Shadrack, The Dog, A Heartwarming Story

14 07 2008

Maria, my daughter, loves her dog, Shadrack, a great deal. There is nothing Shadrack likes better than to run in the fields behind Maria’s home chasing horses or cows.    However, she has never been away for very long.  Just how did Maria find her little Shadrack?   Four years ago, after losing her dear dog, Osa–Maria found a home in the country that kept stray dogs.  There were three little puppies that she brought home.  She kept them for a couple of weeks until her husband told her that she had to choose just one.  Shadrack was the puppy who had a bundle of personality.  Thus, she returned the other two pups and kept Shadrack.  Now Shadrack is a mutt.  There is no definable way to even know much about what kind of mix she is.  However, she is full of bounce and personality.

Maria’s next door neighbor has an older dog named Kibbles.  These two dogs became fast friends.  They are so close to each other that Maria and her neighbors actually work together each day in planning food and snacks for the two friends. 

A couple of years ago, another neighbor complained about Shadrack coming on her property and scaring her cats.  She threatened Maria with the animal control people.  That began Shadrack’s life on a running rope when Maria had to be away from home.  However, the neighbor quit complaining as much, so Maria gave Shadrack a little more freedom.  She began putting Shadrack on her runner only at bedtime.  Shadrack has a beautiful dog house that she can sleep in despite the fact she is on her runner.

Shadrack has been known to follow Maria to church. She waits patiently until Maria comes out of the church door. Then she hops in Maria’s truck and gets a ride home.  She has also been known to follow Maria on her bike rides.  Shadrack is savvy! Her navigating skills are in good shape.  I guess that is why Maria and KIrk didn’t think anything about Shadrack being gone when they returned late the night of July the 4th.

Jim and I had hosted a birthday party for one of our other daughters, Vera.  They stayed at our home until about 7:30 p.m. and then went over to my son’s house to shoot fireworks.  They didn’t get back to their home until 10:30 p.m.  Maria didn’t want to put Shadrack on her runner all day and into the night, because there were no previous bad experiences to cause Maria to feel cautious that anything bad would happen.

The next morning Shadrack was nowhere to be seen.  She didn’t respond to being called.  Her neighbors told her that Shadrack seemed extremely frightened by the fireworks.  Apparently, a family not to far away was putting on quite a display of fireworks.  Maria’s neighbors told her that Shadrack came and gave Kibbles plenty of kisses–then took off in a streak.  They had no idea that Shadrack wouldn’t return.  Kibbles and Shadrack are such a team.  Kibbles is quite old and has arthritis.  Shadrack is always hovering over him.  She is constantly licking and kissing Kibbles.  So this family was beginning to feel some grief, too.

A couple of months ago, I gave Maria a small icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov.  St. Seraphim loved the wild animals in the forests of Russia.  He is known to have the ability to feed wild bears from his hands.  Since I’ve become an Orthodox Christian–I have always asked St. Seraphim to pray for our family pets.  Likewise, I ask him to pray for pets in general.  Often on my walks, I have noticed dogs on their chains who never get any exercise.  I ask this dear Saint to pray for those hurting animals.   I gave Maria the icon because at the time–Shadrack was seriously injured by another dog who was on their property.  It took many weeks for Shadrack to heal.  Now, I encouraged Maria  again to ask St. Seraphim to pray for the return of her dog.

Likewise, our family kept a prayer vigil for Shadrack.  In my heart, I knew that Shadrack had the skills to get home.  The only reason she wouldn’t be able to make it home would be if she had a serious accident or was attacked by another animal.  She had all of her identification on her collar.  Maria and Kirk spent hours looking for her.  The visited all of the Mennonite farms.   All the Mennonites know Shadrack.  However, none of the families had seen Shadrack on their farms.

Kirk had to get back on the road as he is a truck driver.  Maria was left with the lonliness of seeing that empty doghouse.  Maria didn’t neglect any of her responsibilities in her grief.  However, we could see the pain written all over her face.  She told me that last Friday night, she cried herself to sleep.  It had been one week since she had seen her dog.  She was about to give up hope.

