Home > Life, Maybe there IS a God..., Pets, Spirituality/Religion > Where There is Dog, There is God…

Where There is Dog, There is God…

This morning I learned of a special dog named, Baxter, a chow-lab mix who lived to be 19 years old and served for the last 5 years of his life as a therapy dog at the San Diego Hospice in California. His experience is commemorated in a book called, “Moment’s With Baxter”.

Though he could no longer walk, his owner, Melissa Joseph, would pull him around the facility in a red wagon designed especially for him. If the patients desired, she would carefully lay his 37 pounds in the bed with them, and he would rest his head on their chests and lick their faces.

I’ve always known that dogs have healing powers but I hadn’t understood it for myself until one morning several years ago…

My mother had built a beautiful house overlooking the ocean in Maine. She recycled windows from the shack next door and had them placed all along the front of the house to expose the breathtaking view.

When we’d visit, my black lab/golden retriever, Murphy, would stare out the upstairs bedroom window at the seagulls circling around everywhere. I would wake up in the morning to see her at the foot of the bed watching their silhouettes against the sunrise.

One early morning, the phone rang. It was a nurse in California who had been attending to my mother’s elderly parents. Just a short time earlier, Mom’s father had passed away.

My mom has never shared sadness easily. Even through all the years of my dad’s roller-coaster health problems, she always stood strong when the rest of us wanted to break down. That morning was no different.

She walked over to one of the rocking easy chairs and sat down, swiveling to look out the window. My sister and I just sat with her.

I heard quiet footsteps padding down the stairs and Murphy appeared. She looked at each of us and then walked over to Mom. Though Mom has never been much of a dog person despite the many chances we’ve given her to become one, she put her hand on Murph’s head and said, “Aw, Murphy….”

Without giving Mom a chance to protest, Murphy put one front paw on the chair and then the other, and then ever so gently pulled her whole body up onto my mother’s lap. Mom let out a yelp of surprise, but when Murphy laid her head on Mom’s shoulder, the tears began to flow.

They sat like that for several moments, sharing the grief and watching as the sun rose on a new day, even as it set on a life 3,000 miles away.

As quietly as she’d come, Murphy slid off Mom’s lap and went on her way.

Sweet Murphy will be 14 soon and I watch her for signs of failing. Still, she kicks up her heels for a bird flying by, barking more hoarsely than she did just a few years ago. She sleeps more and stays closer to home when she goes for her “walkabouts”. Her plunges into the pool are more like belly flops than swan dives.

But when the scent of tears reaches her nose, she is as sharp as ever and brings her furry self over to give distressed hands a distraction. The scruff of her neck holds the DNA of many a weeper….

Be they a Baxter or Murphy, all dogs hold within them the most powerful capacity for spiritual healing.

It just occurred to me that Baxter was Murphy’s current age when he started his Hospice career. Maybe it’s not too late for my girl after all…..

  1. September 13, 2010 at 1:51 am

    That was a beautiful entry. Doug’s last job at Hoffmann Hospice here in Bakersfield, California had “therapy dogs” and they truly exuded a spiritual aura. Very special healers, they are.

  2. September 18, 2010 at 11:25 am

    True life experiences are, of course, the moments from which memories come…you have captured, and shared a few within this one posting. Thank you.

    Now, at the risk of imposing, I would like to share with you my realization as I read this moving piece about Murphy.

    Our family, for as long as I can remember, has always been owned by at least one, four-legged family member. As I absorbed every word of your story, my late friend Drifter filtered back into my mind. Drifter was a stray that wandered into our yard, and into our hearts. Never knew of actually cared what her bloodlines were, since she was simply Drifter.

    The potential numbers of happy years with Drifter were cut short when she developed what finally came to be considered an unknown disease. She was always so alert, and lovingly faithful, I guess it took me a month or so to finally see she was failing. From that point on, we visited animal hospital after animal hospital. Blood samples were taken and sent to the most advanced labs in the country. Treatment after treatment was attempted, and tolerated by my loving companion. She never complained. At one point, when she was too weak to get up and move about easily, she had an IV bag hanging from one of the kitchen pulls. Another doctor was located, that thought something could be discovered.

    These later trips often required me to carry Drifter in my arms to various waiting rooms. She and I understood the drill quite well. If we, for some reason, became more than a few feet apart, she would drag herself so as to place her head on my feet. During the many times my eyes would suddenly fill with at first silent tears, she would drag herself to me, as if to comfort me.

    No cure was ever found, as no one ever really discovered what Drifter’s ailment was. Though I tried valiantly to do my part, I always felt she provided me more comfort than I could provide her. I guess she may have thought it the other way. When Drifter took her last breath, and took her place watching over me from the spirit world, we were looking deep into each other’s eyes. She passed with no sound or movement…simply gazed into my eyes and heart and took that last breath. In that last second of being together, we exchanged a mutual and final thank-you for years of love and devotion. It has been fifteen years, and as I type this, the tears flow as they did when I said goodbye.

    Thank you Ellen for reminding me of how much our four-legged family members give to our lives…

  3. September 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing that, Steve. I share you tears knowing that I will have that same experience of watching the life drift out of my sweet girl. I do believe these companions are put here to inspire the better angels of our consciousness. Thanks, Drifter, for making your human a better man….

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