Merle reminded me of something. Who’s Merle? Merle was a wonderful black lab who turned 19 this past January, or in people-years…133! When he was just a month old, my sister-in-law took him to Nanny and Popo’s in a cardboard box on the backseat of her truck. “Silver Wings” was playing on the radio, so “The Hag” became this spunky pup’s namesake.
Merle was a homebody and never wandered off too far. Instead of hitching a ride on the back of PoPo’s truck, he preferred to run alongside it. I’m certain there is a direct correlation between all that running and his longevity, so I’m tying up my laces after I write this.
Merle was easy going. He didn’t seem to mind that the kids thought he looked extra cute sporting silly string and confetti on his head at Easter or that he was often caught in the middle of water balloon fights during the sizzling days of summer. Merle enjoyed many years of fresh, country air while chasing squirrels and sharing butterfly kisses with the barn cats.
My son thought Merle would never die because then he’d miss his evening bowl of “Merlie Stew,” which Nanny lovingly prepared for him without fail. “Merlie Stew” is a delectably warm mixture of soups, assorted canned dog food and homemade bread. Of course, the first time I smelled its aroma and saw the concoction bubbling on the stove, I was a little wary of what exactly we were having for Sunday dinner. I thought my daughter’s slobbery goldfish might have been a safer option at that moment.
So, my reminder came during an afternoon walk in early March. Merle was lying in the cool grass close to the front door of my in-laws’ house. When I opened the door to go outside, he mustered up enough energy to get his hind legs underneath him so he could go, too. Poor Merle couldn’t see or hear that well and had arthritis in most of his joints, like I surely will when I’m 133 years old.
I walked twice as long that day because I couldn’t get over the way Merle had perfectly positioned himself. Because he chose to stand at the crossroads, I was able to stop briefly, say, “Hey Merle!” and scratch his head for just a second. But…I was able to do it many, many times during this particular walk because of where he stood.
It made me think of how special people cross our paths at just the right times…on just the right days. Sometimes, they’re perfectly placed, aren’t they? Maybe it’s a friend to laugh with or tell us what we need to hear instead of what we want to hear. Maybe it’s a sibling, parent, daughter or son to lean on or lend an ear. Maybe it’s a neighbor who eases our burden some or it might be someone we’ve just met…on just the right day. It could be a simple smile, a long conversation, a quick e-mail, text or a card that we find in our mailbox…at just the right time.
When I was through with my walk, I headed back to the house. Merle was slowly making his way behind me. I smiled. If we take the time to stop and look around and think for just a minute - a chance meeting probably wasn’t by chance after all. Rest In Peace, ol’ boy - April 14, 2011.