57: A Fluffy, White Angel with Paws

57: A Fluffy, White Angel with Paws

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

A Fluffy, White Angel with Paws

Angels have no philosophy but love.

~Terri Guillemets

Two days after our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, my husband, Michael, and I welcomed a Great Pyrenees named Huck into our home. At just eight weeks old, he was charged with the prodigious job of helping unite two families into one. Yes, it was a big job, but there is nothing like puppy love. Long before we’d eaten all the turkey and stuffing leftovers, he’d won us over with his wobbly run and the steadfast devotion that shone through his dark eyes. We may have not shared the same blood, but we now shared a puppy, and that made us a family.

Now, here we were, just five years later, and Huck was gone.

“I’ll never get another dog,” I cried into my husband’s shoulder as we sat on the couch.

It felt like heartbreak was stalking our family. Four months earlier, we’d lost our son, Ryan, my stepson, in a tragic accident. This new devastation further splintered our already broken hearts.

Michael and I opted to have Thanksgiving alone. Although it would be just us, I prepared the usual feast: turkey, dressing, broccoli casserole, the works. The tantalizing smells of Thanksgiving filled our huge old farmhouse, but instead of the usual joy-filled clatter, it echoed with silence. Grief stole our appetites for food and conversation. We spent the day staring at each other over a much-too-large turkey.

When the page on the calendar turned, instead of enjoying the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I wished we could skip December. I just wanted the holidays to be over.

Then my mom called. “Hey, Randy and I would like to come see you guys for Christmas.”

I knew they didn’t want us to spend Christmas alone, staring at an empty chair where Ryan should be. But we hadn’t even bothered with holiday decorating. We didn’t even have a tree.

“Oh, Mom, we’d love to see you, but holiday flights from Nebraska to Ohio are so expensive.”

“That’s right, they are, so we’ve decided to drive. It will be an adventure.”

The next day, my phone pinged with an incoming text. I picked it up and saw it was from our college-aged daughter, Alexa. “Hey, found a cheap flight. I’ll be there as soon as finals are over.” Our younger daughter, Maddie, would be here, too. The only one who couldn’t make it was our son, Ross.

Ready or not, we were going to have a full house to celebrate Christmas. We sprang into action. We found a small, living evergreen, perfect for replanting in honor of Ryan and Huck when the holiday was over. Then we faced the crowds to fill the space underneath it and to stock our barren refrigerator. Everything came together nicely, but it still didn’t have that home-for-the-holidays feeling. Something was missing.

As Christmas and the arrival of our guests marched closer, I found myself sneaking in online searches for female Great Pyrenees puppies. I wasn’t sure if I could take the next step, but it didn’t matter; there were none to be found within 200 miles of us.

I looked at other breeds; there are so many choices out there to love. But I kept coming back to those little, white bundles of fluff with dark eyes, and pink and black feet. Finally, it hit me. I was no longer just thinking we “might” get a puppy; I wanted a puppy for our family — for Christmas.

On December 14th, I found a litter of Great Pyrenees puppies in our home state of Ohio. Immediately, I e-mailed the breeder. Of eight, three were left, and only one was female. I asked for a picture. Twenty minutes later, she texted me the picture, telling me that the one on the far right was the one that was available. She was all white, exactly what I had been imagining.

I was shocked when she texted her address. They were less than twenty-five miles from our house.

I called Michael. “Hey, honey, I was wondering if we might go look at something for Christmas after you get off work.” I was worried about telling him we were going to look at puppies because we hadn’t even discussed getting another dog. My fears were put to rest once we arrived at the farm, and he held the pink-bellied bundle. She curled right into the curve of his neck. He was ready to take her home that night, but we had to wait until she was old enough to leave her mama.

Less than two weeks later, real joy found its way into my heart for the first time that holiday season as our guests arrived and oohed and aahed over our new family member — Scarlett O’Hara — who was fast asleep in her red-and-white, polka-dotted bed under the Christmas tree.

About six months later, I looked up at a drawing done by Ryan that hangs on the wall above my desk. I started really missing him, and soon the tears were flowing. Through my sobs, I heard a low, nasal whine coming from Scarlett, who was lying on the floor next to me. I reached down to pat her, but she got up, walked over to me and laid her chin on my knee. As I rubbed her head, she just sat there looking up at me with eyes that seemed to say, “I understand everything you are going through. Here, pet me. Let me help you heal.”

A couple of weeks before Scarlett’s first birthday, we were walking her at our favorite park. Michael had brought along his camera and was snapping pictures of the garnet and brown leaves on the trees circling the pond. “Hey,” I said, “get one of Scarlett. I’ll put it on Facebook so everyone can see how much she’s grown.” Then I gave Scarlett the hand signal to sit.

Later that night, after I had posted the picture, my cousin, Charlotte, commented, “She’s beautiful, and wow, look at her halo.” I read the comment, and then looked at the picture again. I hadn’t even noticed the white gauzy circle that appeared to be floating a few inches above Scarlett’s head in the photo.

It really did look like a halo. Fitting, I thought, since I always call her my angel on earth. No, she isn’t perfect. Occasionally, she still has an accident inside, and I’ve lost numerous shoes and the downstairs bathroom rug to puppy teething. Still, to us, she is so much more than a dog — she’s family.

Although she’s not a rescue, she rescued us. As Michael is fond of saying, “Huck came into our lives to unite our family, and Scarlett came into our lives to help our family heal.”

~Amy Catlin Wozniak

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