BEYOND QUESTION: HEART OF HEARTS

A friendly neighbor of mine claims that all dogs are Metamorphytes.  I asked him what this meant and he explained that dogs are Metamorphytes because they mold their personalities after the personality of their owner.  Well, I looked up the word on the Internet and when I discovered it wasn’t there, I silently made note that this was my neighbor’s observation and a very interesting one.  Now after two dogs, I believe there is truth to my neighbor’s observation, and we should coin the word “Metamorphyte” to explain the relationship of dogs to their owners.

I was dogless until in my forties, and now that I have been a dog owner I think there is nothing more precious to one’s Well Being & Spiritual Happiness than having a dog.

IMG_1477 (2)At age forty, I started to date a very nice man.  It was mid-October and Doug and I were sharing our 3rd date with a bonfire at his home.   From the corner of my eye I spotted a black and tan colored dog watching us from a distance.  I said to Doug, “Oh, I didn’t know you have a dog?”

Doug replied, “Well, I don’t.  It just happened that after my hockey practice a couple nights ago this stray dog appeared at my door.  Now, here the dog is again. It is a female, and I’m sure she wants my attention.”

Explaining that it was around midnight when this female dog first appeared, Doug and I decided to call her “Midnight”.  The scraggly Border Collie Lab was all skin and bones.  She was timid, starved and deserted.  We figured her repeat visit was a plea for our help.

In an effort to locate the owners, Doug put up posters and spoke with the local pet store and Vet.  No one responded.  When a reasonable amount of time passed and no one claimed Midnight Doug decided to keep her.  He made a home for his new dog where it was warm and dry.  This seemed to satisfy Midnight’s needs, and she rubbed against Doug’s side showing her appreciation.  Beyond coincidence, Midnight’s arrival coincided with the deepening of Doug’s and my relationship.

IMG_1489 (2)Doug and I quickly became aware that this strange dog was the ideal matchmaking catalyst that we needed.  With Midnight in our lives, we found ourselves enjoying daily walks together and making time for having fun with our new dog.  Our recipient, Midnight, was so thankful for having us in her life that she ran and played every day, and was all ears listening keenly for any way she could please us.  She loved to retrieve the sticks, kongs and any toys that we threw.  Her fast legs kept carrying her non-stop until we were the ones who were worn out and called it quits. The fetching game amused Midnight, and quickly became a favourite pastime and pleasure for all parties concerned.

With Midnight in our lives, our relationship elevated to being magical.  The more Doug and I bonded with Midnight, our own relationship deepened.  As a family unit it was easy for us to grow together quickly.  It wasn’t long before Doug and I decided to get married.

As loving dog parents, we were quite concerned when one night Midnight mysteriously sneaked away for an hour or so.  As her tummy started to bulge; however, we learned that the reason for Midnight’s sneaking away was a clandestine love affair with a Chocolate Lab.  In consequence, Midnight gave birth to a full house of puppies.  With ten titties, she fed her eleven puppies. To accommodate the large number of puppies, we stuffed our dining room furniture into our living room and converted the dining room into Midnight’s birthing room and dog nursery.  Helping her was 24-7 with sterilizing and clean-up every evening.  As the puppies started maturing, we were able to expand their living quarters and let them wander about on our concrete patio.  To help midnight and move the feeding quarters outside, Doug built a long wooden troth.  It was so cute to see the little darlings lined up along the troth munching away on their food.

Although a lot of work, helping Midnight give birth and raise her newborns was an emotionally rewarding experience that I will treasure forever.  The puppies were adorable.  Midnight was the epitome of the perfect mother-attentive and often rescuing puppies who ventured astray.  One evening after stroking our faithful Mother-Dog, I said to Doug, “You know, watching Midnight makes me realize how fortunate I am.  It is beyond my imagination to picture myself tending to eleven babies all at once—makes me appreciate how awesome Midnight is!

Much as we admired and loved Midnight, Doug told me, “With three cats that now have, one dog is enough!”  I agreed with Doug.

We decided to find good homes for Midnight’s puppies.  We gave six of the puppies to people we knew.   With the other five puppies, we went to a place called Western Speedway, a large swap meet where they sell most everything.  Before we even entered the gates to put up our booth, all the puppies had found homes.  We only charged $40 for each puppy, and that was to cover our own expenses.

