RIP Brock II April 1, 2007 – April 7, 2016




You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God!

Psalm 36: 6-7

In the early winter of 2007, during one of our Sunday dinners, I announced to my family that I was going to get a German Shepherd puppy.  Twenty heads turned in my direction as if I had just told them I was getting married.  No one thought it was a bad idea per se; but no one thought it was necessarily a good idea either.  The news sort of went “thud” on the floor.

At that time I was the pastor – and the only priest – assigned to a Catholic parish with over 13,000 parishioners.  My family knew what my daily life looked like – being of service to others 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although I’m sure they wanted to be supportive, they couldn’t quite imagine how it was all going to work out if I added a canine to the mix.

I brought the pup-topic up again several weeks later at another Sunday night dinner, this time announcing I had done some research and had settled on a breeder. I asked if anyone wanted to accompany me to meet the breeder and see what I was getting into.  My brother Brian immediately accepted the invitation and together, later that week, we drove some distance beyond the nation’s capital to the beautiful hills and valleys of rural Virginia, where I began a relationship with a breeder I trusted.

The breeder seemed to understand my lifestyle as a parish priest, and she wisely asked if I would wait for two special German Shepherds to mate so I could have a puppy from their litter.  I agreed because of the temperaments of the mother and father – the breeder seemed to believe this canine couple would produce a gentle giant.  Brock was not going to be my first German Shepherd, in fact he would be the fourth in a line of family German Shepherds.  Our last family Shepherd had been called Brock.  He was the first Brock.

A litter of seven brothers was born on April 1, 2007 (Palm Sunday that year) and one of those puppies would be mine.  All I had to do was wait eight weeks until the litter was ready to go to each of their forever homes.  During that time I studied everything I could about bringing a puppy home.  I bought crates and leashes and toys and food, and I fenced in a large portion of the back of the rectory so the puppy would have some place to safely romp.

On Memorial Day, Mom and I went to pick up Brock, the 2nd.  When the breeder brought Brock out to meet me he walked over to me, crawled up in my lap, licked my face and went to sleep.  My heart melted and in a moment – in a second – everything changed.  I was no longer a “me” …. I had somehow inexplicably become a “we.”  And for as excited as I was, I was also scared to death.

Mom held Brock in her lap as we drove to her house – the rest of the family gathered and everyone fell in love with him.  Later that night I drove home to the rectory and when I got home the realization of the full weight of this responsibility hit me like a ton of bricks.  I held Brock in my arms and we walked around the big parish parking lot. The whole time I was saying to myself, “This was the most stupid thing you have ever done in your life, what was I thinking?!?”

brockandme300Katie Horton
In time Brock the Second and I figured it out.  It wasn’t the pretty Norman Rockwell beginning I had envisioned; and I blame everyone else for that because no one told me puppy-hood could suck.  Eventually we hit our groove.  Slowly I learned how to care for another being completely dependent on me.  I learned how to teach and train and to become open to what Brock wanted to teach me too.  Brock taught me to be present to others in a way I don’t think I was before he came into my life.  He taught me how to get outside and walk miles and miles a day and how to live life a little more adventurously.

Eventually Brock and I would choose to leave the church of our heritage and head out on our own into a very uncertain future.  We were brave and we had each other. What I didn’t know as we walked that parking lot on our first Memorial Day together was that God had chosen the perfect canine companion for me to accompany me as I figured out what our future would become.  I tell everyone, “Brock was the best decision I ever made – he was the companion I never knew I needed.”  Bless him.

brockantlers2Brock sporting some festive headgear
Eventually we made our way to Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia.  When I was interviewed for the rector position I shared with the search committee that if I couldn’t wear jeans and couldn’t bring my dog to work, then I probably wasn’t the right priest for their parish.  No one blinked an eye.  My jeans and my dog were welcome.  We had a new parish home.  Thank God.  From the bottom of  my heart.

Please forgive me for sharing this sad news in a blog – it is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Brock II died on April 7th.  We were at work, like any other day. Out of nowhere something shifted in Brock that whispered in my heart that this might be the end.  Brock did not suffer – he was brave, strong and faithful to the end.  If anyone was a wreck, it was me – Brock was simply and authentically Brock to the end.  He just wanted me to be with him and we stayed together until the end.  “The end” happened within two hours from start to finish and a decision never had to be made; Brock simply succumbed to this life and mercifully began his next life on the other side.

I’ll miss Brock forever and be forever grateful God allowed our paths to cross.

My brother Sean said he knew Brock II was in heaven with our brother Brian.  Brian LOVED Brock and Brock loved Brian.  I’m so grateful to Sean for sharing that image with me – it’s an image that has given me great consolation.

