Tag Archive for Pets

What a Blessing Owney Turned Out to Be

By Wendi Warren

One year ago today, Bobby and I made the decision to adopt a 3–year-old terrier/beagle mix from the Wayne County Humane Society. He had been in our home for 4 days before we actually adopted him. That was so we could see if he got along with our cats, and the dogs of my sister and parent. He past the test and we made him ours on August 17, 2013.

Wendi and Owney

I remember how when we first got him, I was less than enthused to be entering the world of dog guardianship once again. Madison, our 14 year old husky/chow/shepherd mix had passed away only 5 months before. She was a perfect dog for us. A quiet, laid back sort of pet who was perfectly content to sit out in the snow on cold winter days.


So here comes into our lives this terrier mix who was anything but quiet and laid back–although to be fair, he hoodwinked us at the beginning making us think that he was quiet. In fact, he was the only dog at the Humane Society who didn’t bark when we went into the room. He just jumped enthusiastically in his X-pen. He kept the secret of his tendency to bark for almost 6 months. I guess he was waiting for us to be so in love with him that we could put up with his little quirk of barking … loudly … often … especially when we are trying to nap.


In the year since we have gotten Owney, our lives have changed dramatically. Before, during the summer months, Bobby and I would go bicycling on the rails to trails on the weekends. Since Owney, we haven’t been on our bikes once. You see, when you fall in love with someone, you want to do things he likes to do. Bikes are not something that Owney would like. However, walking is. So instead of go to bike trails, Bobby and I walk Owney on different paths. We especially enjoy the work out we get at Oak Hill Park.


Bobby tells me that I spoil Owney. I often deny that, but honestly I do. The dog is just so darn cute, it is hard not to! He loves toys. He loves shopping for toys.


If it has a squeaker, then it has his name on it. He loves to chew. I think maybe that he ended up in the Humane Society because of his ability to be destructive. But we have found if we give him things that he can chew, make it a game and allow the house to get messy, he is destructive in a controlled way.


One of our favorite games is “Where’s your toy?” This is a game that I came up with one day when I was trying to clean and he was getting into everything. I found a shoe box, threw his toy in it, put the box on the floor and asked him, “Where’s your toy?” He figured out it was in the shoe box and got it out. Now, when he has more energy than we do (which is often). We get a box and throw a toy in it. We then watch how long it will take him to destroy the box. I guess this is kind of like kids at Christmas who are more interested in the box than in the toy.


One of my most favorite things about being owned by Owney is the opportunity to just hang out on the couch and give belly rubs. At night, when I’m dog tired and so is he, we’ll sit on the couch, watch TV and he’ll snuggle up beside me and give me what we call in the Warren household, “full access”. That is where Owney lays on his back and lets me rub his belly. He’ll let me do this all night long. And I just love it -–  really.


So after a year of being a “parent” to a terrier mix; walking two times a day for 30 minutes at least; coming up with creative ways to keep him entertained; spending more money on dog toys than Dave Ramsey should know about; I am utterly in love with the boy. He is such a blessing and I thank God for him often. I wouldn’t recommend a terrier to anyone who wants to live a sedentary life, but he is ours now and I wouldn’t change that for the world.


How Many Words is This Photo Worth? What Does it Convey to You?

I have looked at the photo below often, thinking there is a story in there, some kind of lesson I can share with readers of this blog.


The photo was taken a few years ago, after my wife, Wendi, brought Mr. Thomas (then a little kitten) home after she attended a Wadsworth Community Band concert (her father plays with the band).

Here, Buddy seems to be indicating to the little man just how the pecking order goes, but Mr. Thomas will have none of that.

So, I thought I could write about resiliency, never giving up, David and Goliath, stand up for what is right.

Truth is, I love the photo, but I just don’t know what to say about it.

Will you help? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then is this at least worth 20, 30, 40 or 50 from you?

What story is this photograph conveying to you?

Five Things Madison Taught Me, I Thought You Should Know

Guest Post by Wendi Warren

This week my dog, Madison, passed away. It has been very hard to deal with her loss. However, when I reflect on her life, I see many things I can learn from her.  Here are five things:


1. Find a place to belong — Madison came to my house as a stray. I don’t know where she came from or what she had to deal with before she came to us, but she found a place to belong in our home. She taught me that sometimes we need to move on from one place to another until we find a place where we can be accepted and loved for who we are.