Shortly after her mothering duties were over, Doug started taking Midnight with him to the excavating company where he worked.  When times were slow and the men were waiting for their dispatch orders, their custom was to play cards.  Like one of the crew members, Midnight took her seat perched upright upon her private chair.  With keen eyes she observed all the moves played.  The men bestowed the honor of “Staff Mascot” upon our sweetheart dog.

As years passed by, on a routine check-up visit with the vet, he noticed a small fatty growth on Midnight’s neck.  The vet told us that fatty deposits are not harmful so we could either leave it or operate to have it removed.  We decided to leave is since it didn’t seem to bother Midnight.

Years later and all had progressed well in our human and canine lives; that is, until my Mom got sick.  I left to visit her in the far off province of Ontario.  It was obvious Midnight missed me as she grieved my absence.  Upon my return, I noticed she had begun slowing down.

Unfortunately in very short order, I had to leave again for a two month total during which time my Mom died.  After such a long absence, when I returned home, I was awestruck.  Midnight had slowed down…rather drastically I must say.  Her eyesight was almost gone, she slept a lot, her growth on her neck had grown to a large size, and she whimpered as she ran to retrieve her stick or her kong.  Tears filled my eyes as I watched my sweetheart run in pain to fetch her kong.  It felt as if Midnight had joined me in my grieving.

“Strange,” I told my girlfriend, “but I believe Midnight and I are united in grief and pain!  It feels like Midnight is connected to the center of my heart, and my heart is broken in mourning for the loss of my Mom.”

IMG_1493 (2)Intuitively, Doug and I knew Midnight could not survive long.  With heavy chests, on December 27th, two days after Christmas, we took Midnight to the vet.  He confirmed our suspicions.  The vet predicted the growth would soon burst leaving many lesions and a big mess.  He recommended that we put Midnight down. Rather than causing Midnight to suffer, we complied with the good Vet’s recommendation.  Tears rolling down both our cheeks, we buried Midnight at my in-law’s large farm.  Midnight had loved to run and roam in the fields, so we figured it was the perfect resting place for our princess now in heaven.

The funeral over, days passed.  I cried, and cried, and cried.  I talked to myself saying, “How could life be so cruel?  First my Mom dies and is taken away from me, and then my beloved dog, Midnight-and all this in a space of 19 days.”

My heart was bankrupt.  I was sure everyone could see my empty heart.  In reality, only some people noticed, and particularly my dear husband, Doug.

In emotional agony, I quit my job.  Feeling depressed, I would sit alone grieving in an empty house while Doug worked.  Doug and I wanted to eventually get another dog, but decided some time should pass between dogs.

After seeing how deeply I was grieving; however, Doug did a reversal.  He decided some “shoulds” are like unjust rules that deserve to be broken. My gallant knight in shining armour, my husband, came charging to my rescue.

Doug put his arm around me giving me a big hug, and whispered in my ear, “Sweety, let’s go look at dogs!”

I snuggled into Doug’s arms silently giving my consent.  My husband loved me enough that he knew my having another dog would lift me out of my depression.

Enthusiastically, we went to the SPCA.  Unfortunately there was nothing for us.  The dogs were either too big, required too much grooming, or were not good with children or cats—currently we had Grandchildren and two cats.   Not to be denied, we visited two other pounds.  Again we found nothing.  Finally in desperation we went back to the SPCA where we first visited. There were so many dogs, we thought “Let’s take another look.”   We arrived back at the SPCA and were greeted to the sound of what seemed like all the dogs barking.  I searched all the kennels. Finally I spied one rather large copper colored dog that was stretched out sleeping in contrast to the other dogs who were rather restless and noisy.

IMG_2332 (2)“That is the one!” I said to myself.  Like a magnet, I was attracted to this sleeping American Staffordshire Terrier crossed with Lab.   The SPCA let Doug and I take the big copper fur-ball out for a walk.  Although he pulled like crazy, the dog was good with kids greeting them with a waggly tail and no barking.  Now just one obstacle left, and that was his demeanor with cats.  Because we were down to two cats, we tested this big mutt of dog by putting him next to a cat at the front counter of the SPCA.  This very powerful mutt did not budge.  Eureka!  All tests were passed successfully.