A funny story about Brian and Brock.  When Brock was just a puppy, Brian would come to the parish to pick up Brock.  When Brian arrived to pick Brock up I asked him where they were going for their outing.  Brian got a little grin on his face and said, “Starbucks.”  I tilted my head, bewildered, wondering why on earth he would take a pup to Starbucks, to which Brian responded, “Chicks love puppies, wish me luck!”  Go Brian.

My heart is understandably heavy and I know that time will heal; but I also know that I loved Brock with every fiber of my being and that Brock knew he was loved – and likewise I know that I was the apple of his eye. 

gooddogbrock630x275family photo


To those of you who knew Brock, thank you for loving him.  We will see him again.  This I know.  We will see each other again.

You’re in my prayers.  Please keep me in yours as well.

Peace friends,


P.S. I will miss Brock forever and be forever grateful to God for allowing our paths to cross. I also know that I am meant to have a dog in my life. Please stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post for an introduction to the next chapter of my life as a canine’s companion.


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  • Eleanor Dyer says:

    May 29, 2016

    Dear Father Chuck,
    i was just catching up on my email and pulling up my music for 6:30 PM Mass today when I sadly learned of the passing of your beloved Brock II. I am so glad you were with him until the very end. I had a similar experience with my Dusty whose life I was privileged to share for 14 years. How wonderful is the unconditional love of an animal companion! I miss seeing you walk along the GW Parkway.
    Love and hugs,

  • Leslie Dunbar says:

    My dear friend,
    Brock was so lucky to have you in his life. Mark believes that we don’t choose our pups…they choose us. May it bring you comfort to know that Brock II chose you, because of your beautiful and faithful spirit.
    “There is no death. Only a change of worlds” ~Chief Seattle
    Leslie & Mark Dunbar

  • Christine Reilly says:

    So sorry for your loss Chuck – Brock II was such a beautiful, gentle giant, and he definitely knew he was loved. Praying for you, my friend! Thank you for sharing these stories, loved the vision of Brian with puppy Brock at Starbucks 🙂

  • Cassie Rogan says:

    I am so sorry for your loss of Brock. Prayers and hugs. You will never replace what you had with Brock. As a member of a family of dog lovers, we understand your loss, God Bless!

  • Colleen says:

    Father Chuck, I was so saddened to see this post. I know how special Brock was to you. Someone shared this poem with me after we lost Coby… after i finished wiping my tears away I was content in knowing he was there waiting for me and enjoying every second of his after life. I hope this brings some solace to you as well.

    Sending love and prayers your way!

  • Mary Jane says:

    Dear Chuck,
    So sorry to hear that your beloved Brock is gone. I’ve had my share of wonderful dogs that have been a big part of my life and I know the grieving that one feels when they are no longer with you. Their love so encompasses your everyday living that when they are gone….the emptiness is all too real. I remember Brock relaxing in your office at GS….such a beautiful presence.
    I recently adopted a rescue sheltie and she is the sweetest. Unless you are set on having a pup, as before, I’d like to suggest you consider checking on a shepherd rescue group. They are great to work with and you would be giving a loving home to a dog who really needs your love. Just think about it. God bless…..

  • Paula says:


    Hugs and condolences on your loss. Ted and I have 3 Shepherds and share in your love of the breed. Wishing you comfort in precious memories.

    Paula & Ted and all the Beck’s

  • barbara walthall says:

    I have loved many, and lost many, great dogs, all who have taught me great things about myself, about others, and how to serve others. The hardest decisions are to end their lives, humanely, and with each one I grew up. My current ole boy, nearly 12 and deaf, is teaching me new ways to communicate and to be more patient. Glad I taught him hand signals when he was younger, because they are really important now~ I I know another dog is in your future, as another one will be in mine, heart ache and all. …What a gift they are. Creatures great and small ( I go for the bigger creatures too)

  • mcmahon says:

    Peace be with you, Chuck:

    I am so sorry to hear that Brock has passed away and I know how heartbreaking it is to loose such a wonderful companion! I too, believe that we will reunite with our pets in heaven…they’re a wonderful gift from God…there is no doubt! When I lost my Golden Retriever Lucy, I told myself, “No more dogs; it hurts too much when they die”…that lasted for about three weeks and God introduced me to a crazy, wonderful and extremely goofy and funny labradoodle who needed a home and reluctantly, I took her in…it was the best decision that I ever made…she was an absolute blessing to me. Then about two years later, a red Siberian Husky named Mazy came along and needed a home and I took her in as well…I told myself that “she’s too beautiful to walk away from and after all, Chloe needed a playmate”. Talk about a crazy decision…wow, but over time we became a team and both have enriched my life tremendously…I feel very lucky! Chloe was with me for 13 short years and Mazy and I have been together 15 years this July. My experience with having a dog has taught me that life is good, but its better when you have a dog. As such, I often think back to that time when I said to myself “no more dogs”, and I how I would have lost out on so much that life has to offer had I stood my ground. Chloe and Mazy taught me to be more open and receptive to change; to be willing to try new things and to take a risk. They’re beauty has always been a natural that introduced me to new people who have become close friends and whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. They made me realize how wonderful all of God’s creation truly is and that we have an important role in caring for our portion of it. Again, God bless you and your beautiful Brock…I know that he’s alive and well in heaven! Your Friend, Mike

  • Tom & Beth Gerard says:

    Father Chuck

    Thanks for sharing Brock’s life with us. We are sorry to hear of his passing but grateful for the 9 years you had together. One of my favorite memories is of you and Brock in the Good Shepherd parking lot.

