He was born soon after I was, the runt of the litter (the pup – not me). The story goes that when Dad would come home from work, he would stop at the fence and pat and scratch the little guy. After a few weeks, when it looked like no one was going to buy him, the owners gave the little dachshund to Mom and Dad to keep. His official Kennel Club was Fritzschnitzel of South Hampton. To us, he was Fritz.
Fritz, I found out later, was a standard dachshund, which is less common than the miniatures you normally see. Of course, for most of my early life, Fritz was always there. A typical dachshund, he was stubborn, spunky, even courageous. With seven children in the house, more often than not the front or side door might be left open, since it’s a fact of life that it is much easier NOT to close a door all the way. That meant we had an average of 2.1 seconds before Fritz had nosed the door open all the way, and was off on an escapade. He loved to run and find new smells and sights. Of course, it came to us to try to find him, so we would hunt all over the neighborhood until we saw a black short-legged escapee. When we would call his name, more often than not, we would see him flanking and moving away from us, never breaking stride.
When we were transferred to Australia for two years, it didn’t make sense for Fritz to have to go through quarantine for months, so it was decided to leave him with Grannie and Grandad in Omaha. Seemed like a great idea, except when we got back, we found that my grandparents enjoyed feeding Fritz anything and everything off the table. Instead of a fairly svelte weiner dog, we were met with a 40-pound full sausage. From that point on, his belly would run dangerously close to dragging on the ground. It also slowed his gait a little bit, and he ended up with a permanent hematoma on his tail, where constantly, he would escape out the door, and make it almost all the way, except for having the middle of the tail slammed in the screen door. That was Fritz.
His favorite spot in the house was on the corner of the couch. It was frankly his throne, and all the children knew that there was where Fritz deserved to be. In his early years, he would simply fling himself on to the couch; later, as he grew older, he could jump and get his front legs on the cushions, and then it was our job to lift him the rest of the way. Even later, as an old dog, he would sit and look at the couch, and wait for one of us to heft those 40 pounds on to the couch itself. It was our job, and it was to take him on a walk most every evening. I wish today I could do that. He was a good dog.
But he was a scavenger! One Easter, as we lived in South Carolina, while we were all getting ready to go to the sunrise service, Fritz got out of the side door. When we discovered him, he was moving as warp speed, from candy egg to candy egg that the Easter Bunny had hidden for all of us to search for after church. It was a scene of devastation, as it was a few hours later when all those refined sugars passed through his system. He had not one ounce of remorse for his transgression – there was almost a smile on his face.
When we camped or took day trips, of course Fritz went right along. We would put down the back seat of the station wagon, and four of us and Fritz would ride along with no seat belts or any restraint. One time, when we were camping, Fritz got out, and Mom went to find him and called his name: “Fritz! Fritz!” Imagine her embarrassment when a German fellow replied from his campsite, “Ya! Who are you?” Perhaps one Fritz’s worst day was when we went on a picnic, and he managed to find himself caught up in a nest of burrowing yellow jackets who proceeded to sting him repeatedly. I can recall the image of Fritz howling because of the wasps, and then also howling because Mom had taken her shoe off to knock the insects off, but all Fritz understood was that he was being beaten by this woman! His poor big nose swelled up, and his entire body was hot to the touch. He recovered of course, but from that point on was always wary of Mom’s shoes…
I was fourteen and a freshman in high school when I came home one afternoon, and Mom met me at the door. Apparently, as Fritz was relaxing on the green grass in the front yard, Mom heard a loud “yipe” and went to see what the problem was. It turned out that this overweight old fellow, who was one of the hearts of our family, had succumbed to a heart attack – quickly and certain. Mom called Dad, and they took Fritz to the state park a few miles away, and buried him there. I remember going into the garage, and being transformed into a little boy, with tears streaming down my face, as I mourned the death of my very good friend. I find myself crying now as I remember and miss and rejoice in the life of that very good dog.
I hope you love something. It is part of our nature to celebrate, to remember and to mourn when we need to. When we are intentional about our feelings, we know that we are meant for each other, both humans and our pets. They talk about the bond that is forged, and indeed it is a bond, a tie that binds. I recall a number of persons, and even animals that have left my life, and left it better because my heart was opened to receive the gift of simply the presence of those beings.
Just thought you needed to know Fritz.
Word for the Day: munificent. Pronounced mew-NIF-i-sent, the word has a more regular usage than some. It means “lavish, or generous.” A munificent person is one who offers gifts and generous offerings to others, sometimes to organizations or groups. From the Latin, munificus, meaning “bountiful.” Literally, the word is from munus, “gift.” The verb munificare, “to enrich.” Any way you slice it, it calls to mind a generous and giving spirit that makes one’s life and the world a richer place. You know some munificent people.
Interestingly enough, the opposite of munificent is “mean.” When someone is mean, it isn’t defined as kicking cats or the like. It’s more like “mean old Scrooge.” It’s someone who, when they could show love, instead intend to show the absence of love. They withhold grace and offer nothing to someone in need. Scrooge’s mean heart was transformed into a munificent heart. May our hearts do the same.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.