I talked with her last night.  She was telling me how sad Kibbles has been.  Her neighbors have been very sad, too.  Shadrack liked to follow them around when they were out in their yard.  This morning Vera and I prayed once again that Shadrack would find her way home. We also prayed that if Shadrack had died–that at some point Maria would know how her dog died.  Thus, she could have a closure.

I missed the 8:00 a.m. call from Maria that Shadrack had been found.  I was across the street visiting with a neighbor.  She called again around 10:00a.m. telling me that Shadrack had made her way to the vet clinic 10 miles from home.  Shadrack is used to going to that clinic for checkups, emergency medical care and for her grooming.  The vet found her asleep on the stairs of the clinic this morning. 

Another strange thing happened before Maria got the call.  Kibbles would not leave Maria’s back porch.  She hovered near Shadrack’s dog house.   I personally believe that Kibbles knew that Shadrack had been found.  Maria went to get Shadrack.  She told me their reunion was so sweet.  Shadrack was so happy to see Maria.  The reunion back at the house was even more wonderful.  Kibbles and her owners were so happy to see Shadrack.  Maria took many pictures of the homecoming. 

Maria decided that she better keep Shadrack on her runner while she is in town today.  After she gets done with all of her business in town this afternoon–she will celebrate by eating supper with us.  Junk food always seems wonderful for celebrations.  So we will have pizza, salad and ice cream for supper tonight.  What a happy day it has been knowing that Shadrack is safe and back home again. 

All of God’s creation is good.  Animals are special to our Lord, too.  We are thankful  prayers were answered for Shadrack.  Now that Maria  knows how afraid Shadrack is of fireworks–I think it is a given that she will be on her runner next July the 4th.  Our celebration will continue for a long time to come!

God bless each of you!


Comic Relief, Cranberry Orange Bread and Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa and The Bear

29 11 2007

I tend to take myself way to seriously.  In the midst of learning more about breast cancer, I really need my pets, my grandchildren and some light hearted reading.  Five year old John still won’t eat turkey.  He had so many turkey papers he colored in kindergarten, that he just can’t bring himself to eat turkey. Believe me , he knows what turkey lunch meat is and refuses that, also.  Yet, he dearly loves ham and chicken nuggets.  We don’t want to spoil if for him.  We continue to have our grandsons on the afternoons of the days that Jim doesn’t work.  I go pick them up and we spend time coloring or working on a computer program that teaches them skills.  They like to hide under our desk and pretend that we don’t see them.  I kick them gently while telling Jim:  “I hope we can find John and Alex before their mother comes home.”  They are just laughing and giggling –really believing that we can’t find them. 

Rudy, Tickie, Sammie and Katie keep me hopping, also.  Rudy is just so much trouble.  She instigates trouble all of the time. She and Tickie back Sammy, the cat, up in a corner and bark relentlessly.  On the other hand, the three of them will snuggle together for naps.  Sammy even groomed Rudy yesterday afternoon.  Basically, whatever mischief Rudy gets into–Tickie follows.  They’ve been kind of off kilter since Jim’s work schedule changed.  I was used to getting them out for an early morning walk.  We are all trying  to adjust–even the animals.  They have really acted out more , since our lives have changed.

Poor Katie, the cat, stays on the fridge.  She is terrified of the dogs.  I found her in l997 after a family just abandened her.  She has always been a fearful cat.  She would live in one room only when my other dogs were alive.  Katie seemed to sense when they could no longer torment her–so she gradually increased her living area.  Today, the poor thing spends most of her time on our fridge.  She is 13 now and seems to be going down hill fast. 

I like the light reading of The Mitford Series by Jan Karon.  I read them all many years ago but started re-reading them this fall.  Father Tim seems to solve every heartache and sorrow in Mitford.  Real life could not be this good ever–but it is fun to read.  I also love the  Anne of Green Gable books by L.M. Montgomery.  Anne is forever getting into trouble but grows up to be a wonderful teacher and eventually marries her childhood friend, who becomes a doctor.  None of these books are for deep thinking but sometimes we all need to be a lighter hearted. 