  • Marianne says:

    Brock truly was a gentle giant. We lost our Newton (mini golden doodle) just a year ago, a week shy of his 12th birthday. One night he was running around the yard playing with me. Before dawn the next day he suffered a massive seizure. After a few hours with the vet, we brought him home, and he crossed the Rainbow Bridge the next morning, while Nick and I sat with him. He was taking care of us, not the other way around. The void he left is something you know all too well. We now have TWO puppies in the house! One is ours–another golden doodle we’ve named Stella. The other belongs to Nick. He’s a Bernedoodle, a cross between a poodle and Bernes Mountain dog and the cutest thing you’ve ever seen! Nick has named him Chief. If you haven’t yet, take a look at I too believe our four legged companions are waiting for us.

  • Jim & Roni says:

    You shared with us, if heaven is perfect and filled with love, how can it not include our pets? We wish we could give you a big hug … God bless you Chuck!! And I 100% agree with you – we are meant to have dogs in our lives!! Hang in there brother! Love you!

    Jim & Roni

  • D W Donovan says:


    I was so sorry to hear about Brock’s passing. I’ve also been blessed with the love of a dog my entire life and share some small part in how huge of a loss this is. Terrie and I send our love and pray that you will feel Brock’s kisses forever on your face.

    “Danny” Donovan

  • Deb Kuth says:

    Dear Chuck, we remember how much joy Brock brought to everyone. He was present after most masses and especially after Emily’s First Communion so many years ago. I remember the mob of white dresses all around him. You had a good hold of his collar just in case his “puppy-ness” took over. All was perfect. I also remember when Brock ate the wooden spoon used for spaghetti. All you could imagine was that it must have still tasted like spaghetti! Silly dog! We too, only two weeks ago, lost our beloved dog of 13 years. Your words are a comfort to us. Indeed we loved her very much and she loved us mightily. May God bless our pets.

  • Mary says:

    I am so sorry.

  • Roberta Marchant Jennings says:

    Chuck, like my sister, Helaire, I tried to read your post without crying. It didn’t work. I’m so sorry to hear that Brock II has left you, but I know Brian came to meet him, and that they are very busy locating your next Brock. Love and peace to you.

  • Bill Zaccagnino says:

    Chuck, My condolences on Brock’s death. I know very well the grief that brings, but it is far outweighed by the unadulterated joy dogs bring during their lives. Brock II was one of the best: kind, gentle, and happy to be among two parish families and especially the McCourt family. I know he had a rough time these last couple of years, but he always seemed glad to see company. I’ll miss the big galloot.

  • Joann Manzek says:

    Chuck, I read joy, love & sadness in your words. My heart goes out to you. I always marveled on how that little puppy got so big yet still sat at your feet all day! Your next buddy will be one lucky critter! Love & hugs.

  • Cheryl Simpson says:

    I remember so well all those Sunday mornings after 7:30 mass in your office when you and Brock were so gentle, kind and patient with Jeff. Those moments mean more to me then you can ever know, and my heart breaks for you now.. Thank you for sharing Brock with us.
    God Bless

  • Danielle Klorig (gsc) says:

    I was so happy to see you on my email again, missed your posts, but was saddened
    when I realized the reason for you emil. There is a furry critter out there waiting for
    your love. dk

  • Pat P. says:

    I’m happy I knew Brock II. I believe he was a therapy canine, even if he didn’t go through the training officially. You and he made a great team. And, I’m sure, your next companian will be equally loving and lovable.

    Peace, Pat

  • Kathy says:

    Wish I hadn’t started reading this at work. I have fond memories of Brock from his puppy days at GS. He was a gem. I know how hard it is to say goodbye to a good friend. I am also happy to hear there will be a next chapter. We loved our first dog Duncan more than I could have imagined at the time and he was just nuts. Our second guy Harry, thought the same breed, is a completely different personality and we love him maybe even more if possible. Brock would be happy to know there will be a new dog in your life. Dogs make life better! Best wishes !

  • Jim Carney says:

    Terribly sorry for your loss, Chuck. I think the short lives of these beloved animals may be God’s way of reminding us of our own ephemeral life spans and a way, also, of creating a group of friends waiting to see us when we arrive. Dogs teach us so much about the kind of love that Jesus taught and exemplified that it is unthinkable that they would not be part of our eternal joy also.