Doug and I strolled to the back room where there was a journal in which the workers and volunteers recorded their comments.  About the copper colored dog, it read, “Nice dog, pulls, won’t listen.”

That was a good enough report for me.  With the right bonding, I knew this big brute of a mutt would listen.  At last my heart was singing.  Intuitively, I knew this was the perfect dog for us.

IMG_2381 (2)I told Doug, “Yes, I know he is bigger than I said I wanted, but this dog is loving and gentle.  I want this dog with his copper fur. I will name him Cooper.”

“After all,” I chucked, “Cooper rhymes with Cooper Pooper.”

Looking Cooper over from stem to stern, I noticed that the pads on his feet were very soft.  I told Doug, “I don’t think the previous owners ever took this dog on walks.  I’ll have to fix that situation.  Cooper will get lots of walks.”

With my not working, walking Cooper became my daily chore-or should I say blessing.  I don’t know who was more happy, Cooper or myself.  Heck!  Maybe this was another example of Cooper molding to my personality.  I love walking, looked forward to our daily walks, and so did Cooper.  To express his enthusiasm, my new canine companion would start wagging his tail when I started taking off my slippers to get into my walking shoes.  Cooper knew the signs, and on our inaugural walk together managed to mark his arrival in the neighborhood by peeing on a nearby fire hydrant a few steps from our property.    I told Doug, “I am so proud of our boy marking his turf.  It shows me that Cooper knows he belongs with us on our street.”

Cooper and I would walk for miles along the paths in the nearby Provincial Park.  We never tired of our walks and each day seemed to get better and better.  My grief magically lifted.

Much to Cooper’s delight, we often took him to Doug’s parent’s farm where there were many fields for him to romp around in.  One of his first times at the farm there was a rambunctious puppy plus two other dogs for our Canine Fur-Ball to play with.  Cooper showed us his approval by wagging his tail high in the air.  It was a delightful day.  Doug and I felt really good.

IMG_2330 (2)Little did we know things were about to change drastically.  After being out for a long dinner, we returned home to discover Cooper curled up in a ball in the corner of the bathroom.  His eyes were glassy and he did not want to be disturbed.  Remembering the movie, Marley & Me, we imagined that Cooper might have developed bad stomach problems and would have to be operated upon.  Scared-out-of-our-wits, in the dead of the night we rushed our Cooper to emergency.  The night vet quickly diagnosed the problem. Cooper had Limber Tail Syndrome.  This is an unusual condition that in this case was caused by Cooper wagging his tail so much that it got inflamed and bruised.  Armed anti-inflammatory painkillers and suffering a humongous emergency vet bill of approximately $200, the bruise cleared up in a few days.

After this calamity which somehow seemed to draw us closer together, Doug and I decided it was time Cooper takes his place as a full pledged member of our family.  As part of our decision, we decided to treat Cooper with the same privileges that Midnight enjoyed.  We began allowing Cooper to get up on the furniture.  Now my big Fur Ball was more comfortable, and I could “space out” while rubbing my fingers through his copper-colored fur.

IMG_2906 (2)Normally when bedtime rolls around, Doug and I climb into bed whereupon Doug usually plays Sudoku and I read.  At the foot of our bed and on the floor, Cooper is snug in his own bed.  Carefully I have tucked Cooper into his own dog bed covering him with several blankets as he gets chilled with his fur being so short and our window open.  Doug kids me about covering Cooper up with blankets like a little baby.  In response I smugly retort, “Our dog can’t help his short fur and getting cold—it is the way Cooper was born.”

After a few jokes and a good night kiss, Doug and I roll over.  Normally Doug falls asleep before I do. Aware that Cooper is still awake, I tap lightly on the side of the bed.  Cooper, who has been listening for my secret code, walks quietly over to my side of the bed and climbs in.  Next he ducks his head under the blankets and inches his way down toward my feet.  Often I hold him midway down the bed, and we fall asleep together. When Doug awakens and discovers what has happened he again kids me, “Caught you smooching with your baby in your arms.”  I guess Doug is right—I do have a fur-balled baby who does enjoy cuddling with me.