Madison and Wendi


2. Accept who you are — Madison was a mixed breed, so we were never really sure of her background, but she appeared to be a chow/husky/shepherd mix. This means she loved cold weather. There were many times when she would want to be outside in the cold and snow, instead of being in the warm house. She accepted that as part of who she was and we learned to, as well.  We stopped forcing her to come inside when we were “cold” and let her be where she was most comfortable. We need to learn to accept ourselves as we are, even if we have people in our lives trying to force us into being something we are not.

Madison and Wendi in snow

3. Learn to forgive — Madison, being a stray, could not tell us her history.  We found out after several years of being with us (through x-rays from a vet), that she had been hit by a car and shot with buck shots. However, she was the best dog around people. She never shied away from people. She enjoyed their company. She was a very pleasant dog. It is beyond me how she could be that way, when it is obvious in her early life, that people were not kind to her. She didn’t harbor any ill feelings towards people.  We should learn to forgive and forget no matter what wrong we have faced, because ultimately it affects us.



4. Persevere — Madison went through a lot in life and yet she continued to live her life the best way she could. She had an unfortunate accident with a paper shredder that took part of her tongue. Other dogs might have given up on being able to eat and drink, but Madison learned how to do both. She even was able to stretch her tongue muscle to lick some things, like her favorite — ice cream. We can learn a lot about persevering from her. No matter what difficulties we face, if we are still here on earth, we can overcome them and live a good life.


5. Enjoy the small pleasures of life — Madison loved ice cream and moist cat food. She loved to take walks and to sit in the shade. She enjoyed playing and laying in the snow. She loved car rides and a nice belly rub.  These weren’t big things. They were little things, but she enjoyed them to their fullest. She taught me that the real joy in life are the small things—spending time with family, doing things you love, enjoying good food.

Madison in leaves

I know this email is kind of long, but I hope you made it to the end.  As you go through life, consider Madison’s life and applying her philosophy to your life. Take care and have a good week.

Editor’s Note: Wendi Warren originally wrote this as an email (without these photographs) to young men and college students who were once in foster homes or residential treatment programs affiliated with The Village Network in Wooster, Ohio.

Memories of Madison, A Loving Dog and Companion

On Tuesday, Wendi and I said goodbye to our beloved Madison, a chow, shepherd, husky mix that came to us as a stray in Hillsboro, Ohio, around 15 years ago.


Madison was the sweetest dog, unless she was around other dogs, then, no, I wouldn’t say she was sweet at all. The only dogs she could be around without getting into bouts of barking and biting were Riley, Parker and Corky, all owned by other members of our family.

She was so gentle around babies and infants, softly kissing them and rubbing her them with her nose.

She was a great dog for us because she kind of just liked to keep to herself. She was content whether laying down on the futon, walking around outside on her lead or chilling out, literally, on the ice and snow for hours. She loved the cold weather, along with the ice and snow. She would stay outdoors in the winter for hours, not wanting to come in.


Madison was a fighter and a survivor, but in the end, she could not fight off what her own body was doing to her. Over the past week or so, she had not been herself. She was vomiting every day and having diarrhea.

We took her to the vet, and she was treated for stomach problems, perhaps something in her digestive tract. But, over the weekend, she became lethargic. She didn’t want to move. She was having trouble standing to that point that she would fall and go into a seizure.

So, it was back to the vet on Monday. Wendi and I agonized, cried and prayed as we wondered how we were going to handle this visit to the vet. To look at Madison from the neck up, she was very alert and active. But, from the neck down, she had very little function. We did not think she would come home with us.

To say Monday was a tearful day for Wendi and I would be an understatement. Perhaps, in some small way, we got a glimpse of what Abraham was going through with his son, Isaac. When Madison showed signs of improvement on Monday, we were hopeful. When she went home with us from the vet visit, it was as if we got her back from the dead.

But, Tuesday would be the fateful day for her. I took her out at lunchtime to go outside, and brought her back in. It would be the last time I saw her alive.

Earlier on Tuesday, when Wendi left for work, she kissed Madison and told her it was OK if she wanted to go be with God. We would understand. She did.


We had so many wonderful memories of Madison and with Madison. There was the time we were going to a baptism on a farm. The young boy wanted to be baptized in a creek on the farm. When we arrived, Madison saw a rabbit and jumped out of the window of our van. Needless to say, we never rode with the windows down all the way with Madison.

She loved Amish country. We would often take her on our trips through the Amish heartland.

Madison was primarily on a bones and raw food died. She loved Certified Angus Beef and Gerber’s chicken.

