Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace

Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace

by Dave Burchett


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Amazing (Furry) Lessons from a Dog’s Life
You’ll be enthralled by this story of a man and his lovable Labrador retriever, Hannah, and what their canine friendship can show us about life, grace, and long walks in the park.

Hannah was Dave’s best friend. He couldn’t imagine starting a day without her tail wagging an energetic greeting, her body wiggling with sheer gratitude when her food dish was filled, and her unbridled enthusiasm for tennis balls. (How she fit three tennis balls in her mouth at once he’ll never know.)

So when Dave first learned of Hannah’s cancer diagnosis, he decided to take whatever time he had left with Hannah to cherish the moments and capture his thoughts in a journal. As he wrote about his canine friend, he soon realized that Hannah was an able (and furry) mentor of faith, grace, kindness, and forgiveness. The lessons were invaluable: from being present to trusting the master. When Hannah lived well past the expected time frame, Dave started to see that the insights he was gaining were more than just journal entries about a family pet. Through Hannah’s antics, God was preparing Dave for life itself.

You won’t want to miss this heartwarming tale of a dog who knew how to live . . . and showed her owner how.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414397931
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 02/24/2015
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 631,751
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


Lessons my Dogs Taught Me About Life, Loss, and Grace

By Dave Burchett, Bonne Steffen

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Dave Burchett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-9793-1



There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.


My wife, Joni, and I are dog lovers. I grew up with a rescued mutt named Penny. She resembled some sort of mad scientist's terrier creation, and she was my best friend from elementary school until college. Here I am (pictured on the left) with Penny.

Joni loved and grew up in south Florida with a sweet Boxer named Dutchess. Joni and Dutchess made life miserable for the local duck population by chasing them every day.

Dogs have always been a part of our lives. As 2002 approached, Joni and I were at that tough crossroads for every dog owner, facing the decision about what to do when a dog is near the end of its journey. Charlie, our nearly fourteen-year-old golden retriever, was fast approaching that moment. The winter of 2001, he teetered on barely functioning hips which made walking painful.

He was a far cry from the Charlie-is-a-handful years, which is a very kind way of saying he was crazy. Charlie was the perfect blend of alpha-dog testosterone and faithful friend for a household with three rambunctious boys. He ran, chased, wrestled, swam, dived, and cuddled with our sons Matt, Scott, and Brett. Charlie was their buddy through puberty and high school frustrations, much as Penny had served that role with me.

Other than breed differences, there was one other huge difference between Penny and Charlie. Remember Marley, the yellow Lab of book and movie fame, who was described as the world's worst dog? Well, Charlie certainly had to be in the conversation at eighty pounds of hard-charging destruction.

Charlie was particularly psychotic during thunderstorms, causing hundreds of dollars of damage to our home. If a storm hit while we were away, we entered the house with fear and trembling upon returning, afraid to see what Charlie had wrought. One time he chewed off a cabinet door in order to wedge himself under the sink. While he was hidden, he chewed off the sink trap, just to keep his mind off of the booms of the raging storm.

Another memorable time, we discovered our guinea pig's cage ripped apart and its former inhabitant, Squeakers, ominously missing. We feared the worst but found no CSI: Rodent Edition evidence of foul play. After a few hours we heard Squeakers's terrified call from underneath a built-in cabinet. Somehow Squeakers had squeezed her brown, black, and white fur-covered frame through a narrow opening to escape thunder-crazed Charlie. No amount of coaxing or food could get that trembling critter to come out of her refuge. She was too far back to reach in and pull her out. Finally, we hired a carpenter to saw a hole in the bottom of the cabinet so Squeakers could be saved.

Then there was the security breach incident. We were away from home when I received a surprise phone call from our security company that an alarm had been triggered. I was worried about the house but also wondered, Is Charlie okay? The local police showed up and reported seeing only a tail-wagging and very happy-to-see-anyone golden retriever who, upon further investigation, turned out to be the perp in the caper. In another fit of storm jitters, he had chewed through some wires.

I think you get the picture: Charlie did not handle life's storms well.

Still, in that odd paradigm that only dog people understand, we loved him dearly.

Matt and Scott were off to Baylor University at this time and youngest son, Brett, was just a couple of years away from leaving the nest. With Charlie's failing health, we wondered what our lives would look like without a dog around the house. Should we even consider the scenario of another dog? Perhaps it would be a welcome respite, not worrying about boarding a pet when we traveled or to be able to go out without concerns about what might await us when we got home.

That January, Scott called from school and got right to the point. His girlfriend (now his wife), Caroline, had "inherited" a Labrador puppy that had been passed around the dorm to several foster volunteers. The fun of having a cute puppy on campus had turned into a time-consuming reality: caring for a puppy is not far removed from caring for a baby. Knowing Charlie's condition, Scott and Caroline proposed that Joni and I take her—for a while. Scott hit the most vulnerable and by far weakest link in the family line of canine defense.


