When your favorite girl brought me the Holy Oil, I knew something was wrong. We got on our knees and anointed a handkerchief, a symbol of prayers gone up on your behalf, and she laid the piece of cloth on your pillow. She knew there was nothing magic about our ritual, but it did give her a tangible thing to hold onto while we waited and hoped for you to feel better. It served as a reminder as the hours passed that we had cast this care on the Creator…that the prayers of God’s people are forever in the Throne Room.
You were always so brave. So gentle and kind with a spirit that seemed to reach out and draw people right into your embrace. You argued your cause with your unfailing spirit. And your smile….I never knew dogs could smile like that.
We still have a picture of you on the refrigerator that Donovan drew some time ago. It captures your essence so completely that I find myself going to look at it over and over again. When I first saw that picture, I realized that a great work of art isn’t about perfection of technique; it has everything to do with the object of inspiration and interpreting the impression as clearly as a writer conveys his message through words. In Donovan’s drawing, we see so much more than a sketch. We see your sweetness.
It all started the day your mother came into our backyard where Tyler was working on his truck. She must have really liked him because she came back each day to visit. He named her “Dixie”. She explored the neighborhood by day and came to sleep in our yard by night. Two weeks later, she chose to have her pups at our house. I’ve never seen such a beautiful litter of full-blood labs.
You were special from the very beginning. In a litter of eight pups, you had your own birthday. Donovan fell asleep on the couch that night. Looking back, it is clear that he had a Divine Appointment. Your mother delivered you in the early morning hours and my little misplaced boy was able to call for help, unhindered by closed doors. This was the first miracle of your life. Yours was a prolonged birth which might be the reason you were unable to do so many of the things other dogs could do. It never mattered to us, as long as you didn’t live in pain. As long as you were happy to be here, we were content to just let you be.
We named you “Forrest” before we knew you needed magic shoes.
The other pups grew quickly and soon you were too small to muscle your way to the milk. Sometimes we’d put you in a room alone with your mom so you could feed. We eventually supplemented with puppy formula to help you grow better. One of the things I remember most when I think of those days is the way you would wake up early every morning to come snuggle with us. You’d find the blanket with the human mom and kids and you would come to us like we were your family….your litter-mates. We had eight beautiful puppies to choose from, but we never had to make a choice. You chose us.
That’s why we thought your first doctor came from an alien planet the day she told us, “I’m not so sure he’ll make anyone a good pet.”
I never took you there again. Surely in this big world we live in, there had to be a Doctor who understood that the ability to walk perfectly is not what makes a great pet.
We set up the house to accommodate you. Food and water bowls were placed in different locations so you could take what you needed wherever you happened to be leaning. You knew your way around the entire house by the furniture and wall placement. These were the things that supported you when you walked because even though you knew exactly where you wanted to go, your hind legs did not get the message. You had a neurological disorder, but it didn’t cause you any pain. A few alterations were needed. You became our teacher and taught us how to meet your needs. It was amazing to see how smart a dog could be when he had to think his way through his every move. If you had been a human boy, you would have been an kick-butt Chess player.
As your body grew bigger, it became more difficult for you to support your weight, so we ordered a set of wheels. We couldn’t wait for the UPS guy to deliver them so you could take us on nice, long walks outside but just before they arrived, you decided to go on an adventure.
You about scared the fool out of us that day. I guess it was such a gorgeous January day, you wanted to see the world beyond our yard. We searched the neighborhood to no avail. It must have been very frightening for your legs to give out on you with none of your family nearby. We didn’t know at the time about the sweet little boys that found you, but that was the second miracle. While we were praying for your safety, your Creator had already seen to that.
We made “Lost Puppy” signs. They took you to the vet. This doctor saw how special you were from the very beginning. It didn’t matter to him that you walked funny. He thought you were a great dog. So the third and fourth miracle happened together: We found you at the home of the sweet family and they found the doctor that would do everything he could to help you feel better for the rest of your life.
I’ll always remember the year you went for walks in your wheelchair in the cool of the evening with Heath, Donovan, and Bryanna. We have so many fun pictures of you walking so tall and proud. You loved being outside. They just loved being with you.
As your first year with us passed, the doctor took great care of you. He ruled out blood diseases, one after another, and finally told us that Someone with more answers was the One looking out for you. “He defies the science,” he told us about you. “He does better with prayers and love than he does with medicine.”
I’m so glad you stayed with us as long as you did. We finally quit counting miracles because there were so many of them. We realized that you were just one big miracle in the form of a beautiful white dog. Sometimes people need extra special animals in their lives so their eyes can be opened to the infinite goodness of God. Sometimes people get swallowed by whales. Others get knocked off their donkey and fall hard to the ground. God sent us a beautiful dog to teach us the lessons He wanted us to learn, which is a good thing because getting swallowed or falling down might have just made us cuss.
I guess you know how much we miss you. When I sat beside you the night you went to heaven, I knew you were telling me something different. You were telling me goodbye. You were telling me to give the kids plenty of extra love because you knew how much they would miss you. And because everyday of your life was a miracle, God saw to it that you were surrounded that day and night by all the people you loved the most.
You took your last breath in the same room where you took your first.
Heath and I, together, laid you to rest. He chose a spot by the most beautiful evergreen in our backyard.
We all slept in the living room that night. Even though the kids always slept with you, they needed my comfort. We put lots of pillows and blankets on the floor, just as we did in the earliest days of your life. We took comfort in one another, but still, the room seemed so empty. We were so used to you breathing the air with us, it seemed there was just too much of it.
Donovan built a nice wooden cross for your grave and Bryanna brings fresh cut flowers for you each day. It is beautiful outside as summer transitions to fall, the time of year you most loved being outside.
We think about you often and wonder if Grandpa is feeding you scraps under the table. We take comfort and laugh together at the thought of you running through soft green grass, doing all the things you were physically unable to do before.
There is something I want to ask you before I go. Did you send that little frightened puppy to our house last week? He looks part Rotweiller with a touch of German Shepherd? We kind of figured you did so we’ve been calling him “Lieutenant Dan”. He’s not afraid anymore and he’s gotten kind of chubby in the last week. We’re giving him lots of love while we try to find him a home.
And speaking of love…I am giving the kids the extra comfort you told me they would need. I just want you to know that. I also want to say thank you, again, for being my special dog. Thank you for teaching us so much about being compassionate and brave in the face of challenge. We’ll always remember the lessons you came here to teach us and most of all, we’ll always feel that sense of awe that wraps us like a warm blanket when we remember what it feels like to be in the midst of a true miracle.
Rest in peace, my little one.
I love you.