So December 29, 2016 was a day I never wanted to come. This was the day we had to say goodbye to Rainier. It’s been less than 2 months, and I am hurting so. Rainier and I had 14 years together and he was an amazing soul, and I know I will find myself still missing him deeply for years to come.

I’m a little mad at him – hey, I thought we had a deal that he’d live forever or at least until after I’d gone. How dare him! But the last year had been quite tough for him. He’d gone from running to meet us when we came through the door to giving me a loving nod. His joints had started to give him a difficult time. And, our hardwood floors had become a struggle for him to manage. Mike had the great idea of getting him some toe grips for dogs and they helped, but he still had some tough times. And, not surprisingly, some of the grips didn’t stay on.
Rainier opened doors for our first dog Keely and for me, doors to conversations, friendship opportunities and even girlfriends for him. In fact, Keely and I had gone through dog training and he had been certified officially as a ‘good dog,’ and it was he who really trained Rainer. Rainier even allowed us to eat dinner even pizza at the coffee table – without begging for taste or bothering us at all.   

Yes, he was actually unusual in many ways – he had a unique look about him: after all, he was a rescue that was half otter hound and half some other type of hound, or so we believe. A friend of mine had a friend who found him with his litter and their mom in the middle of the road in a small box on a Christmas Eve. The box had been carefully placed to make it likely that it would be run over. But lucky me – that’s not what happened. Ha! To the person who placed him and his family out there, you failed – these pups found people to love them and take them in! 

Yes, he opened doors, made friends, sparked friendships for me…who knew? One day after we’d lost Keely we were at the dog park and a woman came over to greet us. She asked me specifically what was Rainier’s color. She said that was the exact color she wanted to dye her hair and had a hard time being able to describe that color to her hairstylist. Before I responded, I very carefully surveyed the park to make sure one of my friends wasn’t around and had put her up to it! As it so happens she was serious. We chatted for a minute, but I never did find out if she did get her hair dyed that color – I never saw her at the dog park again. But what an interesting encounter, all because of Rainier!

He made friends with our mail lady. One day we were outside and she stopped her mail truck and got out of it and asked if she could greet him. She got out and said hello to him, we had a short conversation, and then she was on her way. On another day, as she was making her route and we went over to greet her, she quickly let me know not to come and greet her without Rainier. She then giggled a little but just between you and me, I’m not sure she was kidding. Every time we were out in the yard she would get out of the mail truck and love on him a little. You know, he was just irresistible.  

Rainier always stayed close and made me feel loved. I still remember the first time Mike and Rainier met, and the look on Mike’s face – he was expecting a small dog, not one the size of Rainier.

He and Mike built their own special relationship and worked together to always make sure I was okay and felt loved – whether it was Rainier reaching out to Mike or Mike reaching out to Rainier, they made sure all was well with me and at our home in general. They worked together to always let me know I was loved, even on the toughest days with my health.

The tiniest things, like finding his toe grips around that had come off, to the largest things about him, have left a hole in my heart.

He’s the best listener I’ve ever met. Although if the truth be known, he was not a fan of me singing, and he was quick to let me know every time the mood struck me and I let out a song. Most every one who met him found something special about him – even my nephews liked that you could talk to him like he was a person, not a dog.  

His last day came much quicker that I was prepared for. Mike went with me to the vet. We had a short chat and she was quick and confident to let us know that it was his time. She let me lay with Rainier for a little bit and then continue to lay with him as he left us. It was so very hard to let him go, even to let go of him physically at that moment. I didn’t want to get up. When I did finally gather myself to get up, I turned around and there was Mike deeply moved as well and with his arms wide open.

This has been an extremely tough time for me. I haven’t been able to talk about losing him. I’ve asked my friends not to ask me to talk about losing him – it’s just been too hard.

I still come upon things that remind me of him and even bring me to tears. I never left Rainier without telling him I loved him. And oh how thankful I am for that! Many folks saw Rainier as a rescue but I see him as more the rescuer.

Lots of folks like to say that God entrusted their pets to them. But I would have to say God entrusted me to Rainier.

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This has been quite a year for Mike, Rainier and me. But in spite of some tough times, there have been some powerful and wonderful lessons I’ve learned. I’m a strong believer that you can find goodness in every situation – all you have to do is look for it.

As we begin this New Year, I’d like to give you a little encouragement. One of my favorite stories about Benjamin Franklin is when he went to visit Cotton Mather, a Puritan preacher. Cotton invited Benjamin to see his library. As they were headed into the library, Cotton called out to Benjamin to ‘stoop.’ Benjamin didn’t understand what Cotton was calling out to him and ended up bumping his head. There was a lesson he learned in that moment, and later even shared it with Cotton’s son.

You know, if Benjamin had just stopped for a minute and called out to Cotton to clarify what he said before he leaned in, he could have avoided bumping his head. How many times do we stay the course on things without being sure of what it is that someone, or something, is calling to us?

As we begin this New Year I would encourage you to take that extra second to listen to what it is that is calling to you. Is it a person, your heart, the Lord, a doctor – even your pet?

In 2016 I was blessed in every situation where I stopped to confirm the encouragement or direction that I should take, stopping for that extra moment to be sure and listen closely before I leaned in. I learned some incredible lessons from Mike, Rainier, my friends, the Lord…the list could go on. One incredible lesson was in beginning to share with you my personal journey. I received quite a bit of encouragement and support from Mike, Rainier and the Lord, and I’m so glad I did it. And it all started with a little voice in my heart. I am so grateful that I chose to listen, then lean in and share with you this journey – I’ve received support and encouragement beyond what I could have ever imagined. Thank you so much.

As we begin 2017, what is it that you should stop and take some time to listen to before you lean in? Whether it’s big or small, if you listen carefully before you do, I can assure you the lessons and blessings will be beyond what you might imagine.

Happy New Year!

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