Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sermons in Stone

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

I love this passage from Will Shakespeare’s As You Like It and for this Father’s Day, I couldn’t find one more appropriate. It speaks to the fascination and beauty found in the simple wonderment of nature. It’s reminiscent of my father who first taught me that and as a dad myself, it’s a lesson my own boys, Hudson and Murphy, always keep me mindful of.

Life is a messy thing but there’s no finer, more effective therapy for it than a good piece of wood in your hand, the path beneath your feet, and your sons at your side.

This Father’s Day for me is a bittersweet celebration. It was one year ago today we walked the final mile into Boston but it’s also Murphy’s last day. Tomorrow he will be given eternal rest.

A few weeks back Murphy’s left eye ruptured and I made the decision to have it surgically removed rather than euthanizing him then. He was still willful, eating healthfully, and in true Murphy tradition, full of piss and vinegar.

It was a controversial decision and one which tore me up internally. I suspected the rupture probably meant the tumor had breached the orbit, a suspicion that was confirmed by the vet during surgery. At most I hoped for a couple of months together and if we were lucky, a few more than that.

Since the surgery, we have seen a deterioration of mobility in his right hind leg which can only mean motor cortex involvement - that the cancer has finally spread to his brain. And though he has had some really good days this week in Eureka Springs and yesterday at 3 Dog Bakery, I know what comes next and that I cannot allow to happen to my boy.

I have no doubt now the decision I made to extricate his eye was medically unsound but it was not an inhumane one. I don’t write this because I feel a need to justify it to anyone. I absolutely don’t give a goddamn what people think about the choices I have made on behalf of Murphy.

I am writing about it because to me this is what being a father means. It means having to make extremely hard decisions often in the absence of any certainty and always in the face of adversity.

A father’s love is the grit and iron will that cannot be ground down even at the end. It’s looking into the eyes of your dying son and finally admitting, “I can’t save you.”

To all of the fathers who have had to say that and to the ones who thankfully haven’t – this is our day.


donna said...

Peace to you and your boys!
Godspeed to Murphy as he makes his journey home.
hugs to all,

Anonymous said...

Luke...I don't comment on your posts very often, mostly b/c so many other people do...I just read your blog...Luke, you ARE saving him, you're saving him from additional pain and suffering, and allowing him to cross the Rainbow Bridge with dignity. No doubt this has been one of the most difficult decisions you have ever had to make..but you are making it with strength and courage...and Murphy knows that and thanks you for that...this IS part of being a dad, and you are the epitome of what Father's Day is all about. Stay strong, my friend, and let God wrap his arms around you and comfort you during this difficult time.

anita said...

God bless you, Hudson and most importantly Murphy during such a difficult time.

Annie B. said...

Beautifully stated, Luke. You are a tribute to love itself, and anyone loved by you is lucky indeed. Murphy knows that, too, and it's why he stayed so long, one more minute, one more hug, and now he'll be off to his next big adventure. They say you can't take 'things' with you when you cross over, only love. Murph will leave with riches untold, thanks to his Papi, Mommy G. and his loving extended family everywhere. Well done, Luke. May you be proud of all you've done for love.

Solitude.Peace said...

My friend, my soul is touched, it is forever blanketed my your words. Murphy has been loved best by you and only loved by a far by many. I happen to be one of them who has allowed Murphy's strength to encourage me. Your strength has inspired me. You and your three sons will live within me until my dying days. I hold you just as high as I do my own dad and Father Udell. I will do my very best to live the way you have taken the time to teach me. I can only pray that I too can inspire people the way you have inspired me. You are a simple man and yet so much more to me. The love, the decisions and the time you have taken away from your own life to give others, especially your sons will never be forgotten. All the way from Texas, Much love to you...

I will miss you Murphy

HeatherD said...

You and your boys are an inspiration to me and many others. I lost one of my girls to cancer last year and some felt that I should have put her to rest sooner, but I KNEW my girl and she still have life in her eyes. I knew that I would know when it was time. She ended up passing in my arms and I honestly would not have had it any other way...Just her and I. Nobody knows what they would do for the love of their 4 legged family member until they are faced with those choices. I respect your decisions because they were ALL based on your love of Murphy. Take care of yourself and Murphys brother......Your journey with them has been amazing...:)

Kirk Lohse said...

Our heavenly Father God blessed many of us with an Earthly father whose job is just as you described- hard decisions made with no certainty but oft with adversity.

Yet fathers are put here to inspire us with their wisdom and stories of things that can be accomplished if we just believe in ourselves.

