11: A New Leash on Life

11: A New Leash on Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Christmas Miracles

A New Leash on Life

Dogs bring out the best in us.

~Author Unknown

“Mom! Get your dog off me!” I yelled, two seconds after walking through her door. It was Christmas Eve, one of the few days a year when I dress up. My thirteen-year-old daughter Desirée and I had arrived to pick my mom up for church, and before I even closed the door behind me, my mom’s Shih Tzu, Verdell, had gotten her light-gray hair all over my nice black pants.

Instead of pulling Verdell away with both hands and messing up her own clothes, my mom grabbed the dog’s collar with her index finger. Verdell was so excited to see us that she spun around in circles trying to free herself. But instead of freeing herself, she twisted the collar around my mother’s finger, tightening it more. My mother’s finger was stuck and Verdell couldn’t breathe.

My mom screamed and got down on her knees. I thought she was screaming in pain but it was more than that. She was trying to unfasten the collar but it wouldn’t budge and neither would the dog. Verdell was motionless.

I could see the fear in my mom’s eyes as she realized her closest companion couldn’t breathe. She tried pulling her finger out but couldn’t. There was no time to spin the dog back around to free her. My mom frantically found scissors but I grabbed them away from her, fearing she would nick the dog trying to cut the collar with one hand. I wasn’t comfortable cutting it off with both hands but I knew it was our only hope.

My hands shook rapidly as I pushed the blade under Verdell’s collar, freeing her and my mom. Verdell’s head fell to the floor. I had never seen her still before. I put my ear to her chest to check for a heartbeat. There was nothing. I looked up at my mom, shook my head, and said, “She’s gone.”

“Noooo! Nooo! Nooo,” my mom wailed. My daughter, who grew up with Verdell, ran to the bathroom and locked herself in. I stared at the dog in shock. I couldn’t believe Verdell was gone just like that. Only a couple of minutes earlier, she was greeting us at the door. It didn’t seem real. The lively little dog, who was never short of energy, lay there lifeless.

My mother’s sobs penetrated my heart. I had never heard her cry like that. I thought her grief would kill her. I was never close to Verdell. I’m allergic to dogs, a bit of a germophobe in general and, as if she knew that, Verdell always went after me of all people. Aside from the shedding, she’d drool on me and even manage to slip her tongue into my mouth — a doggie French kiss.

I don’t know what happened, but something clicked inside me. I grabbed Verdell’s slobbery mouth, took a deep breath, and proceeded to do CPR. I didn’t even know if CPR worked on pets or if I would remember all the steps, but it all came back to me. I tilted Verdell’s head back, put my mouth over hers, and breathed. Then… I pumped her chest.

“One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand,” I recited, and then breathed. “One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.”

I checked for her breath and heart beat. There was nothing.

“One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand,” I said, and prayed to myself. Please Lord. Bring her back for my mom. She can’t take this. Verdell’s all she has.

My mom looked on quietly with hope and expectation, as if I knew what I was doing. I listened for Verdell’s heartbeat again. It wasn’t there.

“One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand,” I lamented.

I checked Verdell’s vitals again. Nothing.

“One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.” Now I could barely get the words out.

With tears rolling down my face, I checked Verdell one more time, looked up at my mom, and finally said, “That’s it.”

My mom burst into tears again, and I along with her. In the background, I could hear my daughter’s muffled cry coming from the bathroom. My mom and I looked down at Verdell. I zoned out looking into her eyes. For a second, I thought I saw one of them blink. I shook my head to snap myself out of it.

“Did you see that,” my mom asked. “She blinked. There it is again!”

I wondered if we were both wishful seeing.

This can’t be, I thought. Then Verdell’s tail wagged.

“Look, look, loo loo look… her her tail. Her tail!” my mom jumped up screaming.

“She’s alive!” we cheered. “She’s alive! She’s alive!”

I embraced my mom, not something we normally do in my undemonstrative family, as we watched Verdell slowly come back to life. Her blinking and tail wagging got faster and faster. Then Verdell lifted herself up by her front legs and joined our celebration as she joyfully ran around the house dragging her back legs behind her.

Little by little, Verdell’s hind legs regained strength as well and she jumped all over us. I held her in my arms and she attacked my face with kisses. I didn’t resist. Verdell ran back and forth between me and my mom like a puppy pleading to play. Then suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks and made a beeline for the bathroom where my daughter remained barricaded. Verdell scratched on the wooden door, but Desirée didn’t answer. She couldn’t hear anything over her sobs.

“Desirée! Open up,” I yelled through the door.

“Nooo!” she yelled back.

“Open the door,” I said. “Someone wants to see you.”

“No!” she shouted. “I don’t want to see anyone right now.”

“It’s Verdell,” I said. “She’s alive!”

Desirée opened the door just a crack to peek out but enough for Verdell to push her way in. Desirée looked down at Verdell in shock. And then excitement.

“Verdell, Verdell, Verdell,” she screamed, through her strained voice.

Desirée came out with Verdell in her arms. The dog squirmed, wanting to get down and run around some more. We called an emergency veterinarian. He wasn’t surprised by our Christmas miracle and said CPR is often used on animals. The vet asked a few questions about Verdell, congratulated me, and said we didn’t need to bring her in. I thought it was all too good to be true but he assured us that she was fine.

We never made it to church that evening but Jesus definitely made His way to us. Verdell and I had a special bond after that night, a special connection that only we shared.

~Adrienne A. Aguirre

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