***This post feels silly in the light of all that is happening in Haiti. Though, as I am learning to feel what I am experiencing, I am coming to terms with my need to grieve what is happening in my life as it is happening. So here goes, An ode to our faithful companion in the wake of his moving in with his new family.***
It was October 2010 when we went on a walk behind our house with Anna, Levi, and Lydia who were 8, 6, and 1 years old respectively. We passed a house with puppies in the back yard and we wanted to see them as we had been wanting a dog. We walked around to the front of the house and asked if they were selling the yipping puppies in their yard. They said yes and we spent quality time meeting everyone of them. There was one little guy, who was all red, so gentle and friendly, and ALL OVER Levi. Levi was commissioned to make the choice. Although we could not take him home that day, the next weekend, Sheriff Coleman, a red boxer-beagle mix joined our family. He sat on our laps everyday and as his size changed he continued to expect to sit on our laps. We sat on the floor everyday because he wanted to be in our laps as much as possible. Even when he hit 60lbs, there was room on our laps for him. When Lydia was a baby he would lay perfectly still as she napped with her head on his body. He took family vacations with us to Payson, AZ and we let him run over the tall grasses at the lake. He could roam free at that lake because if we called him, he ran bounding over the grasses back to our side. He was so protective and hated when Lydia was pushed in her playschool car because he thought she was being hurt. He looked after all of us and would only be aggressive to stand between us and someone he did not know. He eagerly ran many, many miles at my side and was never as excited as when he saw his leash and my running pants. He started cozying up with Levi to sleep in our home in AZ when Levi was 10.
He moved with us to CA to train for our move to Haiti and dealt with that move like a champ. Then when it was time for us to travel and speak to raise our funds to move to Haiti, he moved to Kris’ parents house. We left him that day to travel and speak and I will never forget the sound of him crying, I cried too. After 2 months on the road we returned to get our boy and he would not let us out of his sight. When it was time to pack up to go, he bolted outside to make sure he was in the car this time. When we moved to Haiti, he moved right with us. He was so good in Haiti and still fiercely protective of his family, alerting us to all movement outside the gate and especially someone wanting to enter. His face and ears and paws greyed fast during his years in Haiti. He stayed near the children and slept most nights in Levi or Lydia’s room. He stayed at our feet for staff meetings and met so many people. I am pretty sure he learned some creole. Haiti was hard on his body and hard on his nerves and we began to think through moving him home to the US.
When our furlough was approaching we realized with broken hearts that he could not come with us to America. We decided that the best decision was to leave him in Haiti with a trusted friend so that he would be with us when we returned. We just weren’t ready to give up on having him his entire life! She sent us pictures and keep us informed about how he was doing. He was happy with her. Unfortunately, the news that our friend needed to leave Haiti meant the dogs needed to leave too. With the great decrease in missionaries on the ground there just was no one who we were aware of who could keep him for us. His nerves wouldn’t allow him to stay with just anyone so “Operation get Sheriff out of Haiti” began. He traveled with our friend past roadblocks, gangs, and burning tires. It was a harrowing journey that needs to be made into a movie. He landed in FL on a Missionary Flight Cargo plane where Kris met he, 2 other dogs, and our friend.
While it was a logistical nightmare to get him to the US, It had to be done. We so badly want him with us, but cannot have him as the housing we are in does not allow dogs. We are in the missionary housing of City First Church and they have served us so beautifully. We understand their rule as they have SO many people in and out of these apartments. He can’t be with us and we have to admit that it is our sweet Sheriff’s time to retire from the mission field. Haiti is hard on him and he deserves better in his last years. His joints are stiff, he is tired, he is stressed, his back hurts, and his precious face is grey. He is 9.5 years old now and he has protected and loved us on 2 continents and for nearly a decade. We have loved him too and will tell you that there has never been a better very good, sweet good boy.
We love you, and as much as our hearts ache that you cannot stay with us, we know that Aunt Michal, Uncle Wessie, Presley, Emme, Gray, and their boxer Llama are your family now. You will be happier with them. We love you very good, sweet good boy! Please don’t forget us because, I promise we will never forget you. If we could do this work in Haiti and have you, that is what we would do. We cannot do both but Oh my broken heart wishes we could. Be happy sweet boy, because you made us so very happy and you helped make Haiti a good place for our kids while they adjusted. You did good work and if we could tell you that everyday for the rest of your life, it would not be enough.
To the Robertsons:
The tears will slow eventually and when they do we will know that he is where he can be happiest. Thanks for loving our boy and for letting him love you. He will fight for you, rest assured. As you are professional dog spoilers, I know that his most comfortable years are ahead. He will be a most faithful friend to Llama and you all. He is made of all things gentle and kind and is well suited to a life of couch space and heated blankets. Thank you for giving him the last part of his life with your amazing family. It makes giving up the last years of his life bearable.