I’m feeling the need to fill my freezer with good things to eat, before I go to have my surgery.  This morning I made four loaves of cranberry-orange bread.  I never turn on the oven to make just one loaf of bread.  This is our Nativity fast–so we can’t use milk or eggs.  Ordinarily, I use bananas in place of eggs.  This time ,I tried a product called Energ. Actually, the g goes under the word.  I found it in the organic section of Kroger.  I just took my bread out of the oven–and it seems to have done a good job.  This is how I made my bread:   I took one can of frozen orange juice, melted and blended it in the blender with 1 lb of cranberries.  Dilute the orange juice to make 6 cups of liguid.  Place this in an extra large mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 cup of the egg substitute with 1/2 cup of warm water.  Add to the mixture.  Add 4 tablespoons of baking powder, 4 teaspoons of vanilla, 4 cups of raw sugar, 1 cup of olive oil and 12 cups of flour.  I use only unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour.  Mix everything together and pour into four greased pans.  Bake on 300 degrees until done.  I always start with a lower temperature and increase if I need to.  My bread turned out wonderful. 

Again, I have a mini saint story.  Actually, Peter of Krutitsa isn’t a  saint, but his story is very interesting.  The time frame for this story is somewhere between l920 and 1930.  Christians were being persecuted terribly in Russia.  Metropolitan Peter was taken prisoner on a train.  The guards treated him awful.  Eventually, they threw him off the moving train.  He fell  into a deep pit of snow and down into an abyss.  Finally, he ended up in a dark forest.  It was terribly cold.  He knew that he would freeze to death.  While saying what he thought were his final prayers–a huge bear came his way.  Instead of attacking the Metropolitan, this bear let Peter know that he was to snuggle with him.  Gladly, Metropolitan Peter curled up in the bear’s embrace all night.  When he woke up, the bear was gone.  Later a rooster led him to a human dwelling, where he was able to take shelter.

God Bless Each of You!

My Prayers and Desires As A Cancer Patient and Tickie, The Dog

24 11 2007

Since I’ve become an Orthodox Christian, I’ve learned to read the Gospels more.  They just were not emphasized that much in my Protestant faith.  My particular background viewed the Gospels as part of the “Kingdom Age” and thus not important for doctrine.  The Lord’s Prayer was never uttered.  I don’t mean to act ugly about this–it is just plainly sad.  I used to spend most of my time in the Epistles.  Now my heart is so hungry for the Gospels.  I read them each day.  I say the Lord Prayer at least twice a day.  When I feel stuck in knowing what to pray in a difficult situation–I always say the Lord’s prayer.

I used to mock people who fasted.  I would tell them that fasting was from the “Kingdom Age” and not appropriate for our present day.  We fast a great deal in the Orthodox Church.  We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and for long periods during The Navity Fast and during Great Lent.  However, we are never to judge anyone by whether they actually keep the fast.  We are not to interrogate our brethen.  This is something we do quietly and in obedience to our faith. ( Our fasting consists of voluntarily giving up all animal products)

Over the past year, I’ve seen how God has quieted my heart by voluntarily giving up some of my desires.  I don’t claim to understand how this has all come about , but I know it has.  Last winter, I really had issues with one of my Orthodox sisters in Christ.  I made her life fairly miserable by bringing up all of her faults.  Through the winter and spring months-we were totally disconnected.  Through reading the Gospels and the works of St Theophan  the Recluse, –I realized that I was indeed the one who needed cleansing.

My friend was so bitter against me that she didn’t want to even talk to me –when I begged for a meeting.  Finally, in early June–she came to my home and talked this situation over with me, on my front porch.  She told me that I had “put her through hell.” Furthermore, she told me that even though she forgave me—-she didn’t want to be my friend.  I felt very sad that she didn’t just instantly have the emotions of loving me again. It took months for her to want to even acknowledge me. 