To that end, I implore all who read this to watch Tim Burtons "Big Fish" today in honor of fathers like Luke who do things that may seem crazy, but in time, prove to be efforts filled with incredible love.

Anonymous said...

I know you've done everything you could for Murphy. He knows that too. He loves you for being his dad, for helping him, but most of all for the life & love you shared together. Releasing them from illness & pain is the hardest decision ever but also the most loving selfless one.
Prayers & HUGS to all of you. God be with you throughout this time & always.
Please give both boys a huge hug from me.
Lots of love.

Robbin said...

Dearest Luke,

Murphy is one of the most important beings to ever have crossed our paths. He has changed the lives of so many.

We'l be wrapping our hearts around you, Murphy, as you cross back into spirit. Our only solace will be knowing we are such lucky people to have known & loved you, & that we were able to share in your mission: a mission sparked by 3 canine hearts joining with a human heart, which led to thousands of lives being changed forever.

Anonymous said...

I wish so much peace for you and Murphy. Ultimately, we all lose the war, no matter how many small and large battles we win along the way. Enjoy your final moments. May Murphy's next journey be as wonderful as the one he's spent with you. Peace and love to you both.

Jenny Olsson said...

Tears are running down my cheeks as I read this. I do understand how difficult it all has been for you (I too have lost a dog to cancer). My thoughts are with you and Murphy.

Love from across the Atlantic.

Carol said...

Amen, Luke. My heart goes out to you.

Scout 'n Freyja said...

God speed to Murphy as he completes his Circle of Life. He gave love and received love - no greater legacy can be left by dog, nor man.

JoL said...

oh Luke -
in tears, trying to find words but I don't have any

you're a good Dad - thoughts & prayers of comfort & strength are all I can offer right now

Bettie Acks said...

Luke, I am so very, very sorry about Murphy. It is a very hard decision to make. I had to make it in January for Nikki and it was the hardest thing I have every had to do. I very much feel your pain. I will be with you guys in spirit.

Bettie Acks

Anonymous said...

I prayed this day was farther away for you Luke. Im in tears. Im so sorry. You fought so damned hard for your boy, as you have for ALL of our boys & girls who have fought this beast of a disease. Murphys love for you, & yours for him, will get you both thru. & the support you have from around the world. Including us here in RI. My Boys, Kibo & Sana's, names are on your shirts & in your book. They will welcome your boy at the Bridge. As will your Angel Malcom. Strength to you my friend. ~Rebecca from RI

Crystal Davis said...


I am so sorry that this Father's Day and the 1 year anniversary of your final mile walk could not be more joyous. I remember having to make the decision you have made for Murphy. My tears roll down my face and my heart truly aches for you and Murphy. You are a wonderful and loving father to your boys. I still hope to meet you someday. You are always in my thoughts. All my love and hugs to Murphy on his last day. And until we all meet our 4 legged children again at the rainbow bridge ...


Browniesmom said...

My heart is breaking for you as you prepare to say farewell to your precious Murphy. We had to make the decision Friday to let our special lab, Brownie, go. He was diagnosed with bone cancer eighteen months ago and we are grateful for every single day we had him. Last week he started downhill fast and we had to make the decision to end his pain. His pain ended and ours began. Please give Murphy a special hug from all of us who love him. And hold tight to Hudson. I hope he helps to ease your pain.

Blessings to you, Murphy and Hudson.

Bobbie Payton Bolden said...

You are a great Dad! You did what you could for Murphy, and he was yours a while longer. I am so sorry for your heartbreak. My prayers, thoughts, and love are with you and Murphy. He will always be in your heart, and in the hearts of those of us who never touched him physically, but for whom Murphy touched so deeply emotionally.

GardenGal said...


My heart breaks for you. As I have followed the journey with your boysI have relived those days with my beloved buddies. My father who is 87 sat with me today and we laughed and cried as we shared memories of our beloved dogs. Each one holds so many special memories and sad ones too. As my father said, there is nothing like a dog. (He pulled out the large blanket I gave him of a imprinted photo of our beloved Chance and spread it on the bottom of his bed.) This moment makes me think of the quote below. I think it is quite profound.

"We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan."
— Irving Townsend

I am sending you hugs and my prayers are with you for strength as you do what is best for your boy.
In tears,

Rebecca said...

Luke i have walked in your shoes i know what you are feeling 2 years ago i had to say good night to my Haley Ann she is the love of my life i could not make it with out my Lord you have gave Murphy the best life that a dog could ever have he know's how much you love him i just wish that dogs would live longer the next few weeks will be hard for you but know that Murphy will be ok and young again in heaven we will see them again someday, GOD bless you

dad said...

dad said: luke you are a wonderful son and man. mom and i are so proud of you. love, and godspeed,dad.

