Balaam & Tasha

Dear Mark,

First, I’d like to say THANK YOU for all you do! From your outspoken comments about our failing U.S. system(s) to our wonderful troops that protect our freedoms! You, Sir, are an asset to the true American way-of-life!

I am a dedicated listener to your great show, I only wish it was 3 hours instead of 2, but be-that-as-it-may, you do a great job! Keep it up!!

OK…. on to the story of our wonderful and loving dog. I hope this isn’t too long, but it’s a story worth it’s weight (in our opinion). We have yet to purchase your book, “Rescuing Sprite”. I think we would like to, but like you, loosing a dog was a very hard and traumatic time in our lives, and we’re not sure if we want to re-live it again right now. I have heard so much about your book, and know that it would be an added asset to our library. So, we will be getting it soon I hope, before they are all gone.

One day while living in Arkansas and working as a District Manager for a company, my wife-to-be and I were driving about conducting the business of the day in a rural area. It was a beautiful, yet chilly, winter day in late January of early February of 1992. As we were rounding a corner my wife spotted a dog at the edge of the tall grass next to the road. I can still remember her words…. “Oh, look! Isn’t he cute? He’s looking right at us, I wonder if he’s lost?” I was more concerned about getting done with the task at hand and simply acknowledged her statement. Then, to my dismay, she said, “Let’s stop and see if he needs help before he gets out in the road.” To that, I said what I thought was a very safe and cunning answer, “OK, let’s get done with what we need to do, and if he’s still there when we come back through, we’ll stop.” After all, we were about to get married, and the last thing we needed was a dog! Or so I thought!

On our way back through, low-and-behold, there he was!! In the exact same spot too! So, being a man of my word, and also because my fiancée said, “Oh, there he is!!”, we stopped on the shoulder near the tall grassy area that he was sitting near. As we got out of the pickup she noticed that he was only a puppy. Upon further examination, the puppy was a male, had no collar, seemed to be a little underfed, and a little cautious. We looked around and couldn’t see a house anywhere nearby and wondered what we should do. As we were contemplating the situation, we started petting him, and … inevitably… falling in love with him right then and there. He looked like a Chow-mix, yet had a snout that wasn’t indicative of the Chow. He was red and black in color with a little blonde thrown in. He was going to be a long-haired dog, that was for sure. His paws were large and we knew he was going to be a pretty large dog as well. He took to us right away, and a decision had to be made. We had a box of “Cheez-Its” in the truck and offered him a few which he gobbled up in a big hurry! Yep… sure enough… he was lost, hungry, alone, and needed a place to call “home”. To make a long story short, we made a collar out of some old baling twine I had in the truck and a tie leash and put him in the back of the pickup and tied him in for safety. He loved the ride!

We took him to a vet that week, and found out that he was approximately 3 months old, very healthy yet malnourished, was indeed a Chow-mix (probably with Sheppard, Lab, or Australian Sheppard — even though a later vet told us that to her he looked like an American Chow, not a mix), and that he would grow to be about 70 pounds! We now had a new member to our soon-to-be family! And what a member he would be!

My wife was the one who named him. We had a favorite Christian singer named Don Francisco that wrote a song named “Balaam”. The last line of this song was… “So, if the Lord starts using you, don’t ya pay Him any mind. He coulda used the dog next door if He’d been so inclined.” Since I remembered that Balaam was a cantankerous Prophet of Old, and since this young pup was too in his own way, when she brought up that song and the name of “Balaam”… it was a perfect fit! So, our puppy’s new name was “Balaam”.

To not bore you with the hundreds, if not thousands, of details and neat stories of his life with us, we’ll jump ahead about 12 years. He was always a very energetic, loving, loyal and playful dog for many, many years. He was the “son” we never had! We have no children, and he was our life! Then in the 12th year Balaam started developing arthritis and was loosing his hearing slightly. We had to change our way of life a little to accommodate him. Not rent a place with stairs, get his attention visually instead of simply calling him, things like that. As time progressed, we put him on glucosamine and chondroitin daily and an aspirin every other day, per our vet’s recommendation, which made a tremendous difference in the arthritis and in his quality of life.

However, about the 14th year (Spring of 2006) his hearing got considerably worse, and he was loosing his sight. We were praying hard that the Lord would simply take him quietly and peaceably in the middle of the night. We had never had to make the decision to “put a dog down” and really couldn’t face it. By the end of the Summer, he was getting worse. Waking us up in the middle of the night, with a strange barking he had developed, needing to be taken out. He was having bladder problems and was drinking water like it was going out of style. By early September, a decision had to be made when he was getting caught in corners, bumping into things that he had known were there for years, and loosing all energy. We prayed even harder for an answer, and secretly I think, hoped and pleaded with God that He would take him so we wouldn’t have to face the inevitable! Yet, I suppose the Lord had other plans. Sometimes we must go through the things that we fear most to grow as a person and to maybe be a help to others as well.

