Monday, January 28, 2013

The Heart of a Dog

Dear John,
It's been a gray, foggy day, but warmer. Jethro and I went for a walk this afternoon in fog and drizzle. And I was thinking about the last time he saw you.
Poor creature! You'd gone to work on the 15th of January and never came home. On the 16th I boarded him and left for Indy, and didn't pick him up until the middle of February. Thank goodness he loves being at the vet's. I could see that he was puzzled. You weren't here, but I'd leave every day and come back smelling like you. The best way I can describe it is that he was waiting. I remember the day that I took underwear and slippers in for you - he saw me get them out and was so excited. That's when he knew for sure that Daddy was out there somewhere.
I'd always had a photo of him on your hospital wall. And when we went back to the Goshen ICU for the last time, the nurses said I could bring him in to see you. And I was so excited! I remember bringing him into the room on your last Monday. I closed the door so I could take him off the leash without him making rounds, but I left the blinds open so the nurses could see in. I had the big recliner up next to the bed so he'd be at your height. He jumped up and nuzzled and licked you, then he did something I hadn't planned on. He jumped straight up in the air (the dog's always had hops), over the siderails, and landed in bed right next to you. I rushed in to prevent disaster - the trach, the vent, the NG tube, the foley, all the IV lines - but he lay down very carefully right next to you. You picked up both arms and put them around the dog, and I was amazed to see you able to move that well. You had tears on your cheeks and he had the first big smile I'd seen on his face since January 14th. Then you both went to sleep for almost an hour. I sat by the bed with one hand on each of you. I saw nurses keep coming to the window and looking in; soon somebody brought a kleenex box. Then Jethro woke up and needed to go out, so I brought him home.
He was quiet and pensive that night. He finally knew where you were, but he knew well how sick you were. And four days later when Jen and I left in a hurry and came home in tears, he knew his Daddy was gone.
He's slept at his master's grave every night for six years.
There's nothing like the love of a dog, is there? Your dog and wife know you won't be coming to this home again. But we know where you are - I've been taught by the Church, and Jethro is without sin and doesn't need to be taught such things. And you're with Naomi and Caleb, dogs Jethro never knew. But he knows where Caleb's grave is, and goes over to visit every time he's outside. I'm sure he can smell both of them in the rugs and furniture. And he still smells your shoes when we go in the closet. Oh, how I wish I could smell what he smells in those shoes! I've tried, but my inadequate human nose just smells shoe, not the wearer. We're no longer waiting for you to come to this home; we're waiting to come to the real Home where you are. Hurry the day!
Your ever-faithful wife and dog,
Joan and Jethro.

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