hoped the dog had taken shelter there. The next morning branches littered our backyard, the swingset was ripped out of the ground and twisted, and the trampoline was flung 50 feet away, sitting upside down. Then we heard Tinker wimpering loudly. The whole family went out in the backyard to look for her, moving debris and calling. Finally my husband got one of my sons to help him turn over the trampoline. The little bump in the middle had been Tinker. She was unhurt but from that day on was terrified of thunderstorms. If one was coming she would be in the same room with you. If it was intense, Tinker was in your lap or in one of the kid's bed.

For the last sixteen years Tinker has been a great dog. She never barked too much, would let toddlers pull on her tail or yank her fur, never peed in the house, has been great fun on family campouts and has only bitten one person who totally deserved it (and who I wish I could have bitten myself.)

Last week after seeing she wasn't feeling well for quite a while, she passed away from liver failure. I know everyone has heard that phrase, "All dogs go to heaven" (or seen the movie) but as I walked away from the vet's office empty-handed, I felt that she was up there, playing with my father and my little boy Thomas. I imagine on that day when it is my turn to pass through the veil, when I am greeted by family and friends, there will be one more waiting to greet me. A little funny looking dog wagging her tail. Until then I'll miss her, my sixteen year long visiting teaching blessing.


Kimberly Jensen said...

My heart goes out to you and Tinker. If we could all see the beauty in those who "appear" to be broken, we would live in a very blessed world.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

I have several four-footed friends waiting for me. What a blessing Tinker was to your family. I know that empty feeling, too, and it's heartbreaking to know we'll outlive our pets. What a sweet tribute, and just think of your timing - you went visiting teaching and saved a sweet puppy!

Doug Johnston said...

My heart goes out to you. I love dogs and have lost many to old age. That was a very touching story. Good job.