Back in 1964, my brothers and I were hounding our parents to let us have a dog. Initially, Dad was against it, but finally he agreed to go and at least look at French poodles for our family. I was allergic to dogs that shed so it severely limited the choice of breeds that we could pick from. Anyway, we went to a place named Loubelle’s – a place that had terrific dogs and had been highly recommended to us.
Dad took us all out there, to South Holland, a southern suburb of Chicago, on a Saturday morning. We arrived and met Lou and Belle Goldman, the owners of Loubelle’s (get it? Lou and Belle) After the introductions and seeing the wall of ribbons from winning dog shows, they brought out a litter of very young miniature poodles. They were running all over the place and one of them, a chocolate male, immediately captured my Dad’s heart. That was it. By the time we left, we had committed to buy him and Dad named him “Colbert, Marquis de Toussaint”. He was named after Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of Finance from 1661-1683 under King Louis XIV of France. Leave it to Dad to want a French name that had some historical significance!
Colby became a real member of the family and we all loved him more than words can express. But he was Dad’s dog from the beginning. I even remember, after Dad was diagnosed with cancer, that he expressed his desire that Colby would survive him as he couldn’t bear to think about living on without Colbert in his life.
Dad died in June, 1978 and Colbert passed away about six months later. It all worked out the way the way that Dad wanted. Over the years, we had several other dogs from Loubelle’s but Colby was our first experience with this great family business.
That was 55 years ago and I thought that my memories had faded. But last Friday, I had to be in the south Chicago suburbs and out of curiosity, I wondered if Loubelle’s was still around. Of course, Lou and Belle are long gone, as Dad and Mom are, but I was curious to see if the line of fabulous dogs was still being bred in South Holland. Much to my surprise, Loubelle’s is still there – on the same lot, in the same building, where I first drove up with my parents in 1964.
It’s no surprise to you, I am sure, that I stopped and went up to the door. It was locked but I heard people talking and soon they let me in – Diane, the current owner, and a young groomer, Heidi. I introduced myself and gave a brief history of our family story with Colby and Loubelle’s. Diane remarked that she had fond memories of Colby – in fact, she was the teenager who groomed him every four weeks when he was a member of our family! Diane, now in her seventies, owns the company that she has served for almost all of her life.
I was overcome… I didn’t expect the flood of emotion that came over me. I know my eyes welled up with tears and it was truly one of the few times in my life that I really couldn’t speak. Here I was in the same room, with the same floors and walls and chairs that I sat in as an 11 year old boy the day that I met Colby for the first time. It was surreal – and I was speaking with the groomer who took care of Colbert for years. As I thought about it, who could ever have imagined that I would return here more than 5 decades later and have a conversation with a person who still worked there and knew me as a young boy!
But it wasn’t only Colby – it was the memory of bygone years. Times with Dad and Mom and my brothers before the worries of paying the bills, or getting married, or raising children or dealing with health issues, or watching grandchildren grow up! A lifetime ago; and all those memories came flooding back because we hounded Dad to get us a dog… and what a dog he was…
So now, Hank is the latest in a long, long line of dogs we have had throughout the years. With the exception of several months, Janet and I have had dogs continually for the past 46 years – ever since we got married. And there is no question that our pets have given us much joy throughout our lives together. In fact, all our kids have dogs – Trinity, Bella, Lola and Sara all hold special places in our hearts in addition to Hank.
God gave mankind dominion over the animals way back in the beginning – in the book of Genesis. Adam named the animals and was charged with their care. God, in His infinite wisdom, undoubtedly created dogs as models of love, obedience and loyalty.
Tonight’s verse comes from Genesis 2:19-20. Moses, the author of Genesis, tells us, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.”
My encouragement this evening is that mankind has dominion over the animals and the entire earth. That responsibility means that God wants us to remain faithful and to be good stewards of all that He has created – not only the earth, but everything on or in it. My prayer is that we will value and cherish the memories we have of years gone by and the joy that our pets have given us throughout our lives. We still miss you, Colbert! You were an awesome gift to our family and we are thankful for the wonderful memories of the years we had together.
Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…