Even Had His Own
Seat For Years
BY LISA WARREN
Goodbyes were said on Sunday afternoon at Trinity United Methodist Church to a faithful, four-legged servant, named Dickens.
The black labrador, who died on Jan. 10, had served as a guide dog to his visually-impaired companion, Robert Morris, for nearly 14 years.
Both man and dog have become beloved members of the Trinity congregation Trinity since the two began attending church there in 2004.
Morris, 70, said that Dickens was like family to him and had given him back his independence and confidence after nearly completely losing his eyesight to retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that progressively damages the retina.
Upon the suggestion of a friend who is also visually impaired, Morris was able to obtain Dickens through the Lions Club's "Leader Dogs for the Blind" program, based in Rochester, Minn.
Once Dickens entered his life, Morris said that his world just seemed to open up.
"We went everywhere together," he said. "We even had our own seat at church."
Morris said he misses his friend deeply, and he appreciated the dedication and love that was shown to him by his canine companion.
"He continued to take care of me right up until the end," Morris added.
More than 70 individuals turned out on the snowy Sunday afternoon to pay their respects at the memorial service to honor Dickens' life and service.
Several persons spoke during the service, sharing kind words, poems and recollections.
Among those was Susan Stokeley, who had written a piece entitled "Dog of My Heart," which was read by Tracy Horner.
In the piece, Stokeley called Dickens "an example for all of us at Trinity. He was obedient, loyal and faithful. And there will always be a vacant spot in our congregation and our hearts."
Tom Yancey, a former staff writer for The Greeneville Sun, who attends church at Trinity and has known Morris and Dickens, was asked to read a column on the two that was written in 1999 by Sun Columnist Bob Hurley.
Trinity Church Pastor Stuart Albee welcomed those in attendance at the memorial and for their show of support and love.
"Dickens was a regular part of the congregation here, and we will miss him," Albee said.
Greene County Emergency Management Agency Director Bill Brown told about how Morris, who is a ham radio operator, and Dickens both attended an Emergency Community Response Team class.
"Dickens was probably the best student we had," Brown quipped.
Brown said that Dickens "helped to make Robert what he is today. And if I could say just one thing to Dickens now, it would be: 'Job well done, my friend. Job well done.'"