Giving Up “Boots” aka “Harry”

“Boots” In His Chair

Our daughter Ginny loved cats, and I have told her she must have inherited the love from her mother, because I don’t care much for cats. My sister Marilyn always seemed to have a cat when we were growing up, and because her cats aggravated my dogs, they aggravated me also. I did my best to return the favor whenever possible.

Cathy had numerous cats during her childhood, and she had lots of “cat stories” from her past. In a moment of extreme weakness I even gave Cathy a Siamese cat for her birthday in March during our courtship year. I was so in love with Cathy and wanting to please her so much, I failed to think I would be living with “Ming” the following August when we were married.

Because our other daughter Mary Kay also inherited cat love from her Mother, I was destined to always have one or more cats living around our home. Our son John inherited his disdain for cats from me, and we tried our best to agitate them with our pet dogs as often as possible. We never intended any physical harm to any of them .

At one point when Ginny was approximately eight years old we came into possession of a cat who was part Siamese and some other breed. As I recall the kitten had been abandoned, which was all our merciful girls needed to know. Ginny was first in line for a new kitten so this one became hers. The kitten had distinctive white paws and was a male so Ginny named him “Boots.” I was thankful the kitten was male, so we didn’t have to take him to the veterinarian for a spaying. Boots was seemingly more playful and friendly with me than our previous felines, so I think I kind of “liked” Boots.

Our across the street neighbors were the Clyde’s and their younger daughter Elizabeth (Bitsy) was close friends with our kids, especially Mary Kay and Ginny. Bitsy loved animals, and in fact when grown she became a veterinarian and now lives with her family and practices veterinary medicine in Mattoon, Illinois. Whenever we went on vacation we engaged Bitsy to watch over and feed our animals, which she not only loved doing for us but appreciated the extra money we paid for her kindness.

One year in March when Boots was approximately two years old we took a family vacation to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to spend time with Cathy’s parents and family. During our ten day absence we again enlisted Bitsy to feed Boots and make certain he was safe.  As I recall we didn’t have a dog at the time which was rare for us. Upon our return Bitsy sadly reported she hadn’t seen Boots for about five days, and had no clue of his whereabouts. He was pretty much a home cat and to our recollection had never been gone for such an extended period of time. That night all of us, and especially Ginny asked God to return Boots safely home.

Within the next month when there was no sign of Boots, we all gave up hope of his return. All except Ginny. She prayed multiple times during the day, at all our meal times when it was her turn to pray, and especially at night as we listened and agreed with her pleas to our heavenly Father. She never stopped praying for Boots when some of us had long since given up.

Approximately eight months later on Halloween evening our kids were preparing to go into the neighborhood for their annual “trick or treating” when there was a ring of our front door bell. It was Bitsy who was short of breath from running as she told us excitedly, “I’ve found Boots!” “Where in the world did you find him, and why didn’t you bring him home?,” we asked. “He is at Mrs. Reeves house and when I knocked on her door to trick or treat there was Boots standing beside her.”

Gladys Reeves who was the widow of Harry Bryant Reeves lived two doors down from us on the same side of the street. Mr. Reeves had been owner of the iconic B.W. Reeves Department Store in downtown El Dorado. His father had founded the famous store during the oil boom days of the 1920’s, and everyone in the surrounding area was familiar with the store. Harry had died about five years previous from heart disease, and Gladys lived alone in their beautiful two-storied home.

When Bitsy saw Boots at Mrs. Reeves feet she asked her why she had Boots. She responded, “Do you recognize this cat? He came to my door about six months ago, and I thought he was a stray cat. He had no collar and was very hungry, so I began feeding him.  He was happy to stay with me.” Bitsy told her Boots was his name, and he belonged to the Moore’s. She had been feeding him while we were out of town, and one day he disappeared. Mrs. Reeves was shocked at this revelation and told Bitsy, “This cat has decided to stay with me, and he’s now an inside cat. I have had him de-clawed, neutered and named him “Harry” for my dear, departed husband. Harry never leaves my side and even sleeps in the bed with me! I just can’t give him up.”

Ginny was so excited Boots had been found and wanted him home with her, and now Mrs. Reeves is saying she can’t live without “Harry.” I immediately phoned Mrs. Reeves, and while she was recounting the story Bitsy had told us, she began crying uncontrollably at the thought of returning Boots to us. I told her we would explain this to Ginny, allow her to decide, and we would let her know.

As we sat down with Ginny to explain the dilemma of Boots she also began crying so we prayed with her as she made her decision. She went into our yard, picked some flowers and walked the short distance to Mrs. Reeves house to knock on her door. I think Mrs. Reeves was a little surprised to see Ginny with her flower gift and was almost shocked when Ginny told her, “I want you to have Boots as a gift from me.” She hugged Ginny and through tears told Ginny what a sweet girl she was for this gift while promising to take good care of Harry.