Sunni said...

Luke, I am sorry. I honestly just don't know what else to say. My heart aches for you and Murphy. <3


Sunni said...


My heart aches for you. The lump in my throat choking back tears is just....I am so sorry. There just isn't anything else to say. I do want to thank you, however, for sharing Murphy and Hudson with everyone. When winter comes, I will PROUDLY wear my Murphy long sleeve shirt. Paws and kisses....

Rochelle said...

This leg of your journey together is coming to an end but you ate a part of each other's souls and that is for eternity. Peace be with you Murphy, Luke and Hudson.

April said...

Anonymous said it very well on June 19th at 10:31 am. Anonymous is spot on in my opinion. The last loving gesture we make for our pet is letting them go. It's not a decision we make lightly and it is incredibly heartbreaking. We say good-bye because it's the right thing to do for our so loved and cherished pet. We do the right thing because it's what we owe them for the unconditional love they give us and because we love them too. Please take comfort in knowing there are others who know this great love and great pain too. You are in my thoughts & prayers.

Micki said...

Luke, you dream without fear and love with limits. That makes it so much harder in the end, but also so much more satisfying on the journey. My prayers are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Solice and Peace said it have given, you have taught..if only we all can take just a piece of what you and Murphy have shown us, this world would be a better place...Peace to you and your boys! Godspeed to Murphy as he makes his journey home. Colleen

jo said...

luke, you've made it clear in the latter part of your blog that you don't give a 'goddamn' what people think about the choices you have made on behalf of murphy. and you shouldn't b/c ONLY you know what is best for your babies. as a fellow dog owner, devoted animal lover, i have been in your position several times with several of my past dogs. one dog i found on the streets of los angeles and within two weeks found she has metastatic mammary tumor. the vet had given her 6-mos with surgery. not knowing the medical history of the dog and the extent of her cancer, i decided to go with surgery. i got 3-yrs out of it and had one of my most fulfilling time with her, as a dog owner/lover. another occasion, another dog i found on the street of l.a. after two yrs with me developed liver cancer and stopped eating. the vet said it is normal to place a feeding tube in dogs. the vet was confident about placing the feeding tube. my dog wanted to eat, she comes when she smells and sees food. i don't want to see her starve to death. my dog had cardiac arrest exactly 24hrs post surgery in my arms. the vet was surprised this happened and i blamed myself for a long time that perhaps my decision to have the feeding tube placed pushed her. both decisions were tormenting, to say the least, but it is fair to say that going into surgery, neither the vet nor me knew exactly, and unequivocally, what the outcome would have been. 20-20 hindsight is a big royal pain in the rear. i would never ever say that my decision in both occasions to go ahead with surgery was medically unsound, nor selfish, the outcome in both dogs were both opposite and unexpected. if there is even a slight hope of buying time, like you mentioned 2-months or more with murphy, i would make the same decisions again, do it over again and take my chances because i would hate to miss out on the chance that it works and i get more time with my babies.
i wrote this comment b/c it hurts to hear you say you made a medically unsound decision to extricate murphy's eye. you had to... even if you know that he will still go down-hill due to cancer but not to take the chance that you might be able to spend 2-mos or 2-yrs more with murph, why should you and murph miss out on that chance.
take care my friend.

Rosie Willett said...

Dearest Luke,
I have been to the edge of the bridge as you are going to be and it is the hardest things I ever had to do for my little boy. It was also the most loving thing I could do. Angles will surround you and God will reach down His loving hand to Murphy and see him safely on his way. He will wrap His loving arms around you and give you comfort. You have always done right by regrets. I leave you with this poem:

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It it the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well.
by Henry Scott Holland

hugapitbull said...

My sincere condolences. You guys became a part of our lives in 2010 when Trouble won a page in the calendar. We're faithfully followed your story since. It broke my heart when I heard Murphy's diagnosis, and again I feel the pain as he leaves us all behind.

When you feel up to it, we would be honored to have you share Murphy's story or leave a memorial at

RIP sweet Murphy. Run free at Rainbow Bridge.

Shanna Alspaugh & "Spirit" Trouble - A canine cancer support community

Anonymous said...