I mentioned earlier she was a fighter and survivor, and she was. Before she ever showed up on our door, she had been hit by a car, which damaged her pelvis, and she had been shot with buck shot. These were bits of history we found out in recent years when we had a scare with Madison. A vet did some X-rays and talked to my wife about what was discovered.

Because of the pelvis problem (she came to us pregnant), she could not deliver her puppies, and they did not survive.

Then, there was time her tongue got caught in a shredder, and about half of it had to be removed. If she would not eat or drink, then she would not have survived. Madison learned to drink again. We tried getting her water with a rubber nipple used for calves; it did not work. We tried syringes and plastic bottles. She eventually figured out how to get the water in.

Copy of Photo_033109_001

It is going to be tough not having her around. Madison really loved Wendi. Whenever she would see Wendi, Madison would get all excited, pinning her ears back and shaking her body. When the two of them went for walks, I swear Madison would prance. She loved her Mommy.

She also loved our cats. She never would hurt them. When Buddy was young, he would play with Madison. After we got Mr. Thomas, he always had to greet Madison at the back door when we brought her in. He would then run alongside her.

The 14 years we had with her were a blessing. There were probably three or four times when she was not expected to survive, but she always pulled through. There would be no pulling through this time, but it was a blessing that God took her, she didn’t suffer and we didn’t have to make the decision.

We will miss her everyday, but we will be grateful God gave us so many wonderful years. She was a joy.


#003 Remembering Riley Podcast

When Randi Breese and her husband, Shaun Vahl, made the decision to put down their first-born border collie son, Riley, there was a tremendous outpouring of support. Today’s Zest for Life podcast features Randi talking about her devoted dog and something new she has in store.

Randi and Riley

No matter how big Riley got, this was how he wanted his mother, Randi, to hold him.

You can listen to my interview with Randi by clicking the player below.

You can read my tribute to Riley here.


A Tribute to the King of Pop, Rock and Agility

On Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, my sister-in-law, Randi Breese, and her husband, Shaun Vahl, had to make a tough decision about their beloved “first born border collie son,” Riley. After a period of declining health due a mass on his spleen, the dog affectionately known as the King of Pop, Rock and Agility “crossed to the bridge,” where he awaits his parents and brother, Parker.


Riley came into the lives of Randi and Shaun at The Flying J truck stop in Delaware, Ohio. That is where my wife, Wendi, and I met them to deliver the new puppy shortly before Christmas 2002.

I don’t remember the details of how Wendi and I came to find Riley in front of our house in Hillsboro, Ohio, 11 years ago, but this is how I remember it: We had come back from Columbus after watching either one of the Broadway Series musicals or a David Copperfield magic show. Wendi had gone into the house and I had to get some things out of the vehicle. As I was making my way to the house from the driveway, I saw something that appeared to be a lop-eared bunny hopping around.

I went in the house and told Wendi of my discovery. However, when she went out to see for herself, she had a different assessment.

“He’s not a bunny,” Wendi informed me. “That’s not a bunny, he’s a puppy.” Then she asked me what we were going to do with him. I said, “Give him food and water.”  Our home had seemed to become a stopping place for stray animals, and she thought I meant to put the pup in the kennel in the backyard. That was not the case. “We’re bringing him into the house; he’s not staying outside,” I said.

So this adorable roly-poly puppy came in for the night, much to the chagrin of our five cats. Our dog, Madison, thought it was great to have another dog on the premises. We were faced with a dilemma: What were we going to do with a border collie?

Indeed, that was the question we asked ourselves the next morning. What were we going to do with a border collie? We are not the kind of people who would have made good guardians for such an active breed.

So, Wendi called her sister Randi and said, “Guess what I got you for Christmas? A puppy.”

Randi and Shaun already had two dogs, and they certainly were not looking for a third.

“It looks like springer spaniel or border collie,” Wendi said.

“I always wanted a border collie,” Randi responded.

Wendi asked her the next logical question: “What would you name him if you had a border collie?”


Wendi and I were headed to Boston to see my family, and Randi and Shaun agreed to meet us at The Flying J to pick up Riley and Madison, to “dog sit” while we were gone. They have been watching Riley ever since and were the best parents he could have had. I always felt Wendi and I were just the vehicle for God to get Riley to Randi and Shaun.

While they were great parents, Riley was a great dog. He excelled at agility. Because he did so well, Randi would take him to events around the state and beyond. This meant they needed a camper. So, they got a pop-up camper. Soon they needed something larger, so they got a fifth-wheel camper.