We were all very proud of Ginny’s loving generosity in giving up Boots, and I promised her I would find another cat for her very soon. Ginny’s attitude helped reinforce to us we must hold our possessions in an open hand so when our Father decides to move them to someone else, we can give freely and cheerfully. He always gives back more than we had in the beginning. (Luke 6:38). I can’t be sure, but I think we found two more cats for her to replace Boots. I am sure Harry had a much more luxurious life with Mrs. Reeves than he ever had with us.

Dr. John


Finding Taffy

Mary Kay and Taffy

Our family loves pets, and through the years we have had some memorable dogs, cats, ducks, turtles and a few fish. We never experienced the “joys” of owning rabbits, gerbils, parrots, possums or racoons. When we get together for holidays and special events the conversation occasionally comes around to discussing and laughing about a particular pet who impacted us either in a positive but occasionally in a negative way. We have even been taught spiritual lessons unexpectedly through some of our pet experiences. One such lesson occurred through the life and adventures of Taffy.

Taffy was a beautiful, female Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) whom we bought for our daughter, Mary Kay from the daughter of our veterinarian in El Dorado. Because the registered name of the mother of our puppy was Candy, Mary Kay  chose to name her “Taffy.” Her coat was a lovely golden color similar to the Silver Dollar City taffy which a few of us in the family loved. Taffy was a cute and playful puppy, and we all fell in love with her at first sight!

Mary Kay who was ten years old at the time she had wanted a Sheltie, and we were pleased to declare Taffy as “Mary Kay’s dog.” For Cathy and me this also meant Mary Kay was responsible to feed and clean up after this small puppy. Our back yard was large and fenced, which made a perfect playground  for an active puppy who loved to run and herd. None of our pets were “inside pets”, but we had a large basement for shelter during stormy or severely cold weather.

Taffy grew to adult size within a year, and we had her spayed to avoid the problems associated with breeding and puppy care. Because she was so active and playful she didn’t have the problems of weight gain and lethargy some spayed female animals experience. Two characteristics of Taffy were her high-pitched bark which I called a yap, and a characteristic twirling motion she did when she was excited or saw Mary Kay. Little did we know these peculiar characteristics would play a critical role in Taffy’s future.

When Taffy was approximately three years old we discovered her missing one day. It was not unusual for her to be outside the fence, because our yard was large and occasionally when one of the gates was accidentally left open, she would run into the neighborhood. In all previous instances Taffy would return home within an hour or so following her neighborhood exploration.

This time she didn’t return. We thoroughly searched the neighborhood until dark, and hoped when daylight came someone would find her and bring her home. Her collar had all the necessary information needed to contact us. That night we all prayed for her safe return, and within our little prayer circle there were a few tears shed thinking she might be hurt or worse.

Days led to weeks of no word concerning Taffy, and I must admit I gave up ever seeing Taffy again. I had lost special dogs in the past, and it was easier for me emotionally to assume they were dead rather than continue hoping for a return.  Cathy, Mary Kay, John and Ginny didn’t give up and continued to pray for her at every meal and during evening prayers. I certainly didn’t discourage them or make them think I didn’t also miss Taffy and long for her return.

About one year from the date of Taffy’s disappearance I received a phone call at my office on a Saturday morning from a lady who had been a surgical patient in the past. At the beginning of the conversation she said, “I know where your dog is!” I said, “You know where our Sheltie is?” without thinking that was the only dog we had missing. She said a woman friend of hers had found the dog a year ago and decided to keep her despite knowing the dog belonged to us. I knew the lady who supposedly had taken our dog, because she had also been a surgical patient. I asked why she was just now letting me know since she had known about it for so long. Her answer was, “I felt bad knowing where your dog was, and I got into an argument with the lady and decided to get her into trouble!” I thanked the caller for her information.

I looked up the address of the alleged dog kidnapper in our office files and called home to report this startling news. I picked up the girls, and we very anxiously drove to the address of the lady which was several miles away. Upon arrival we found a small, poorly kept single-dwelling home with a fenced backyard. There was evidence of a recent fire at the residence with significant damage. There was no one at home, so we went to the corner of the fence and Mary Kay began calling Taffy’s name. Within seconds a bedraggled-looking Sheltie ran around the house in response to the call. We couldn’t be sure this was Taffy because this dog was thin, her coat was more dull in color, and she seemed more lethargic than our Taffy. When she spotted Mary Kay she began “yapping” and twirling in an unmistakable fashion. We immediately knew this was our Taffy! We were so excited to have found our dog, and Taffy kept up her yapping and twirling in celebration with us of her reunion with her family.

