Mark, I saw your book recommended in a flyer and had to get it. It took me quite awhile to get through it, as I had to stop and clear my eyes many times.
Over two years ago, I lost my beloved Bike. Afterwards, I wrote a short story of his life. This is the first time I’ve shared it with anyone.

Bike was a male sheltie, 7 years old, taken from me much too soon. He had congestive heart failure, and by the time we found out, his poor lungs were filled with fluid and blood. He was, quite literally, drowning internally.
Bike left this world at 1:00 A.M., May 29, 2005.

I remember the first time I learned about Bike. I already owned two shelties, both female, and I was single. I didn’t really need another dog, but some friends from work were doing foster care for a shelter, and asked me to come look at him; just in case. Yes, I should have known better, but I did it anyway. Looking back today, I’d have to say that I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I fully believe God wanted me to go see him, because He knew how much we needed each other.

Bike was roughly a year old when I met him. His first owner had abused him. How, we’re not certain, but Bike was very submissive (he would never completely overcome this one trait). When I came in the house, he was in their back yard. As they brought him in to the kitchen, I sat on the floor and just stayed there, letting Bike know that I wasn’t going to do anything. He didn’t come up to me at first, but he didn’t run away as they brought him over either. To them, this alone was something. Bike didn’t care for strangers, and usually didn’t want to be near them.
I petted him a couple of times, but I could tell he wasn’t really comfortable just yet. So I stopped, and let him go wherever he wanted. Back to the back yard, as it turned out. They asked me what I thought, and I said he seemed nice, but I’d have to think about it.
So I did. For two days, I thought about it, prayed about, and even (yes) talked it over with my other two shelties, Lady and Nika (they were very supportive, at least at first).
After two days, I called my friends and asked if I could see Bike again. I wanted to see how he reacted to me a second time. They agreed, and I went over the next day. Bike still wouldn’t come up to me on his own, but he didn’t try to leave when I stopped petting him either. So I continued to pet him, and then slowly stood up. At first, Bike cowered down in his submissive attitude, but I kept petting him, and he raised back up. When I quit petting, he tentatively jumped up to encourage me to pet him some more. Not really in a loving manner just yet, but definitely a trusting one. We were all happy with this, and I agreed to take him.

Of course, then I found out that it wasn’t quite that simple. Bike was fostered through C.A.R.E (Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for animals), which requires you to submit a request to adopt the animal. And they are very thorough! They asked how many pets I had, how many I’d had in the past, how long I’d had them, references, and more. And yes, they called the references to check me out! Thank God, I passed with flying colors. Everyone who knows me knows I love animals. Within a week, Bike was mine…and I was his.

Like most pets, Bike had an adjustment period with Lady and Nika; more with Nika, really. Lady has always been accepting, but Nika was territorial. She didn’t try to attack Bike, but she let him know certain spots in the house were hers. This was fine with Bike; he picked his own spots. Usually ones she couldn’t get to. Nika is simply too short and too heavy to jump up on the bed, and Bike wasn’t. So the bed became one of his spots. Also the recliner, and sometimes the couch.
After about a week of these two going back and forth, with Lady watching and doing little else, they settled into their routine. Nika was dominant, but Bike was the male; they got along fine.