"Caroline has adopted this puppy temporarily. Her name is Hannah. We can't watch her this weekend. Could you keep her until we can find her a home?"

Within minutes of Hannah's arrival at our house, it was obvious that this puppy was going nowhere. She wasn't an ordinary Lab; her coat's color was not the usual light yellow Lab hue. She was a Fox Red Labrador, with the darker reddish tint. They are generally pricey little pups so, in retrospect, it was an added bonus to acquire her for free.

Over the next few weeks, it was clear that this puppy was something special. She had eyes that seemed to look into your soul. Her friendly expression was true to her character and she was more than happy to accommodate anyone who wanted to play at any time. Her ears were as soft as mink. Hannah was a keeper.

From the beginning, she instinctively knew that Charlie could not handle the aggressive play of a puppy. They became instant friends and Hannah was gentle with old guy Charlie in his final days.

I am a TV sports director for the Texas Rangers, which means I am on the road for about half of the baseball season from April through September. In April, I was in New York, working at Yankee Stadium, when Joni called with trembling voice to say she was taking Charlie to the vet for the last visit. He could no longer walk and refused to eat. His once unstoppable body was failing. It was time to say good-bye.

After I hung up, I saw a New York cop outside the stadium with his Labrador police dog at his side. Seeing that sweet Lab hit me hard; I was already missing my crazy friend Charlie. I approached the officer and asked him if I could pet the dog.

"He's working," the officer snapped at me.

"I understand, sir. I was just feeling sad. We had to say good-bye to our fourteen-year-old golden retriever today."

The cop's face immediately softened as he looked at me.

"Pet the dog."

"It's okay, officer. I understand that the dog is ..."


"Yes, sir."

The power of this unique relationship we forge with our dogs is truly universal.

We had said good-bye to a dear friend. But God had given us a special gift named Hannah.


Excerpted from Stay by Dave Burchett, Bonne Steffen. Copyright © 2015 Dave Burchett. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword, ix,
Introduction, xi,
CHAPTER 1 Puppy Love, 1,
CHAPTER 2 Always There, 9,
CHAPTER 3 Be Present, 17,
CHAPTER 4 Live in the Moment, 27,
CHAPTER 5 Unleashed!, 35,
CHAPTER 6 Good Friends, 43,
CHAPTER 7 Run to the Master, 55,
CHAPTER 8 Shake Off the Lies, 65,
CHAPTER 9 Trust ... the Currency of Love, 75,
CHAPTER 10 Live Out of Who You Are, 85,
CHAPTER 11 Gratitude Starts with Attitude, 93,
CHAPTER 12 Bury the Bones of Bitterness, 105,
CHAPTER 13 Welcome Waggin', 117,
CHAPTER 14 Only the Good Die Young?, 127,
CHAPTER 15 Good-bye, 137,
CHAPTER 16 Forgetting Her Name, 147,
CHAPTER 17 The Impact of Our Story, 157,
CHAPTER 18 Sit! Stay!, 167,
CHAPTER 19 Gently Leading, 179,
CHAPTER 20 Life Interrupted, 187,
CHAPTER 21 The Hidden Toxicity of Forbidden Fruit, 195,
CHAPTER 22 O Maggie, Where Art Thou?, 205,
CHAPTER 23 Learning to Live, 215,
Afterword, 229,
Acknowledgments, 231,
In Memory, 233,
Notes, 235,
About the Author, 239,

What People are Saying About This

Steve Brown

Dave Burchett has written a truly wonderful book. I don’t know when I’ve shed so many tears, laughed so much, and been moved as deeply. It’s not just because I’m a lover of dogs (I am), but because this book is profound, refreshing, biblical, and true. It “smells like Jesus!” Read it and give it to everyone you know. They will rise up and call you blessed.

Joni Eareckson Tada

When you’re in a fierce battle against breast cancer, be on the lookout for people—or pets—through whom God delivers His most heartwarming encouragement. My friend Joni Burchett was in the cancer battle for her life, but God blessed her with His warm, personal touch through the pawprints of her Labrador retriever, Hannah. But this isn’t any “dog story.” This is a book filled with courage, yet tenderness; bravery, yet gentleness. I highly recommend Stay to anyone who is looking for a fresh and unusual touch from the Lord!

Bali Lynch

You can count on one opposable thumb how many books hold my interest. But Dave Burchett has written an incredible piece that describes what we’ve been trying to model to you all about God’s grace, His astonishing love, and what life feels like when humans discover who He’s remade them to be, even on their worst day. And the pages smell like a freshly cut lawn. I gotta get my master to read this!

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