Within a few minutes a car drove into the driveway, and I recognized the lady at the wheel. On exiting the car she was crying with tears and kept saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” When she calmed down she confessed she knew Taffy was ours, but when she found her roaming in her neighborhood she had just lost her own dog and believed we could “easily get another pet.” Because we were so glad to have found Taffy we never considered pressing any charges against her. We told her we forgave her, and then prayed with her concerning the fire damage to her home and belongings. Our attitude toward her later opened a door to share Christ and His forgiveness of her, and she prayed for forgiveness of her sins to be saved.

The following week we took Taffy to the veterinarian, and she was found to have heart worms because of her poor care. She almost didn’t survive the treatment, but began improving to become a healthy and happy Taffy once again. The above photograph was taken about a year after the ordeal. We all learned some very important life lessons concerning our yapping, twirling Taffy. Forgive quickly those who have harmed you. Never give up hoping for someone (or some dog) who is lost that they will be found, and by all means pray without ceasing! (I Thess. 5:17). Someone’s eternal future may be hanging in the balance.

Dr. John

The Witness of Brother Bill’s Golf Game

Getting Out of a Hazard

Brother Bill Stafford has made a significant spiritual impact on Cathy and me as a result of our friendship over the past thirty years. As President of The International Congress on Revival he gave us the opportunity for involvement in this ministry for  many of those years. The Congress (ICR) was established by evangelist Manley Beasley in the late 1970’s in an effort to bring revival into the hearts of pastors and their wives in eastern Europe. This was several years before the lifting of the Iron Curtain. When Brother Manley departed this life in 1990 the leadership of the organization was passed to Brother Bill, and our prior friendship with him sparked our beginning involvement with ICR.

Brother Bill’s personal ministry as an evangelist over a span of nearly sixty years was extensive and at times physically exhausting. He would preach as many as sixty evangelistic meetings per year and most of these meetings lasted four days from Sunday morning through Wednesday evening. He often set aside several days every three or four months to rest and recuperate. He had very few hobbies outside of regular jogging each morning in the early hours, but occasionally would play a round of golf with one of his friends if the opportunity arose. Despite having some other athletic skills golfing for Brother Bill was neither a priority nor a game he cared much about. It was all about emotional rest and sunshine.

Skeet May from Memphis, Tennessee had been a close friend of Brother Bill’s for many years and occasionally he and his wife invited Bill and wife Sue to stay in their home when they were travelling in the Memphis area. Skeet was a very close friend of Brother Manley and was an original board member of ICR, so when Brother Bill assumed the leadership Skeet helped him make the transition.

Brother Bill was in Memphis preaching a meeting, and when the meeting was over Skeet invited him to stay over for a few days to just relax and unwind from his demanding schedule. One of those days it was suggested they play a round of golf at a local municipal course. Both agreed they would not discuss ministry, preaching or any problems related to either. They both committed to enjoying the sunshine, the beauty of the course and the temporary freedom from their usual pressures.

After playing the first five holes they noted there were two men close behind who were riding in a golf cart while Bill and Skeet were walking and pulling their carts. (Most golf courses now require players to use motorized carts to speed up play). They also noted the two were laughing, telling off-color jokes, drinking beer and obviously showing no interest in spiritual things. Bill and Skeet waited at the sixth tee box to allow the two men to play through since they were moving faster, but the two revelers insisted they play together as a four-some. They introduced themselves by only their first names and said nothing else about themselves personally. The two strangers continued their profane joke telling and beer drinking, and Brother Bill said the two who were “pretty good golfers” were obviously enjoying their time on the course.

After playing several holes together their conversation with each other centered only on the course and the difficulties the hazards presented. Brother Bill said he began really feeling guilty about not making any attempt to speak to the men about the Lord since they seemed spiritually lost with no apparent interest. Shortly one of the men turned to Brother Bill and asked, “Are you a preacher?” Bill was taken aback since there had been no words spoken about their professions. Bill answered, “Well yes, as a matter of fact I am a preacher. Do I look like a preacher?” The man retorted, “No, not especially. I suspected you must be a preacher because anyone who plays golf as bad as you and doesn’t cuss, just has to be a preacher!”

Bill said during the remainder of the round the conversation was quite different, and both he and Skeet had the opportunity to share their testimonies and give a good witness for the Lord Jesus. Neither of the other men were saved that day, but they certainly heard the good news of Jesus telling them He  will save them if they would turn their hearts toward Him! Jesus commands us as believers  to be witnesses for Him wherever we are, even on a golf course and especially when we are playing badly!

Dr. John

“Preacher” Bill Stafford