Friday, December 21, 2012

A dog's life -- or pictures of grace

God does work all things together for good. Our dog's accident illustrated some Christian concepts so clearly. I'm sure in the future when I want to explain grace, mercy and even the wonder of the resurrection all I have to do is remember what happened to Josie ...

"I didn't even get to say goodbye to her," my son sobbed as we drove away from the vet's office.

We had tried to hold back tears the whole time. Something was seriously wrong with our blue heeler, Josie. Earlier that day she wouldn't eat or drink, acted sore all over, and worst of all, was wheezing and panting. Politely, just to please us, she took a baby aspirin wrapped in cheese and baloney. She could barely get it down.

Did she have a broken rib? Had she been kicked by one of the horses or head-butted by one of hte cows? Had she eaten rat poison? Did she have pneumonia?

We had called the local vet but they were closing within minutes and directed us to call an emergency service. They weren't open yet. Desperate, we called the cow vet for some advice. He suggested another vet's office in town.

These people didn't know us from Adam, but said they would see Josie.

I wonder what they thought when we rattled up in the farm truck with a horse's lead rope fastened to Josie's hunter orange collar.

That was our first picture of grace. We were strangers to them, but they offered to look at our dog.

The first vet seemed only a few years older than my kids. She got down on the floor with Josie and started to examine her, then took her away for X-rays, suspecting a broken rib as we did.

So we waited.

The X-rays, though, showed something much worse. Her lungs did not appear at all. Instead we saw  air pockets in odd places. The staff suggested barium X-rays, suspecting that her diaphragm was ruptured and abdominal contents were up in her chest.

My son and I waited longer in the exam room while Josie received more X-rays. I had to break it to him gently. "This is probably not good," I said. "At her age ..."

Josie came to us from one of my husband's hay customers. Eli was a rodeo rider from Texas who somehow drifted up to Indiana. He was moving back to Texas and feared old Yosefina (Josie) could not take the heat. So we didn't know exactly how old she was, only that she was the sweetest little thing and never met a stranger. When she was at the top of her game she was as good or better than most people at working cattle. She looked like a sawed-off German Shepherd with an alert face and big brown eyes, pointy ears, stocky wide-set legs and a bobbed tail

The vet came back with an older man, the clinic owner, who was in running clothes. He also explained the X-rays and said to know for sure what was going on, we'd have to let the barium work its way through Josie. So we could go home and wait for his call.

When he called, the news was catastrophic. She did indeed have a ruptured diaphragm often seen in dogs that get hit by cars or kicked by livestock. A medical emergency. But he guessed Josie was much younger than what we thought, and in great shape. Surgery, however, would cost thousands of dollars. We had to have a family meeting.

We were in agreement: We could not possibly afford surgery. When the vet called back, I was too upset to talk to him so my husband had to tell him all we could do was have the dog put to sleep. I was embarrassed to think the vet heard the kids (and me) sobbing in the background.

So she was gone, just like that, just as unexpectedly as she had showed up when she jumped out of Eli's truck and ran right over to the kids to play with them.

That night I went out to do chores without Josie. The stars were still big and bright but the farm seemed so empty without her. No Josie to chase rabbits or shout down the coyotes howling from the woods. Gone. Just gone.

We cycled through all stages of grief -- disbelief and anger at Josie for doing something foolish enough to get injured, then acceptance that she was an old dog and we could not possibly afford surgery. One of the boys went out and started digging a grave for her.

The next morning I called the vet's office. "We were wondering if we could pick up the body," I said in a tired voice.

The receptionist paused. "The doctor would like to speak to you."

What on earth?

"We mulled this over and decided, as a Christmas present to you, to do Josie's surgery for no charge."

I was sobbing (again.) "She's still alive?"

That was an emotional picture of the resurrection. Josie had not physically died but in our hearts we had given her up for dead. To find out otherwise was a great joy. Also, the vet's offer illustrated grace and mercy. We could not possibly pay for her surgery, but the vet did it anyway as a gift.

Then there was the power of prayer: After Josie's surgery, the vet said she had a 50-50 chance of surviving since her injuries were more extensive than he expected. We all prayed and so did family and friends. Four days later she was home with us, moving slowly, but back with her "pack."

Jesus used parables in his ministry to reach his listeners' hearts and souls. Now my family has a living, furry parable snoring on her Cincinnati Reds blanket on our couch.


  1. W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L story! And I'm sure you join those of us who call our dogs our A-N-G-E-L-S. . . Thanks for this beautifully told Christmas story gift! :-)

  2. Very good story. Couldn't keep a dry eye through it. Thank you.


  3. Thanks, you guys. Josie is one of the best dogs ever, except for an unfortunate fixation on ridding the world of cats!

  4. As my wife works with animals on her day job, this really meant a lot. Great post, Ann!

  5. I am "mom" to three rambunctious and much loved fur kids. Powerful post and what an amazing story! Merry Christmas!

  6. Yes, we feel very blessed to still have her with us.

  7. Beautiful story. God is so tender with us and those we love. Even our pets.

  8. Enjoyed your story. I've learned many spiritual lessons from my own Golden. What a blessing to have that vet, too. Great Christmas story. Give Josie a hug for me!

  9. Wow, this story was amazing! As a dog lover, this one really touched my heart!

    Merry Christmas to you, your family, and of course Josie!

  10. I remember this...Christmas love to you!

  11. Beautiful story and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the reminder of God's grace!