If they did not get Riley, who knows if they ever would have had their second born border collie son, Parker. When Parker came along, they got involved in DockDogs. Riley, though he was the King of Pop, Rock and Agility and not DockDogs, still gave the sport a shot. It was OK, but he left his mark in agility.

Wendi also says without Riley, who knows if Randi’s and Shaun’s competitive natures would have been unleashed. After all, they saw how good Riley did in agility and Parker did in DockDogs. They began competing in 5K runs and all sorts of competitive endeavors.

Riley was a devoted son, and he really loved his mom, Randi. But, he never forgot who found him, well sort of. He always had a special place in his heart for Wendi. He would almost twirl himself around whenever she went to visit. Even in his last few weeks, he showed this love for her by dragging himself off the couch and greeting her at the door.

If only we could be as devoted to God as Riley was to those who loved him there would never have been that problem in the garden, no need for an ark, no wandering in the desert and no exile … at least that is what I would like to think.

So long, for now, King of Pop, Rock and Agility. You have left your mark here; it is time to shine in another place.

What an old, blind, deaf dog taught me about God


My wife, Wendi, and I recently returned from a weekend in the Boston area. My wife flew me up so I could spend a milestone birthday with my family. I am truly blessed with a wonderful wife and family.

The short trip was a great one, and I had the opportunity to see a lot of family members. The flight back started off on a sour note: It was delayed. Wendi and I had a whirlwind week, as it started with a surprise party in Wooster, Ohio, the night before we departed for Massachusetts. It continued with two more parties in Boston and a day spent in Cape Cod watching my niece play ice hockey.

When Monday night came, Wendi and I were ready to get back. News about our flight being pushed back was not well received. We wanted to get home and relax.

There were several factors that delayed our arrival home, including snow and rain in Ohio. The ordeal prompted me to write a devotional thought for our Sunday School Christmas party. Everyone enjoyed hearing the story and encouraged me to have it published. I chose to publish it as an article through Amazon’s Kindle Store. Here is an excerpt:

Thinking back, it was probably a good thing it did take us longer or this story might have ended up with a not-so-happy ending.

By the time we got into the home stretch of our 60-minute ride home from the airport – we were literally two minutes from our home – we saw something in the middle of road. It appeared to be a dog. I am not the smartest man in the world, but I do know this, if I don’t offer to turn around and go get that dog, I am going to have to listen to Wendi get on my case about not turning around to get that dog, and I am still going to have to get that dog. There was also a part of me that did not want to be driving on the road Tuesday morning and see where that dog had been hit.

We turned around as soon as we could and headed back to where we saw the dog. With the lights shining on the animal, I told Wendi, “That’s not a dog, it’s a possum. No, wait a minute, it’s a dog.”

I stopped the Jeep in the middle of the road; got the flashers blinking, and Wendi jumped out to get the dog. At that point, all we knew was for whatever reason, an old, long-haired Dachshund that is blind and deaf is wet, cold, shivering and wandering aimlessly across the road. The dog does not have a collar, a dog license or any other ID tag. We have no clue as to who owned the dog. So, we took it home for the night.

As we pondered what to do with the newly found pooch, it dawned on me how trusting this dog. It began to make me think about my faith and how much trust I have in Jesus. Spoiler alert: This story has a happy ending. With the help of the Wayne County Humane Society, we were able to reunite the dog with his family. In the 3,400-word article, I write in a humorous way the story of finding the dog and his owners, and I conclude by sharing seven lessons I learned from this dog, whose name is Bungy. Here is Lesson 4: Trusting Others:

Bungy made me realize we have to learn to put our trust in someone other than ourselves. Being blind and deaf, Bungy had no choice but to trust others. Jesus said in Matt. 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus wants us to put our complete trust in him, and Bungy made me question just how much trust do I really put in Jesus and how much do I want to be in control of my own life. While I was a student at Cincinnati Christian University, Mark Taylor of Standard Publishing once preached in a chapel service. He said he always wanted to preach a four-point sermon based on the hymn “I Surrender All.” The first point would be “All;” the second, “To Jesus;” the third, “I;” and finally, the fourth, “Surrender.” He told us at the time then he never wrote the sermon because he could not get past the first point, “All.” What did it mean to give Jesus all? What did it encompass? Bungy reminded me that I have yet to give all to Jesus.

If you would like to read the whole story, it is available from Amazon here. If you decide to purchase the article, which is only 99 cents, then would you please consider writing a review?

Has God taught you any lessons through an animal? Write them in the comment section below.



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