Today, February 5th, is the one year anniversary of our friend Roe Russell's death. I've already told you a bit about his family, the funeral, and that wonderful magical barn. There's just a bit more I'd like to tell.
Mary loves Boston terriers. She's owned four, but I've only known two of them. It's a nice breed, loving and affectionate. She had Bubbles when we were living in North Rome back in the late seventies. She fit her name well as she was especially exuberant, spinning around like a top whenever we stopped in. Dixie isn't quite as energetic as Bubbles was, but I have no doubt she enjoys company just as much as her predecessor did.
We had seen Roe and Mary only two or three weeks earlier sometime in January. Having lived in the south for so many years, we rarely got back to Pennsylvania. But now we were living in New York and we knew that Roe's Alzheimer's was worse. So we traveled down to Bradford county and spent an hour or so with two of the dearest people we have ever known. Of the entire North Rome congregation, there had never been a family closer to us than this one. But this visit was different. It was immediately obvious that Roe didn't know us.
February was still young when he died. We headed to Mary's as soon as we heard the news. Larry visited with the two daughters, and Mary and I retreated to the living room. There she told me about admitting him to the hospital, his unexpected turn for the worse, the call in the night and the family's goodbyes. During the course of our conversation she mentioned how odd Dixie's behavior was the night Roe died. "She howled and howled." she said. "It was so unlike her." And I recalled something from my own childhood.
I had just turned 14 when my grandmother died. She had been been in a local hospital for blood clots in her legs when she suddenly passed away. My grandfather, several years her senior and crippled, was at home several miles away. His dog Chipper howled mournfully through the night. I've often wondered if my grandfather might have anticipated the bad news before it came, sensing that something was amiss.
Sometime ago I read about a nursing home cat that lies on the beds of the residents right before they die. The cat, normally quite reclusive, will suddenly show up in a room, staying until the resident's last breath. There are theories, of course. Some believe that someone close to dying emits certain smells. You can draw your own conclusion, but I tend to think it's more than that.
While living in Colorado Springs several years ago, we rented a house for about six months. The previous tenants had been drug users (we found the paraphernalia to prove it) and Satanists. The basement was comprised of two bedrooms and a sitting area that was painted and decorated in dark reds. The colors reminded me of what you'd find in a Chinese restaurant, but this particular room was much less inviting. We had a new Shih Tzu pup at that time who was always at my heels, following me everywhere. But he would never go into the basement of that house. I found it odd as our previous home had plenty of stairs which he never hesitated to climb.
In the Old Testament there's a story about a prophet named Balaam. He disobeys God and heads down the road on this donkey, going where he's not supposed to go. As he's traveling along , the beast suddenly becomes obstinate and refuses to continue on. Little does Balaam realize that the donkey sees an angel with a sword blocking the way. After Balaam takes his staff and begins beating the animal, she looks at him and asks him what he thinks he's doing. True story! Balaam might have been a prophet, but his donkey was more spiritually perceptive than he was.
It seems that God has placed within some animals an extra sense, like an extra pair of eyes allowing them to see what we on this side of eternity simply can't. It reminds us that there is indeed a spiritual kingdom that we will enter one day. Perhaps some of our four-legged friends are simply able to catch a glimpse of it before we do.