Updated: Feb 10
When we brought him home you could carry him in one hand. That changed rapidly as he grew into his big feet and floppy ears. Blaze, our strong, loyal, and handsome 120-pound African Lion Hound, aka Rhodesian Ridgeback. People would stop me and gush over how impressive he looked. What happen to him? Some thought that the line down his back was a scar. I explained that the breed has a unique characteristic in that the hair on their backs grow in the opposite direction. When he got excited, the hair on his back would rise and resemble a mohawk haircut. Blaze loved the attention, and I was a proud owner. I didn’t mind telling strangers about the breeds history of hunting lions in packs of 3. The term, “keep a lion at bay” came from these dogs. They were athletic enough to run with a hunter on horseback for up to 30 miles, and brave enough to chase after and distract lions while their masters took several shots at the big cat.
Blaze was a perfect family dog. He was good with anyone we invited into our home. You had to be invited 😊. Everyone in the house had a special relationship with him. He was my workout partner. Shortly after I got him, I got a health report that required me to pay better attention to my overall health. He helped me to get in shape. I used to walk/run him everywhere. The following visits to the doctor were much more enjoyable, my cholesterol levels were down, and I lost 5-7 pounds.
If you own a dog, you know how they can relieve stress. No matter what my day was like, he was consistent in giving unconditional love. When I opened the door, he was there wagging his tail to greet me. When I needed to get a break, he provided that to, “Babe I’m going to walk the dog.” Getting out with him was rejuvenating and relaxing. I was able to get away and process the day and collect my thoughts.
Three years ago, Blaze gave us a scare. He had lost 20 pounds was lethargic, not eating and dehydrated. I was concerned that he ate or ingested something during our walks. During the spring/summer months, herbicides and lawn care chemicals are used a lot and dogs are always sniffing around. In my mind I thought he ingested the residue of a lawn care product or consumed something that did not agree with him. After several trips to the vet and some antibiotics, he rebounded and gained all the weight back, disaster averted.
This week, he exhibited the same symptoms. I thought to myself we’ll institute the same protocol. Get him hydrated by any means including using a turkey baster to spray water in his mouth, get him to eat something including baby food and boiled chicken and rice. These remedies did not work, he could not keep anything down. Blaze was getting weaker and weaker day by day. We scheduled an appointment for the next day, but that night his condition dropped precipitously. I heard him moaning in pain around 4:00am, and I knew we had to rush him to the ER. My son and I carried him to the car, he was not able to walk on his own power. We were on the road calling around to find an ER that was open. The first two animal hospitals we contacted were either closed for the night or filled to capacity. We finally found one that would receive him. When Blaze was diagnosed the doctor said his condition was critical. When she returned the news got worse. She explained, if your dog was a human, he would need dialysis. Blaze was in kidney failure with a heartrate of 190 beats per minute. He was in excruciating pain and laboring. My wife and I made the decision to put him up. I say put him up instead of putting him down because I believe all dogs go to Heaven.
It was 7:30am, we had to race home because I had a conference for work. My wife and I decided to keep the news about Blaze until the evening so the kids could have a productive school day. That evening we huddled together in the living room explained the condition Blaze was in and the report from the veterinarian. We told them that Blaze had died. We cried as a family and consoled one another. It was a very sad time, but I had mixed emotions. Along with sadness, there was a lot of gratitude. I was thankful that God gave us such a wonderful creature. I was thankful that we got 3 extra years of companionship and joy. I was grateful that our family came together to pay tribute to our four-legged friend and beloved member of the family. We all received condolences from friends and loved ones.
As a father, teacher and leader in my home, I cherished the example being set. Blaze in his life and in his death taught us about the cycle of life. How we need to love and appreciate one another everyday because life is not guaranteed. Some people after a loss of a pet vow never to get another pet. I can certainly understand this sentiment, but that will not be our approach. We will always remember Blaze; he was one of a kind. With that said, when the time is right, we will again bring dogs into our home to share love and new experiences. What a special gift and amazing opportunity.
All the emotions, the tears, laughter, care, and stories we shared were all due to Blaze. These displays of love I believe makes God smile. Think about it, if man is made in the image and likeness of God, and dogs are “man’s best friend,” then I would think there is a special relationship and love the Father has for these beautiful creatures. Dogs have cemented their place in our homes and hearts by giving unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship .So, call me soft or whatever, If you ever cared for a dog, I think you would agree that All dogs go to heaven.