  • Velvet says:

    Oh my, Chuck. I’m so sorry. I met and loved Brock from day one and I’m so grateful to have known him and to have shared a very small part of his life. He was awesome and the bond you shared together was a truly beautiful thing.

  • Barbara DeSio says:

    Chuck- You might remember me from our distant youth and formative years. Your post about Brock touched me deeply for I’ve felt that loss but also know it’s not the last time our paths cross with the fur angels in our lives. For many of us a house is not a home unless we have that special dog there sharing it with us. A great gift that you both shared your lives. Prayers for you and Brock until you meet again
    Barb DeSio

  • Yvonne Beck says:

    I am so very sorry

    The Best Dog of All
    Loving and loyal,
    A friend through and through,
    How in the world can I
    live life without you?

    I’ve known you since you
    Were just a scrappy little pup.
    Fighting to survive,
    And you never gave up.

    I watched you grow into a
    beautiful canine friend.
    Back in those days,
    I could not imagine this end.

    But now it is all over,
    And you’re truly gone.
    Somehow I’ll find a way
    To try to carry on.

    Perhaps one day I’ll find
    A new puppy who,
    Will become my dear friend,
    But she’ll never replace you.

    I’ll keep your little photo
    hung up on my wall,
    And I’ll always remember you
    As the very best dog of all.

    You Did Me a Kindness
    When my legs grew too weak to carry me,
    And my tired eyes could no longer see,
    When it pained me to struggle for each new breath,
    When my heart beat weaker, and I drew closer to death,
    You did me the kindness of letting me go.
    You didn’t make me hang on when I was suffering so.
    I promise I don’t think that you loved me any less,
    And I love you all the more for your selflessness.
    You freed my spirit from its body so wracked with pain,
    And let me run the fields of Heaven, where I’m sure we’ll meet again.

    Until We Meet in Heaven
    Sent from my iPhone

  • Barbara says:

    I think it was Will Rogers who said “If there are no dogs in heaven, then I want to go where they are”. Beautiful story about Brock and you. He’ll be in your heart forever..

  • Arlene Dugan says:

    So sorry to hear about Brock. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Michele says:

    So sad as I know how special Brock II was to you. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and know you are in our prayers. That boy was just as lucky to have you in his life as you were to have him.

  • Jane Adkins says:

    Oh, Chuck,
    I am so sorry to hear of Brock’s passing. I remember him as a pup hanging out in your office , seeing you two out at all hours walking together, or running in to the two of you riding together in your red truck. I especially recall how when you and Brock came to Angelus Academy one day to visit with the first graders the children crawled all over him as you all sat on the floor together… and Brock took it all in stride. My heart aches for you as I know how a dog is so much more than a pet… he/she is your friend for life. God bless, dear friend.

  • Mark Kelliher says:

    I know a Brock II was a challenge & a love. He & you will remain in my prayers. I will remember the love & kindness in your eyes, helping us know you more. God bless!

  • Helaire says:

    Chuck, so I told myself I wasn’t going to cry reading this post – that lasted about 10 seconds! Your life with Brock was so beautifully expressed. Even though I never had the chance to meet Brock, I know the heartache of losing a pet so loved. You, Brian, and Brock are in my thoughts and prayers. Brock knew you loved him – that’s all that matters.

  • Scott says:

    Thank you for sharing Brock long ago at a Children’s Liturgy Christmas party. He was a great dog. Raising one dependent on you makes one more empathetic to care givers everywhere. In honor of Brock give it some time and raise another. We love our rescue.

    One of these days our family will make it back to its preschool home, Emmanuel.

  • Amanda J says:

    Sounds like your story with Brock and mine with Johann is vey similar. He has changed my world in ways I never imagined that day my friend called and asked “can you take the puppy?” We are truly blessed by those who leave a paw print on our hearts. I hope we can get Johann and Brock together for a playdate soon!

  • Rachelle says:

    So very sorry to hear about Brock, Chuck. I know how important you were to each other. May in romp in joy in green pastures, and may you know joy in the sweetest of memories!

  • Paula Dierkes says:

    What a beautiful life you shared with Brock, Chuck. I am very sorry to hear that he is gone but I, too, believe he is with Brian and all your loved ones. Brock is still getting love and attention. Miss you! Can’t wait to read your introduction to the next chapter of your life!!!

  • Kathy says:

    Chuck! I am mortified I’ve not called you – Rachel let me know about Brock and I cannot explain what happened between that telling and today. My heart, my thoughts, my prayers with you dear friend. And, yes, Brock with frolicking with Brian without a doubt!

  • Rose says:

    You’ve shared this beautifully, Chuck. Bud and I are both so happy we met Brock II – and we look forward to meeting Brock III -God bless you both dear friend.

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