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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Palmer The Eskimo Dog

August 14th, 2008

He was 7 months old when I got him. A happy, furry, pure white bounce of energy. A girl in my church was moving back east and couldn’t have pets where she was going. So I bought him for $75. A purebred AKC registered American Eskimo dog. Opening the door of the car, he jumped in the front seat and insisted on sitting on my lap with his head out the window for the ride back to my house.

We’ve been buddies ever since.

They say there are “dog people” and “cat people”. I am a dog person. Though I have nothing against felines, I think dog ownership is a significant mark of mental stability. When you hear someone described as having a lot of dogs, you think friendly and fun and chasing Frisbees in a big backyard. Hear the phrase, “big house, lots of cats” and you picture rooms stacked with old newspapers and a woman with the psyche of a tippy canoe. Besides that, I just can’t see paying to keep an animal that is indifferent to you half the time.

One of the reciprocal commands given in the New Testament is to “greet one another”. Palmer made everyone feel welcome. And his watchdog abilities were superb. Door knocks, doorbell rings, cat in the backyard, someone in the alley, garbage truck, all got barked at. I grew to trust his senses. If I thought I heard a noise outside, I’d just look at him. If he didn’t lift his head off the tile where he was chilling, then I went back to my business.

Palmer was a looker. When he was groomed, one of the prettiest dogs I’ve ever seen. Wherever I took him, he got compliments. He was charming, even in his disobedience. Though it was probably a coincidence that he chose to do it on my blind side, during my first semester of seminary he sat right next to me while I was writing a paper and chewed the straps off my backpack. Upset as I was, it was tough to be mad at that face.

I wasn’t the only one who observed that Palmer was very tuned in to people’s emotions. During several episodes of profound sadness and concern, including the deaths of friends and my Dad’s stroke, Palmer would come to where I was sitting, put both paws on my leg and stare at me. If you were crying, he’d stay close till he thought you were ok, then lay down. But always close enough to keep an eye on you.

The lifespan of pets are mile markers in the timeline of a family. When the holiday dinner is finished and reminiscing begins over cups of coffee and slabs of pie you’ll hear someone start a story, struggling to remember the particular year. Coming up empty on the numbers, they’ll pause, and say, “Well, you remember. It was back when Dad had Pete the dog.” And everyone who was around back then smiles and nods. And the memory of old Pete eases them into the recollection, as smoothly as sliding into the seat of that ’67 Chevy pickup Pete used to ride in.

Palmer’s lifespan included significant markers in my life. My first year in seminary. My first house. My last year in seminary. And of course the birth and adoption of my children. When Annie and Emma came home from the neo-natal unit, Palmer kept his distance. He wouldn’t get close to them. Maybe he was hoping that they were only visiting. This went on for a couple months. One evening I was holding the girls on the love seat, one in each arm. I called Palmer over and told him to join us on the cushion. He came over and after some encouragement, reluctantly hopped up but immediately turned and gave us the cold shoulder.

I said, “Look, Palmer. This is Annie. And this is Emma. They are here to stay. You need to be nice because they’re going to grow up and want to play with you.” I turned so he could see them both. He looked at me, gave each of them a lick on the head and jumped back to the floor.

After that, everything was fine.

The last road trip Palmer made was relocating with me to Texas. A younger Palmer would have found a way to get in by himself. But I had to lift him up into the seat because it was too high and he was too old. Driving out and away from our home of many years, I cried and prayed, talking out loud to God and to my dog. Palmer sat in the passenger seat, tongue out, face in front of the air conditioning vents, watching the white lines approach and disappear under the U-Haul; every turn of the tire taking us further away from familiar faces and closer to everything undiscovered.

Palmer died last Thursday. Just three days shy of his 15th birthday. Lots of dogs don’t make it half that long. Chalk it up to a good life, plenty of cool tile and air conditioning in Arizona, and lots of people loving him back for the affection he so freely gave.

The Bible doesn’t say if dogs are in heaven or not. It does say that in the future God will create a “new heaven and a new earth”. We don’t know what that will look like. Yet it stands to reason that if God’s first created earth had dogs and He pronounced it “good”, then the new earth will probably will have plenty of room for all the Fido’s and Rover’s and Palmer’s to run and play. 

I sure hope so.

“Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

– Mark Twain

Todd A. Thompson – www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com