So, in honor of him, Henry Joe Repka, I decided to repost this story—the first story I posted on this blog. Henry loved his family, loved his life as a lifelong, accomplished musician, and, boy, did he love his dogs!
I invite you to ride along with us as we remember a very special man…
Chico and the Man
My father-in-law, Henry, loves dogs. Years ago his original "dog plan" was to breed Rat Terriers as a business adventure (yes, adventure). However, as the puppies were born, he became so attached to them he couldn't bear to sell them. His brood grew to a lively bunch of seven. I have fond memories of watching him walk his dogs next to the cow pasture. With Henry leading the way, his little entourage followed him like the Pied Piper. Or, when he drove his "Mule" to the back end of the property, one of his bunch would proudly sit in the passenger seat—mouth open, tongue hanging, and ears blowing back in the breeze.
Henry also has a huge heart for homeless or unwanted dogs no matter what size or breed. As each one of the little Rat Terriers eventually moved on to the "Happy Hunting Ground of Heaven," a stray or unwanted dog would, without fail, show up "on the door step."
He discovered Smokey, abandoned and wandering, around a gas station pump. She stole Henry's heart and became his constant companion for many years.
When the inevitable time came and she passed peacefully to join her former companions, my father-in-law was heartbroken. It is never easy to lose a loved one, be it human or animal, no matter what the age or reason.
It was a lonely drive as he traveled to the family farm for his monthly visit. He tried to steel himself as he passed every rest and potty stop that he and Smokey would frequent during that long trip. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. "I can't deal with this," he cried. "Lord, You're going to have to help me." He drove on to the farm, parked his car, and wearily began to unload his things.
Suddenly something caught his attention—a tiny figure next to the farmhouse door. He moved in for a closer inspection and discovered a lively little Chihuahua investigating the porch.
Daily inquiries were made until it was apparent that this little guy was homeless … dumped on the County Road to fend for himself. At this realization, Henry immediately made him part of the family and named him Chico.
Chico has proven to be a family project. Scared and defensive, no one could get close without him yelping. One day my mother-in-law, Betty, was lying on the couch and her hand slipped to the ground … right next to Chico. A "Grrrrrrrr!" immediately resounded from somewhere under the coffee table—her hand pushing the boundaries of his comfort zone.
However, as Henry and Betty persevered in their patient care of this little dog, Chico began to progress from whimpering at them to whimpering for them when they were out of his sight. The latest feat was actually picking him up, which,had not been a tolerable move until now. With heavy BBQ gloves to protect against defensive teeth, they crossed this last hurdle. But they needn't have bothered with the gloves. Chico lay perfectly peaceful in their "armory" … no animosity, whatsoever, expressed. He has now become Henry's faithful companion, following him everywhere and sleeping next to him in a little blanketed, cardboard box next to the bed.
The Lord displayed his grace by bringing these lives together: one with a broken heart, the other abused and homeless. He knows that in this life we will go through trials and heartaches. But He promises, through Jesus, to deliver us out of them all in victory and with strength. His love is so great that it will reach out in answer to a simple prayer—even bringing an abandoned little dog to a man's door step to help ease the pain of a loss. (1 John 4:14-16; Lamentations 3:21-23)
Shara's book: Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational true stories of God's encouragement on the trail less-traveled: https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Like-Warrior-Inspirational-Encouragement/dp/1512774812/