We have had four rescue dogs in 31 years, but never more than one at a time. When Sammy died, we were heartbroken and knew that we needed the time to grieve. That will make a lot of sense to pet owners and perhaps no sense at all to people who don’t have or want pets. We knew when Sammy died, that we would likely get another dog but we gave ourselves time. Sammy was such a sweet dog, our “California” Beagle, as laid back as they came. We lost him the middle of November and just moving into what folks laughingly call, a pastor’s busy season of Advent and Christmas. Also, I was in my second year in college as a full time student, serving three churches. Not only was I getting ready for final exams and writing final papers, Buck Season was looming. So, no new additions to the family in that mix of activity.

Close up picture o a dog's face. Colors black and tan with brown eyes.
Photo by from Pexels

We got through Christmas and Buck season and the next semester at school began and we continued to contemplate Sammy’s absence. We, rather my husband, dog sat for a friend and we enjoyed having “four on the floor” scampering through the house. Although he will probably deny it, my husband started working on a dog collar. I am not sure what became of it, but that is what he said he was doing and once again, I started looking through the classified adds for another beagle. I can’t explain “Why beagles?” I just think they are cute. Now and then we would make a phone call but strike out.

I suppose you could say that my husband and I are a corny, sentimental couple, but every year we celebrate the anniversary of the day we met (it was a blind date) and the day we got married. Usually both anniversaries are good for dinner out, but on that certain day in 1998, instead of going out to dinner we went to the local SPCA. I was determined to come home with a beagle, but they didn’t have any; although they had a dog that looked a lot like a beagle on stilts. That was Roxanne. We never did narrow down her breed and they had her listed as a mix. She looked a lot like a Walker or Coon Hound but definitely tri-color, she had a brindle coat on her back, but everywhere else she was copper, tan and white. She had the body of a Greyhound and boy could she run. She could stretch out in front of the couch and span the entire thing!

Picture of Roxanne laying on the floor with a rubber dumbbell toy nearby. Roxanne was black, white and tan, beagle looks but a tall dog.
Roxanne 2004

She was in one of the pens outside and it was hard to get her attention or have any significant one on one time with her because she was totally obsessed with the Dalmatian in the pen next to hers, and pretty much ignored us. As obsessed as she was with her neighbor, I was that much determined to go home with something that looked like a beagle. She was an energetic puppy, with a sad bittersweet story. She and another sibling were found on a rock in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Someone had apparently thrown them off of a bridge. A couple going by in a boat rescued them. Roxanne had a broken femur and was not hurt as badly as her sibling.

The couple took the two dogs to a vet, paid for their surgeries and medical care, and brought them home and took care of them. But the time came, when they could not keep up with both dogs, so they kept the one who had been injured the worst and took Roxanne to the local SPCA. The shelter workers told us that she had stopped eating, had been there a long time, and was on the short list to be euthanized. She almost lost her young life twice. They didn’t tell us that until we had signed all the papers but there was no way we weren’t going to take her home then.

Roxanne was a sweet, funny dog who made her own way in our hearts She left her mark too: on the television remote for instance. Because we were living in a parsonage, I am grateful that she didn’t chew the house, she left the trim work and molding alone and cut her teeth on our stuff. Mostly mine, I think. For instance, I am not a big shoe person, I generally only have one pair of dress shoes and a pair of hikers and sneakers. One weekend I got done with classes and came home thinking I could settle down to work on my sermon. But that weekend, necessary sermon prep involved going to the store to buy a new pair of dress shoes for church on Sunday.

She liked pens and pencils, I guess we weren’t smart enough to get her chew toys early on so she made her own. There is this silly game my spouse and I play; we pick up something the dog has done or point to it and ask the question, “Did you do this?” knowing full well it was the dog. It did take me a while to catch on and not leave things laying around. Roxanne apparently liked jewelry, or anything she could make go crunch. I had a thin turquoise cross on a silver chain. The cross had a swirl of silver metal on the side of it, like a backwards “S” and I liked it because it reminded me of the United Methodist symbol of the Cross and Flame. Roxanne liked it too!

Close up picture of two dogs, a small white dog trying to make friends with a larger brown dog.

Photo by bin Ziegler from Pexels

I may be a slow starter, but I eventually learned to not leave things lying around to tempt the puppy. But, I was sure my hikers were too tough for her, so I left them under the coffee table never dreaming that she would eat them. Yup, almost down to the soles. It is a wonder she did not have digestive issues. Maybe it was all that fiber! You can imagine we were both relieved when she outgrew the puppy chewing stage.

One of our friends had a Scottie dog and Rox was not a fan. Casey, the Scottie, wanted to play but Rox was not having any of it. Once, Casey was chasing Roxanne around and she crawled under the coffee table to get away, as if Casey couldn’t see her! When Rox had had enough, she would come into my office and crawl under my desk by my feet to get away.

My husband had managed to crate train Sammy, within two weeks and he was an old dog by the time we moved to the apartment. So, we reasoned, crate training a puppy should be easy. Never assume! There must have been a lot of crying, whimpering or panting involved, based on the amount of drool in the bottom of the crate, and she also broke her bottom teeth, trying to chew her way out of the crate. That wasn’t Roxanne being a puppy, that was her being terrified. The Vet’s verdict was “Separation Anxiety” so, bye-bye crate. As a result, Rox pretty much always had the run of the house when we had to leave her to go somewhere. The doorway into the kitchen was too wide for a gate; closing the closet type door at the top of the steps going down to the basement didn’t work either.

When we went on trips she went to the kennel. We have been very fortunate through the years, in every community we lived, we had good kennels with compassionate owners. There was one time we probably should have arranged for Rox to stay at the kennel that we did not. My husband was scheduled for a medical test that we thought would be relatively routine. It turned out that we were at the hospital for almost twelve hours.

A picture of a dog, Roxanne, sprawled out behind the couch.

When we got home, I went up stairs to the bedroom and saw the sheets disturbed. I thought perhaps my husband had started to change the sheets and changed his mind. But no, that wasn’t it. When I looked closer I saw that Roxanne had expressed her displeasure by getting the sheets somehow untucked and leaving behind signs of her annoyance that we would be gone so long. I was grateful in that moment that what she left behind was solid and not liquid!

Roxanne loved attention and really enjoyed visitors. She was pretty sure that any visitors who came to the door, came to pay her homage. We had the good fortune to have her with us for a little over 14 years and she was just a few months shy of her 15th birthday when she died. Once again, we wept and grieved. And I was not, do you hear me, not getting another dog. If we ever got another dog, it would be when I retired. And I meant it! But, I was unprepared for the huge void her death left in our home and in our hearts. Still, we gave ourselves time to grieve.

a picture of a beagle being walked on a leash, background green grass with  sun shinning on it.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

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