August 15th is the second in a string of three days in a row that our family celebrated birthdays or anniversaries. Yesterday, I wrote about 2 family anniversaries, while today and tomorrow are birthday remembrances.
Today is a very important day. It is the anniversary of the birthday of our first dog when I was a child; Colbert, Marquis de Toussaint would have been 47 years old today. He was born in 1964, when I was 11 years old, and my Dad nicknamed him Colby. You may wonder how this came to pass, but it was quite simple. My brother Doug and I had been hounding Dad and Mom for months about wanting a dog. I was allergic to dogs that shed, so we were limited to several breeds; French Poodles among them. Dad finally relented, but made it quite clear that Doug and I would have to be invested in getting the dog – and he meant it literally. We each had to contribute based on our relative ability to earn money.
We checked into various kennels, and finally settled on a place named LouBelle’s in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Miniature Poodles were $150 and so Dad said I had to come up with $40, Doug had to contribute $10 and Dad would pick up the $100 balance. Of course, I thought this was grossly unfair, but Doug was loving it. I had more lawn jobs than he did, and we fought over why I got hammered for more money than he did. Finally, recognizing that I was not going to win this argument with Dad, I said that I could go along with it as long as everybody understood that Dad owned the dog’s body, I owned his head, and Doug could own that area around his tail, if you know what I mean…..
Doug hated me for that, but every time somebody saw Colby, I would go through the ownership distribution of the dog. I know it sounds so dumb now, but when we were younger, Doug and I really didn’t see eye to eye too much. Thankfully, that has changed as we have matured and now we are really quite close. From time to time, we still have a little brotherly competition, but we really care deeply for each other.
Anyway, as part of the deal, Dad got to pick the dog. When we went to LouBelle’s, a litter of puppies ran out and starting playing. One immediately went up to Dad and starting nipping at his hand. Dad fell in love that moment, and the little chocolate Poodle won his way into our hearts on the spot. In those days, every French Poodle was named, Fifi, or Mimi, or some other over the top French name. Dad didn’t want any overused names, so he did some research and learned that the Minister of Finances to King Louis XIV of France was a man by the name of Colbert – and that was it! Our Colbert, Master of the house of Toussaint, was named.
Every four weeks, Mom or Dad would take Colby to be groomed; and that was at least 45 minutes each way, twice on grooming days. That dog led a dog’s life. Dad would walk him each night and I remember we had a man down the street who really didn’t like dogs too much. Anyway, one night he stopped Dad to find out about our new dog, and Colby, finally tired of waiting, actually lifted his leg on Mr. Palinick. Dad couldn’t keep himself from laughing, and if possible, that event endeared Colby to Dad even more.
When it rained, Colby had a raincoat to keep him dry. Grooming was expensive, and Mom didn’t want that wet doggy smell in the house. Dad hated walking him in the outfit and one time, a car stopped and the driver questioned my father’s sexuality. Remember, this was in the sixties, and Colby never wore the raincoat again, regardless of the weather.
But the most memorable of all events was how Colbert kept my Dad company during my Dad’s four year battle with cancer. Dad would sit with Colby, and when Dad was just too tired to do anything, Colby would jump up on their bed and keep him company. One day, when I was visiting, I passed by Dad’s room. He was talking to the dog, and I strained to hear what he was saying. Basically, Dad said that he hoped he died before Colby; he didn’t know how he could stand to lose his beloved dog. Dad got his wish. Several months after Dad’s death, in June, 1978, Colby went into a steep decline, maybe as a result of Dad’s passing, and we finally had to have him put down. It was a bittersweet day.
As much as I have loved Bobby, Sassy, Nicholas, Ellie, Abbie, Beau, Sadie and our current dog, Lexie, I don’t know that I have ever seen someone care so much for a dog as my Dad did for Colby. He was really a comfort during the last, painful years of my father’s life.
What kind of a verse do you apply to this loving relationship between a man and his dog? Is it loyalty, or friendship? Maybe it has to do with the idea of comfort, and whether Dad believed in Christ or not I will never know, at least this side of heaven. But I like to think that God sent Dad a friend to comfort him, and so tonight’s verse is Jeremiah 31:13,”I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
My encouragement tonight is that God wants to comfort you during the trials of your life and you never know how He is going to make that happen. But my prayer is that you will be open to God’s assistance during the tough times in your life. Because life was not meant to be lived alone. Hopefully, it will be a friend, or family member, but whatever the method, God wants His grace and mercy and peace to rain down on each of us. Have a great day in the Lord….