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A Shout From The Attic: In Prison And Ye Came Unto Me

Ronnie Bray tells of a dog which went astray

My dog Shep was a gift from Providence. Lyn’s brother, Donald Spenceley, lived at Heckmondwike with his wife, daughter, and a little brown Corgi dog that they fed in their back yard. One day in 1979, they saw a little grey stranger with a black face eating from the dog’s bowl. The stranger weighed in at less that three pounds of fluff and woe. Around his neck was a child’s watchstrap, serving for a collar, and his poor pads were scraped and worn as if he had had a long journey. Now that he had found a place with regular food, he kept out of the way in the corner of their garden, only coming out to feed when their little dog was indoors.

Donald knew that the puppy could not stay there, and telephoned me to ask it I would like a dog. I asked Lyn if we could take a dog from Donald’s, and she agreed, so we drove over to pick up the scruffy little interloper. He was a beautiful travel-worn pup, and we took him home, where I bathed him. What emerged from the murky waters of his ablution was a snow white fluffy Border Collie with a black head and tan cheeks. He was named Shep and he quickly set to work to become our housedog.

He had few needs apart from regular feeding, water, and the occasional trip into the back garden to take care of matters too delicate to describe. Other than that, his desire was to share my easy chair, sitting at my right hand side so that I could scratch him behind his ears and stroke his delightful head.

Shep was home.

He grew into a large sized medium dog and remained affectionate and obedient, ever willing to please, except when the humour was on him. When he smelled a bitch on heat anywhere within a five mile radius, he trotted purposefully down the garden and when I tried to call back he continued to run, only turning towards me to laugh, before he jumped over the back garden wall to run through a neighbour’s garden. He would come home when he pleased.

When Lyn decided she didn’t want to be married to a Mormon, I moved into a back terrace house in Heckmondwike and took Shep with me. Shep would run free, occasionally chasing a huge horse in a field above Thomas Street, near the new Kingdom Hall on his way to the field and escarpment that ran above the railway lines up to Staincliffe. He enjoyed his runs, and most days I would go with him for a constitutional as I was unemployed after I crashed my car in Albany Road and it wasn’t fit for the road, and I couldn’t afford to have it repaired, which is why I eventually bought the Puch moped.

Shep visited one of Heckmondwike’s remaining butchers, bringing home cuts of meat that while they were not choice, were, nonetheless sheer heaven for dogs. However, he did not like raw meat, and after banging on the door to be admitted, he would drop his prizes at my feet and look at we with a “How’s that? face on. Sometimes he arrived with a rack f beef ribs, a cut that had not, at that time, reached fame as a barbecue dish among the English.

So went the tenor of our days. Then, one day he did not return home at his usual time. I was even more worried when he was not home by next morning, because he never stayed out at night. I called the local police station who affirmed that a dog roughly according to my description of the little wanderer had been picked up by the dog warden and was now safely in kennels somewhere out in the country near Cleckheaton. I called the kennel and they confirmed what the bobby had told me.

I had no transport and Shep was safe for a mere three days before he was put to sleep, a euphemism for dog murder, and that would be the end of him. I was desperate, and called Mark Hinchliffe, who lived in Ravensthorpe with Andrea and their two little boys. Mark came round straightway, and we set off to find the kennels. In the kennel office, I looked the description of the dog, and found it close enough to Shep to take the risk and hand over the fine, the daily fee, and a feeding fee. If they had had a music licence, I expect I would have had to pay for that as well.

Only when the cash clanked into the kennel’s coffers could I take the long trail from the office up a filed to the place of cages. Accompanied by an employee, Mark and I entered the compound where row on row of stainless steel cages held dogs of every size and description. Each door we approached had a dog standing on hind legs, paws on the netting, pleading to be taken out. It was heart breaking. Shep was no different, and our reunion was not a little emotional, even for Mark who did not have a dog. After slipping the lead onto Shep’s neck, we walked back down the hill, said our goodbyes to the cage crew, put our tail-wagging friend in the rear seat and set off for home.

As I had viewed the cages with their occupants anxious for release and a return to what I hoped had been a happy life as a beloved pet, I thought on the state of those souls who were in spirit prison, anxious for their release, but not having any kinfolk actively seeking them, perhaps unwilling to pay the price for their release so they could enjoy a blessed reunion with their eternal families. Whether dogs or humans; whether pets or people, there are souls waiting for us to save them and help them to progress towards eternal joy through reunion with those who care enough to let their hearts be turned towards them.

President Lorenzo Snow said: "We are satisfied—at least I am, and I believe many of the brethren look upon it in the same light—that the most important work that Latter-day Saints can do on this earth is that of opening the door for the salvation of their kindred dead.''

If the dogs I had to leave in their prison, and if Shep’s reaction when I released him, is anything to go by, opening the door to save our kindred is too important for ourselves and for those who wait behind locked doors to overlook or ignore.

Joseph Fielding Smith Jr has written: Through [Temple ordinances] we learn that family ties are not to be broken, that husbands and wives will eternally have a claim upon each other and upon their children to the latest generation. However, in order to receive these privileges, the sealing ordinances in the temple of our God must be obtained.

As Shep and his companions waited for someone to come and open their doors, so there are souls who have waited long times past and who will be waiting for long times to come. They are impatient to be found, liberated, and exalted, and we, and only we, have the keys.


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