I had my first real scare with Bike after just two weeks. I had to work a weekend (this happened about once a month), and it was a nice, pleasant one. I decided Bike could stay out back. I have a large, fenced-in back yard, and Lady frequently stays out there when I’m gone. Nika doesn’t like to; she prefers to be indoors if I’m not home. Bike seemed to enjoy the outdoors, running and chasing and barking, so I figured he’d be fine.
This was on a Friday morning. When I got home that evening, around 11, he wasn’t there. Lady was, but Bike was gone. My first thought was someone took him, but I didn’t understand why they would take him and not Lady; not to mention how they could have gotten him to go with them in the first place.
After looking around a bit (and panicking a lot), I found out that Bike had dug under the fence gate enough to crawl through. He’d apparently seen something he wanted a closer look at, and he went to get it.
I spent two hours walking and driving, calling for him, crying, and praying. Nothing. He was not to be found. Finally, I had to go home and get some rest, as I had to be at work the next day again.
Naturally, though, I got up early and looked again. Still nothing. By now I’m really in a panic. I already suspect I’ll be working a very long day, and I have no idea where Bike is or what kind of shape he’s in. And there appears to be nothing I can do about it. I prayed that someone would at least find him, take him in, and treat him as well as I wanted to. I didn’t want him wandering the streets, trying to find food and shelter.
I spent 17 hours at work that day; it was one of the worst days of my life. I couldn’t leave without losing a job I’d had for only a month, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Bike.
When I got home, I once again spent two hours looking around the neighborhood. I may have even woken up a few people, shouting for him. I didn’t care. I wanted my Bike back! But still, he was nowhere to be found. Finally, exhausted beyond belief, I went home and went to bed.
The next morning I was drained. I was determined I was going to look for him one last time, but I’d also begun to accept the fact that I might never see him again. I followed my usual morning routine; get ready for work, feed the dogs, let them out back while I read my Bible.
But this time was different. When I let them out back, Nika went straight for the gate at the carport and just stood there, staring. She’d never done that before. She either ignored the gate, or barked at whatever was on the other side of it. Could it be? Did I dare hope?
I went down the stairs and looked over the gate. There, standing on the other side waiting to be let back in, was Bike! He barked, and I opened the gate as fast as I could. He ran in and began running around, barking, wagging his tail, and generally acting like the silly dog he was. Me, I hugged him, cried, loved on him, and didn’t want to let him go.
Finally, I decided I needed to look him over. Not a scratch on him! To this day, I don’t know if he stayed away from everyone for two days, or if someone took him in for two days. I suspect an angel had a lot to do with it.
I got all of my dogs in (all three of them!), fed Bike and gave everyone an extra treat before I left for work one more time that weekend. And this time, I was home shortly after noon. I don’t believe I left that house the rest of the day, except to go out back with them again.
The next day, with all three of them safely inside again, I went to the hardware store and got some ¼ inch bars. I cut them into 6 inch lengths, and placed them in the ground under the gate. Bike would not be getting out that way again! Of course, Bike never stayed outside while I was gone again either.

The next few years were more comfortable. Bike wasn’t left outside if I wasn’t home, and he wouldn’t try to get out if he knew I was. So the back yard was his playground.
Unfortunately, he decided a few other places were also his playground. I had already bought a “kiddy gate” to block entry to my middle bedroom, which I use as an office. I also keep the cat’s litter box in there, and Nika and Lady both would go in there and get into the litter box. So I put up a kiddy gate when I left. Domino, my cat, could jump over it, but Nika and Lady couldn’t.
As I mentioned before, Bike decided the bed was one of his spots. I saw nothing wrong with him sleeping on there while I was at work. That is, until the day I came home and found he’d peed on it. I never did find out why, but given his submissive nature, I suspect something scared him (maybe the mailman), and he peed. Why he never did on the floor, I really don’t know. Of course, I also really don’t know that he didn’t. One of the dogs did, but I always though it was Nika, since she was paper-trained and had been known to have bad aim. Anyway, I had to buy another kiddy gate and put it on my bedroom door. Funny thing is, Bike could have jumped over it easily. It wasn’t as high as the bed. But he never did.

I have my favorite recliner. Bike decided it was his favorite as well, as long as I was sitting in it. Actually, wherever I was sitting was his favorite spot. He would come up, lay his head against my leg and just look up at me with “puppy dog” eyes, and I would gently slap the recliner beside me. Bike would jump up next to me, get comfortable, and put his head up on my chest to get some love. This lasted for about 30 seconds before he turned just a little so he could get his belly rubbed instead. Oh, how he loved his belly rubs!

One of the funniest things Bike did was when I let him out back. He would tear down the side of the fence to the back of the yard, barking the whole way. What was he barking at? Your guess is as good as mine, but whatever it was, he was going to let it know he was there and he was ferocious!

Bike would bark when I took all of the dogs out front as well. I did this every morning and every evening. It didn’t matter that there was no one else out there; Bike was going to bark! He really loved to bark.

Bike also slept with me in my bed. I suspect he did it a lot more than I know. I have a queen-size bed, and the other pillow stayed covered in dog hair. It was his sleeping spot. He would actually curl up against it and go to sleep. I tried getting him a dog pillow on the floor, but he didn’t care for it. I guess he wanted to be with me as much as he could.

Whenever I would go on a trip, I would get some friends from church to come over twice a day and check on my dogs. This brings me to the one and only time Bike actually nipped someone. Dennis, one of my best friends and my preacher’s son-in-law, was going to watch them, and he decided it would be a good idea for them to get to know him first. I agreed, up until he thought he should go in the house alone while I waited outside.
When he came back out, he told me that everything went fine, except Bike tried to nip his shoe when he walked in! Dennis wasn’t hurt, Bike didn’t even put a dent in the shoe. But it was so funny to both of us! Bike, who was so submissive, basically attacked Dennis!
Of course, after Bike got to know Dennis, he loved him as well.