Sometimes when my good natured husband kids me about kissing the dog and where he may have been licking previous to kissing me, I tell him, “No problem, Cooper has been eating his “Breath Buster” snacks with Eucalyptus oil and parsley that fights bad breath.  I am safe!  The “Breath Busters” guarantee it!”

Needless to say with all the extra attention I was showering upon Cooper, by the time two years elapsed, Cooper had bonded particularly with me.  In actual fact, Doug wanted it this way because he knew Cooper was my Canine Antidepressant-with him in my life my grief lifted and I was again my happy self.  Doug remarked with a smile on his face, “You are back to being yourself – the lovely bride who I married.”

Funny, as we continued our bonding, it was as if our thoughts melded.  Cooper seemed to know exactly what I was thinking.  Sometimes it even seemed like he knew what I was thinking before I thought the thought.  One day we were romping together in a nearby field.  With no one around, I had let Cooper off-leash so he could run to his heart’s content.  The field was covered lightly in snow.  Earlier that morning, I had been thinking of my Mom and missing her.  I was wishing she was content up in Heaven, and that she knew how much I missed and loved her.

IMG_2369 (2)Running loose in the field, Cooper suddenly came to a dead stop.  It looked like Cooper was thinking something over-preparing to make a decision.  Cooper raised his head with nose in the air, inhaled deeply, and then took deliberate action as he started running in the snow.  With his canine footprints he drew a downward line, then an upward curved line, then round and down into a clear outline of a heart.  Honestly, he took my breath away when he went and put the final indentation in the top of the heart completing his drawing.

With the drawing complete, Cooper looked me straight in the eye compelling me to listen to his Thought-Words.  Through my faithful companion I heard the words of my Mother whispered to me, “Lynn, I am thinking about you.  I want you to know how much I love you and miss you!”   She repeated her message three times.  I got it!!!!
Cooper’s drawing and the words were crystal clear.  I started bawling like a little baby.  My heart was bursting with joy and gratitude to Cooper, to Mom, and to this Divine Miracle.  It was a miracle, and I wasn’t about to question how Cooper had become a channel for me and my Mom.  For me, the reality of the miracle was a fact, and I blessed it.

Months passed by.  I continued to cherish the miracle; however, didn’t think about it every day as currently I was leading quite a busy life.

For a long while I had wanted to transform a guest room in our home.  Now I was finally getting around to making the transformation.  I wanted to make the guest room a tribute to my Mom.  I brought in my Mom’s Memory Box and strategically placed it on a prominent shelf with a picture of my Mom and Foo Foo Dogs guarding the box.

Next I placed a dresser on each side of the bed for guests and put upon them my collection of dog, cat and designer books.  In final tribute, I graced the bed with a new quilted comforter adorned with pink cheerful flowers and other bright colors like turquoise, lime green and pink.  On top of the comforter, in a crowning tribute to my Mom, I placed my Mom’s home-made afghan that blended well with its turquoise, pink and cream colors.

I then left the room to finish some cooking preparations in the kitchen.  When I returned to admire my new guest room, there was Cooper.  He had never climbed up on this bed before.  Now here he was snuggled into soft folds of my Mom’s afghan.  He was 110% mellow as he looked up and into my eyes.  Once again, as he looked into my eyes, my faithful companion seemed to be talking to me.  Cooper said, “Yes, it is true.  Mom is here with us.  She is telling us that she appreciates this special guest room made in her honor, and she wants you to know that she loves you with all her heart.”

IMG_2376 (2)In tearful joy and thanksgiving, I knew the spirit of my Mom was alive in my life.  Her words kept playing over and over in my thoughts, “If I ever come back, I’d like to come back as one of your pets.  They have it made—so spoiled!”

I looked over at Cooper snuggled in the bed staring at me with a gaze that was so penetrating it was as if he was hypnotizing me.  This time through his gaze Cooper seemed to be transmitting a specific message to me: “Yes, you are finally getting it.  I am me, and your Mom is me.  We are one and the same!  Think of it this way: It is kind of like Valentine’s Day with two hearts joined in one.  Together your Mom and I love you and care about you.”

Receiving this message, my Life was complete!  I knew I would never be alone!

The story revealed by Lynn Lodge
   Ghost writer, Rev. Blenda Pilon, (retired CSL Minister)

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