Finally, little by little she seemed softer towards me.  She came by labor day weekend to show us pictures of her Alaskan Missionary Trip.  I even was restless one night and prayed for her continually.  Later, I learned that she was back East with her father who is close to dying.  She was in deep crisis that night.   Mary , my other close Orthodox friend, had related to this lady how I was sleepless and concerned for her.  That really touched her and she opened up a little more.

She came to my open house and gave us some Holy Oil that she has gotten in Alaska.  She also gave us some incense.  Last week, she asked us to stop by her apartment in Clarksville, Tn on our way home from church to pick up a television she wanted to give us.  Our set had so many reddish tones in it.  Mary had told her how awful our television was.  So she gave us an extra one she had. 

On Tuesday of this week–when I found out I had cancer, I immediately called Mary.  She then called this lady.  She called me immediately and told me how much she loved me and that she would be there for me.  The long journey of distance between us was over.  I know we will walk many a mile together during my cancer recovery. 

What I’ve learned most of all through all of this, is that we are to keep our own hearts clean and to let go of our petty grievances against others.  The Beatitudes give a clear prescription of daily medicine for our soul.  I’ve lived so long with the “judge and jury” view of the church of the West.  In the East, we view the church as a hospital and that we are all sick to a greater or lesser degree.  We get well by keeping obedient to the Church and faithful to things like keeping our fasts, daily prayers and almsgiving.  We also go to confession and get prescriptions from our priests.  Our confessions are not like the ones viewed on television or in the movies.  We don’t sit in a little box and whisper things to a priest who can not see us.  No! Our priest stands with us before the icon of Christ.  We talk to him about the cancers of our souls and he gives us help.  This has been a wonderful sacrament to obey.  Always, my priest can push me in a direction…that maybe I can’t see for myself.  There is no condemnation.  When we finish, he puts his sash over my head and gives me absolution.  It is a sacrament of spiritual healing. 

In facing cancer, I want to let loose of all pettyness and bitterness.  I want to keep my own heart clean.  I love how our study Bible describes the disciplines of the Beatitudes:“These disciplines help us find true wisdom, which consists of: 1. the love of God and pursuit of His righteousness by bringing our treasure (Matt.6:19-16) as alms to God, our worries (Matt. 6:22-7:34) in prayer and fasting to Him; and 2.  the love of human beings and pursuit of righteous reconciliation with them by submitting our judgments of them (Matt 7:1-6) to God’s severe mercy. For these difficult tasks we need divine discernment and guidance, which God provides to those who follow Jesus’ spiritual rule (Matt. 7:7-12).  Thus, our natural impulses are redirected toward their proper goal: the righteousness of God in His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33).”  These quotes were taken from The Orthodox Study Bible, page 13. 

Now for a less serious note.  Yesterday I talked about how we got Rudy, one of our dogs.  I promised to tell how we got Tickie.   Maria’s husband (my daughter) found Tickie on a country road.  It was apparent that she had been wandering for a long time as she was full of ticks.  Kirk brought Tickie home and spent about $300.00 getting her shots and medicine for having all those ticks.  Then later in the summer, he decided he didn’t want an indoor dog afterall.  Maria brought him to our home , hoping we would take Tickie.  Again, it seemed hard to say “No”.  So Tickie , a full blooded Shih Tzu joined the fun with Rudy.  They became fast friends and boy–can they ever be bad.  However, when I sit to read a book –they are right by my side.  When Vera lived with us last–we both got flu together.  We loved having Rudy right beside us in the bed.  Dogs are wonderful!  I didn’t grow up with any pets but my own children pushed the issue until I relented.  I was  34 before I ever had a pet in my life.  So now I’ve been enjoying them for many years.  We’ve had several dear cats who have died of cancer.  The last one was “Jackie” who we had to have put down last Christmas.  “Jackie”  had been a part of Vera’s life since she was in the sixth grade.  She considered “Jackie” her special cat.  Again, as Orthodox Christians , we take comfort that even our pets are considered very special to their Creator, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Many of the Saints have had a special friendship with animals , particularly wild animals.  I have a little icon on my desk of St. Seraphim of Savro, feeding a wild bear.  St. Herman of Alaska also bonded with the wild animals.  Praise the Lord that all of creation is wonderful!   A good Psalm to explain this is Psalm 148.  It is one of my favorite Psalms and is quoted in our Divine Liturgy each week.