Dear Luke and sons. On this day I say Happy Father's Day, you have been a great dad to your boy's. It was an honor to have met you in Dublin, Ohio. As I watched you on your journey I felt blessed to have been touched by the whole thing as well as to have met you in the flesh and fur. So as you continue on you next jounrney, that one of great sadness, I say God bless you and your sons. Murphy you are a handsome fellow and most noble to have made such a great life journey filled with an adventure most would only dream about. I admire your courageousness, May you find peace in your next phase, that of crossing the rainbow bridge. We will look into the stars tomorrow to find a new star shining brightly for all to see. You are in my thoughts and prayers, Love, Giz and Mom Kathy
And I'm not there to see,
The sun will rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me.
I know how much you loved me,
As much as I loved you.
And each time you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me,
I want you to understand,
An angel came and called my name,
And I answered her command.
She said my place was ready,
In dog heaven far above,
But that I'd have to leave behind,
All those I dearly love.
If I could relive yesterday,
Even for a little while,
I'd come and lick your hand,
Just to see you smile.
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart.
For every time you think of me,
You'll find my paw prints on your heart..
-Author Unknown-

Solitude.Peace said...

Very nice comment from your dad

Kyle Reynolds said...

Decisions of life and death are always difficult and subject to second guessing and uncertainty. It is the love and passion that is felt and shared that makes it so. We can only do what our hearts tell us is right at the time the decision is made. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your guys.

Rosie W said...

Was happy to see that your dad acknowledged you. Maybe he just needed some time.

Janet Roberts said...

Such an outpouring of eloquent comments and poems, you must know you have touched millions of lives. I can only add my heartfelt condolences on Murphy's passing, and appreciation for all you, Murphy & Hudson have done. Peace to you and your boys. Janet

Andréa said...

I'm glad you won't let others cause you to doubt your decision. The bond Murphy and you shared is the only kind within which such decisions may be made, and anyone on the outside has no right.

Last year, I know we kept my 12 year old Andorra many months longer than many others would have. Cancer in the nerve fibers of her hock meant that there wasn't enough surrounding tissue to remove to give a very good chance of the tumor not recurring. The vet said amputation (which I wanted) was not really an option on a dysplastic dog like her. Despite not being able to remove much tissue around the hock, we operated, and she was like a puppy again. When the cancer came back, we proceeded with her hind leg amputation, and for an older dog, she got along very well... I was impressed. When the cancer returned at the amputation site... I could tell she was not the same. Her heart wasn't the same.

We planned our last few days eating ice cream out of the bucket and watching Homeward Bound, and now I know she's in pain no longer.

I know others would have euthanized sooner... others wouldn't have kept her around three-legged... saying she was 12 and dysplastic... but it was not her time. She was my dog and what we shared and understood about each other meant that it was my decision, and my decision alone.

Don't ever doubt yourself.

Sara said...

Luke...I finally read this blog and having traveled the same road with my Tigger (bladder cancer) one part jumped out at me..."A father’s love is the grit and iron will that cannot be ground down even at the end. It’s looking into the eyes of your dying son and finally admitting, 'I can’t save you.' ” It's so very hard...but yet the greatest gift we can give them. Bless you as your deal with your grief...and know that he will always walk with you.

Nicole said...

I am just now finding out about Murphy's passing. I just saw you guys on animal planet an hour or so ago on an episode of Dogs 101. That's how I found out about you guys; the show mentioned you being on twitter and facebook. I decided to look you guys up after seeing your story and I find out one of your "kids" has died. I am deeply sorry for your loss. I know it happened a month ago but I'm sure the pain is still fresh and and raw. I can't imagine what you went through, what you felt. I am fairly new to dog ownership. My Bruno is 3 yrs. old and is my best friend. We had him since he was 3 months old and my family can't imagine him not living with us. My mother and I dread the day when we have to face what you faced. We never lost a pet before (other than fish, which is NOT the same in the slightest). We already know the both of us are going to fall to pieces on that day. I believe that if need be I would die for my dog, that's how much I love him. I don't ever want to live without him but I know this is an inevitable fate that I must accept oneday. So as I read these comments and your blog I can't help but sob. Tears were streaming down my face as I read these touching comments left for you and Murphy. You people are all so wonderful. The poems left by some are just so moving and touching it's hard not to cry. I just want to thank them for trying to comfort you in your time of need and I want to thank you for everything you and your dogs did on behalf of dogs everywhere. I look forward to seeing the day that cancer is eradicated (for both dogs and humans) and I hope you continue on with your mission. Please keep up the good work and thank you again for all that you do. I thank Murphy as well and truly hope he's in a better place, and that one day, you will be reunited with your "son" again. God bless.