On the first weekend of September, we mustered up the inner-strength to make this unbelievably hard decision. We called our vet, explained the situation, and she told us to bring him in that day. We were hoping (for our sake) that it would be later that day, or maybe the next week hoping beyond all hope. But, the time was then and it was at hand, and we were forced to that precipice we had prayed that we wouldn’t have to face!

We drove him to our vet. It was a sad, long and very quiet drive on that sunny and crisp September Saturday morning. When we arrived, my wife said her tearful goodbyes to our family member one last time, and choked through her tears that she could not go in. I completely understood, for I too felt the exact same way. It was then my turn to say my final goodbye to Balaam, my buddy, my loyal friend and confidant. I tried to be strong, but found myself with tear-filled eyes and even filled with a sense of guilt. But, he looked at me with those big brown eyes, that had been glazed over with blindness, with a look of complete understanding and even a thank you. I was awestruck and relieved. I knew then he was ready and I finally understood that he would be better off not having to suffer just because of our selfishness of wanting to keep him here. I walked him in with his retractable leash that was attached to his red collar. I could hardly speak when the vet’s assistant saw us. She too had tears in hers eyes when she saw the anguish I was in, and asked if we wanted to go in with him to the procedure and say our goodbyes. I said thank you, no, and assured her that we had already said our goodbyes. I handed her the debit card and when she had me sign the receipt, it was as if I was signing a death-warrant… it was surreal. She then asked if we wanted the leash and his collar. I was too upset by this time and told her no thanks. That was the right decision for us. I did ask her though to please make sure he is comfortable, not alone and that the vet doesn’t hurt him. She assured me that it would be a very calm, quiet and painless and that the vet would be there until it was over. I petted him & patted his head one last time, nodded to the girl and watched him disappear as she took him through the door that led to examining areas. I turned, wiped my eyes, and left. I went to the car, opened the door and plopped down in the driver’s seat in a mass of emotions. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity wondering if we’d done the right thing. I turned to my wonderful and beautiful wife and held each other and cried for a few moments and once again made the sad, long, and very quiet drive back to the house.

To this day, we know we made the right decision. He is in a better place and out of his misery. We also thank God that He made us go through this. Even though it still brings back many, many memories that are hard to deal with, He blessed us with Balaam for 14 ½ years! That was 14 ½ years of joy, love, and companionship that couldn’t be replaced by anything! Thank you God….and thank you Balaam!!

Yet, this is not the end of the story! After about 2-3 weeks of grieving, we couldn’t stand walking into a dark, lonely, and empty home. It didn’t feel right. So we decided to go out and about testing the water, so to speak, to see if we could find another dog. Not as a replacement, mind you, because there is simply no replacing Balaam… but as an addition to his memory and as another companion and addition to our family. After a couple weeks of looking and not finding that certain match, we ended up at a mall in Texas City, TX. that had a place set up showing dogs that were rescued from area shelters. There she was… even though she wouldn’t have been our first choice. She was calm, looked healthy, yet was shy. She had been abused, that was for sure! They told us she was a Doberman mix… probably with Sheppard…. and about 1 ½ years old. We weren’t quite sure about the Doberman aspect, but when she took to us pretty well, we decided to apply for her. Even though Balaam will always live in our hearts & memories as a very special dog that gave us many years of love and enjoyment, and had unique ways and gifts that no other dog will have, another dog would too have their special ways about them. Again, to make a long story short… we are so happy that we chose her, and that she chose us! Her name is Tasha and she is another wonderful, kind, loving, playful, the craziest and … if I may boast… the smartest dog I’ve ever owned!! We now pray that she will be with us for many years to come. We have again been blessed with an addition to our family that we will NEVER regret!

Thank you for your time Mark, and for the chance to share our story! God bless you!


Mike and Renee from TX



2 Responses

  1. Cheryl O'Lear Says:

    What a loving and touching story.

  2. Preston Says:

    Mike % Renee,

    Thank you for sharing your touching story. I just lost my sweet dachshund, Belle, of 4 1/2 years with a back disease. It’s amazing how these little critters can pull on your heartstrings in the strangest ways. May Balaam and Belle rest in peace.

    God bless,

    Preston from Angleton,TX