I admit I have had pangs of guilt about the depth of my grieving over the death of our Great Dane this past Wednesday morning.

But any doubts about the appropriateness of my emotions have been lessened and normalized by the more than 100 caring responses on Facebook and from people in our neighborhood where Cedie walked and played each day. The heart-felt, personal comments confirm that pets are an immeasurable extension of God’s love and grace in our lives.

Cedie became the focus of our household and daily routine over the course of eight and one-half years. Her “centering” in our lives was exaggerated by her exacting feeding schedule (result of an Enzyme Deficiency Disorder), navigating her size in our 1930’s style home, and a Great Dane’s inherent need to be with its care-giver at ALL times.

Of the six official coat colors for Great Danes, Cedie was a Harlequin, with coloring similar to that of a Dalmatian. Her full name was Mercedes Louise Cranach Staats. “Louise” honored both the birth city of my spouse (St. Louis) and his mother, who loved dogs. “Cranach” reflected her breed’s German heritage (not Danish) and our own family’s German, Lutheran roots. Yes, she was fully a member of our family!

Great Danes are called the Gentle Giant for a reason. Cedie weighed 140 pounds and was a bit taller than the average female. She could easily rest her head on the kitchen counter – although she never did. She was the biggest fraidy cat one has ever met. If her metal feeding dish and water bowl happen to clash together and make a “ding” sound – she would stop eating, step away and wait for someone to “fix” them. As a puppy she once slid and fell on our hardwood floors. Forever more she would only navigate the house on non-skid throw rugs. If Cedie happened to wander off her normal paths, then suddenly realize she was not on a rug – she would freeze, and tremble with fear until someone rescued her with islands of throw rugs to allow her return to “safe land.”

Great Danes are known for their attachment to their owners. They are not a hyperactive, need space-to-roam, breed of dog . . . at least not our Cedie. Guests would often express their concern when we opened the door to let Cedie outside to “do her job” and did not accompany her to the unfenced, front yard. We would laughingly respond, “Are you kidding – she will not go anywhere with out us. When we move from one room to another, she follows us.” Whenever we accidentally came inside without her, she was soon peering through the windows, in Marmaduke style, reminding us to open the door – a door she could have easily pushed open herself.

As any pet owner remembering a departed, beloved, fur covered friend, I could go on and on with descriptions and stories of our beloved Cedie. But there was one specific gift she gave us that I will miss the most . . .

Each morning Cedie quietly came to my side of the bed. Looking down upon me, she brought her muzzle to within a hair’s width of my nose, never actually touching me. First she took several quick, short sniffs, sensing my breath. Next, she slowly exhaled – one, long whisper of warm, moist air that flowed softly over my entire face. Cedie then moved to the other side of the bed and repeated her morning ritual over my spouse. It felt and sounded like the very breath of God, waking us each morning.

As Christians we know there are many faith practices that bring us in contact with God – my list includes “ruach,” bestowed upon us by Cedie, our faithful and gentle, canine companion.

Thank you Cedie for the Blessing you gave us each morning – a reminder of the breath of God that fills our life each day.

God’s Story found in Job 33:4

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Your Story

• My eldest son wrote this Tribute to Cedie.

• If your congregation celebrates a “Blessing of the Pets,” make it an All Generations event. Elders especially enjoy recalling and sharing stories about pets they may have had as a child or ones that currently reside with them. + Create a photo board of people’s pets. + Invite all ages to work together to bake pet friendly goodies. + Invite someone from a local animal shelter to speak or collect a special offering for your local Humane Society.

• How do you care for members of your congregation when a beloved pet dies? How about a gift of Herb Brokering’s Dog Psalms: Prayers Dogs Have Taught Me or Cat Psalms.