Penny was a good dog.

Or IS Penny a good dog? Is or was? Which is right when a dog lives on in your memory? For that is what Penny will do.

We will remember the Penny who growled and lunged at the monster in the blanket.

When she blazed at full speed as she chased us around the outside of the house … after we got a big head start. And of course, how she loved to track down the hider in hide-and-seek. How she sat at the back door, seeming to know just when someone was about to pull into the driveway. How excited she got when she saw the grandparents … or anyone, really. But especially the grandparents. Or how she knew when we were pulling on the grandparents’ streets as we drove in the car. How she really, really wanted to chase those rabbits and sometimes snuck out the door before we could stop her. Did she really track down and kill that rabbit?  How she loved to play fetch … unless the ball rolled too far. And the Cone Bone. I know I will remember her as my once-a-week running companion … at least if it wasn’t too hot out.

I remember when we first got her. Don Rodenbaugh said she would become part of our family. I wondered about that at the time. She was, after all, just a dog. But she has become part of our family. She arrived nearly 13 years ago when our family was still forming and making bonds. Penny was a part of that. I doubt Jason recalls life without her.

She blended into our hectic life, even though she wanted her alone time, too. I recall the time as a puppy when she chased after Jason as he ran through the house nearly naked. As they both scampered along, Penny nipped at his underwear, somehow never catching skin. I remember that as the time when I knew I could trust Penny. She was one of us. She loved us. Maybe she loved everyone, but I guess that’s OK. That’s what is cool about being a dog. … D.O.G….G.O.D. Perhaps you recall the song on YouTube.

I remember when Matt really wanted Penny to sleep in her bed. Penny didn’t really like that, but she obliged … for Matt’s sake. As soon as he was asleep, she jumped down and found her private spot.  For a while, that was under David’s
bed, until we found out she was digging a hole in the carpet. Then eventually, she got too fat to sneak under the bed. Then at times (many times?) Mom would bring Penny into our bed. When I would come up the steps, I would hear tha-thump as Penny jumped down before I could come into the room.

Penny was always tuned to what we were doing and how we were feeling. When she was young, she always knew when I was going out for a run. But she didn’t like when we weren’t getting along. She seemed to find a lot of comfort standing in between my legs if an argument broke out. What did she do when I was the one raising my voice?

Penny was part of us until the end.  David was home last weekend and found that everyone else just had taken photos with her. He wanted one, too, but there was no camera with a working battery. David was disappointed. He knew the end could be soon. And it was. Three days after David left, Penny’s back legs failed her. She could no longer walk. She whimpered in pain whenever she tried – unsuccessfully – to get up.

Penny has me wondering about death. Death comes. It always comes. And the great ones seem ready. What is it about them that they can be so eager to go and yet so full of life while they are here? They do not want to die because they are
sad or hopeless. They enjoy it here, but they are excited by what is to come as well.  What is it about these people? That is what I wonder on the day of Penny’s passing.

Singer-songwriter Rich Mullins had that desire. He wrote of going like Elijah. He died at 41 in a car crash. St. Therese, the Little Flower, knew that she could find joy in all things, even death. She died at 24.

And yet, as Father Fata just said, every story about Jesus seems to be about healing. He raised Lazarus from the dead. And the only son of the widow. And Jairus’ daughter.

Jesus thought it was better that they should live. He did not teach his people to die, but to live and to live abundantly. (John 10:10)

Like Rich Mullins and St. Therese, St. Paul was one who lived abundantly and yet wondered about the alternative. He said in Philippians, Chapter 1, that “For to me, life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose.”

And so it is for the great ones … a difficult choice. But I am surprised St. Paul wrote of a choice. Certainly, he would not see it as his right to end the precious gift of life that he had been given. I suppose he was just trying to make a point, to illustrate his two great yearnings.

But for Penny, the time of choices is over. She made it nearly 13 years. That was all the time she had. We are glad she got to spend them with us. She taught us loyalty, enthusiasm and joy. She brought us laughter and she allowed us to
experience the quiet peace that comes from being with another living creature, just resting and relaxing.

I’m in my rights to say St. Therese and St. Paul made it to heaven and I hope Rich Mullins is there, but what about Penny? Is Penny in heaven? As lovers of mystery, we Catholics should not be surprised to find difficulty in locating a
black-and-white answer.

Perhaps the better question is … So, is God in heaven? And secondly … Is God here on Earth?

Perhaps it is those answers that made Rich Mullins, St. Therese and St. Paul so comfortable in either place.

As Amy so aptly recalled from the talk of the mission speaker at church, “God is here. And God is there.”

I hope I can do better to live like I believe both.

— Don from Boardman, OH