One of Bike’s sillier stunts was to drag my clothes out of the laundry hamper; another reason I had to put up a “kiddy gate” to my bedroom. Why he did this, I really don’t know. He would only take one piece of clothing out, and he’d drop it within six feet of the hamper. He never chewed on it, or did any type of damage to it. As best as I can figure, he smelled me on the clothes, and wondered if I was down in there somewhere.

Looking back, it seems that the next few years flew by. When I got up in the morning, Bike was there, wanting me to pet him. When I went in the bedroom to get dressed, he would jump up on the bed and sit there, watching me. When I left for work, he would bark and bark. I finally had to start giving him (and the others) a treat when I left to calm him down; otherwise, he would keep going. When I got home, he was already barking as I walked up to the front door. As I walked in, he would “attack” me, jumping up and wanting grab my hand. When I let him out back, he would again race to the back of the fence, barking at absolutely nothing, but being very determined in it. When I sat down to watch TV, he wanted to sit next to me while I rubbed his belly. When I went to bed, there he was again, in the bed waiting for me. Bike’s greatest pleasure, it seemed, was being near me.

May 29, 2005; a day I’ll never forget. I went to bed around 10:30 that night, as I usually do. I’d given Bike, Nika, and Lady their biscuits for bedtime, and they were all settling down to sleep. The next thing I know, Bike comes up to the bed, panting about 2-3 times a second. I’d never seen any dog do this, and I had no idea what was wrong. Bike didn’t act like anything was hurting him, and I wondered if something had just gotten him excited. I petted him, calmed him down, and he did slow his breathing down. I figured everything was okay.
Fifteen minutes later, he was back at the bed, doing it again. Okay, this is now getting weird. I went to the computer and looked up his symptoms on the internet, hoping to find something. The first thing that came up mentioned overheating. Well, it had been one of the hottest days of the year so far, and all three of them had stayed outside much longer than usual that day (they hadn’t wanted to come in). Maybe that was it. The article said to calm him down, get him cooled, and let his temperature drop to normal. I had no idea if his temperature was up or not, but I turned the air conditioner down a degree to force it on, and got Bike under a vent. We stayed there a few minutes, and his breathing slowed down again. I felt better, and went back to bed.
A few minutes later, Bike was back at the bed, panting fast again. I knew I had to get him to a doctor. I looked up an all-night veterinarian in the phone book and called them. I explained what was going on, and they explained their minimum charge (not the biggest thing on my mind right then). I got dressed and rushed Bike there; it was about a 10 minute drive.
Once there, they checked him over, and found that he did not have a temperature. I supposed that was a good thing, but it made me wonder why he was breathing so fast. They asked to take Bike back for an x-ray of his lungs, and I agreed.
The vet herself came back with the news. Bike’s lungs were filled with fluid. He had congestive heart failure. She explained that they could try treatment, but it wouldn’t cure it. The best we could hope for would be a few more months, and that was a stretch. A couple of weeks would be more realistic. And there was no guarantee that the treatment would work at all, and if it did, there was again no guarantee that more treatments would not be needed. She showed the x-ray, and pointed out that his lungs were showing as white on there, and they should have been black (this was the fluid we were seeing). There was so much in there, you couldn’t even see his heart through it.
I stood there and finally realized that the vet was gently telling me that Bike’s condition was too far gone; treatment might help, but it was doubtful. But the decision had to be mine.
I asked for a minute to be by myself. Once I was alone, I called my pastors and asked them to pray. Yes, it was now almost 1:00 in the morning, but I didn’t care. Thankfully, my pastors understand how I feel about my pets, and they agreed to pray with me.
I went back in and gave them my painful decision. I knew in my heart that Bike would not have lasted another week, and at some point during that, he would have not been able to breathe at all. He would have gone through a slow, agonizing death, not knowing why. And I couldn’t allow that, even though it meant giving up one more week with him. I asked them to end his suffering, now.
They brought Bike back in while they prepared, and left us alone. When I saw him, I knew I was right. He wanted so badly to come to me, but he was just too weak. And his tongue! It was so blue, I knew he was dying right there before me. We had to end this.
A minute later, they came back, ready to put him to sleep. The vet explained the procedure, and I simply nodded my head. I head Bike in my arms and gently stroked him as they administered the shot. He took one last shuddering breath, and then was gone. I kept stroking him, not wanting to believe it was over, but knowing it was. He was finally out of pain.

Do dogs have souls? Will I see Bike again someday? Is he even now running through Heaven’s fields, or sitting in Jesus’ lap, giving him wet puppy kisses? I believe the answer to all of these is yes. The Bible tells that “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). You cannot praise that which you do not understand. I believe Bike had breath, I believe he praised the Lord in his own way, and I believe he had a soul so he could.

Bike, you were one of a kind, and I will never forget you. I love you.

Bob from AR