God Bless each of you!

It’s All Rolling Together!

23 11 2007

We talk to our daughter, Vera, each morning.  I was so deeply touched that she told me on Wednesday morning ,that she is moving back home the end of December to help us run the household.  Vera found out the beginning of November that the private school she teaches at would not have enough money to pay her after December.  With my having to have surgery for breast cancer, she saw this as a way to help herself and to help us.  While she is living here, she will research jobs.  Vera has never liked our small town and has always told us –that it  would never be her permanent choice of a home.  I would never have asked her to come home.  This was all her idea.  We are very grateful.

Even though all our children are grown up, we still have two active dogs and two special needs cats.  Rudy, our little chihuahua/terrior mix is twelve pounds of trouble.  She is constantly in trouble.  We never chose her as a pet. In a way, she chose us.  She has a unique story.  Sandy, my oldest daughter, got her as a puppy.  Rudy proved to be to much for her household –so Sandy gave her to Maria.  Maria’s husband was very upset that this dog entered his household–so he told her to get another home for Rudy–fast.  Maria, gave Rudy to a church friend.  This church friend gave the dog to her mother-in-law.  The mother-in-law gave Rudy to someone else.  On January 5th, 2005–I had just finished burying my two old dogs.  I had made the decision to put my 14 year old dogs down as they were full of infirmities and snapping harshly with all people.  As I was burying the dogs with Maria, I said something like this: ” I will never have anymore dogs.” 

Within as hour of burying my dogs, the phone rang.  It was my vet asking me if I would come pick up Rudy.  Rudy had gotten loose and was roaming around a McDonalds in Cadiz,Ky.  A young couple saw Rudy and chased her two miles down  Interstsate 24.  Rudy had her rabies tag on –and that is how they were able to trace down our vet.  After all that this couple went through to rescue Rudy–we decided to keep her.  My other dog , we got six months later.  That is another special story but I’ll save it for later.  Tickie is a full blooded Shih Tzu.  We didn’t pay any money for her.  She is hard to take care of in that her coat is so easily matted.  We also have two old cats that will probably not make it much longer.  So Vera coming home is a real blessing .  I don’t think I could possibly take care of these animals by myself .

Jim’s new schedule is turning out to be a blessing also.  Even though he works 12 hour shifts, he will actually be off more days than his former Monday through Friday schedule. He likes the machine he is on.  It was the machine he started on back in l993,  God has myterious ways of bring many different types of circumstances together for His Divine purpose.

And now to Thanksgiving.  All of my children and grandchildren were able to join us at the Pennyrile State Forest Park to enjoy a delicious meal.  Brad, my brother from Nashville, also came.  We always have Thanksgiving at Brad’s home.  This year, his wife Susan’s father is battling cancer.  So Susan went home to be with her family.  Everyone came back to our home for awhile.  Vera got a table game going –the rest of enjoying just talking.  Oh, I did get amused at 5 year old John.  Jim made the mistake of asking John if he was enjoying his “dead”turkey.  John was horrified to learn that turkeys had to be killed for our meal.  So he would not finish his turkey.  He has learned so much about turkeys and Thanksgiving in his kindergarten class–that his little mind just could not handle the negative.

I’ve truly been peaceful and content.  I’m trying to enjoy each day and just know that I only have to travel this journey of recovering from cancer , one day at a time.  Truly, life is rolling together.  Already we’re seeing that:And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

May God’s richest blessings be with each of you!