95: Angels Slobber Too

95: Angels Slobber Too

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Angels Slobber Too

Some pursue happiness, others create it.

~Author Unknown

One morning I had been married to my best friend, Mart, for 20 years, and the next I was a 43-year-old widow. I felt lost and wondered how I was supposed to continue living, and then an angel in disguise appeared to help me.

I don’t remember where I had been on the day that I discovered the path to my own personal angel. But I do recall realizing on my way home that I had not eaten in a long time. I stopped at a burger joint and bought a newspaper on my way in so I would have something to do while I ate alone. I still don’t know why I was looking through the classifieds. I never read them before. Mart would peruse them almost every day for a good deal on something we really didn’t need. I normally just read the front page and the entertainment section. But on this fateful day, I ate food I had no taste for and idly flipped through the classifieds. In just a few minutes my eyes filled with tears. There, in big bold letters, was the answer to a prayer that I had not yet uttered: “Rare—Clumber Spaniel for Sale.”

For over ten years Mart and I had haphazardly looked for a Clumber Spaniel. But we could never find one, or we couldn’t afford the price, or it just wasn’t a good time for a new puppy. But now, here was my Clumber Spaniel, right in front of me. I immediately called the listed number. I learned that the puppy was seven months old, approximately 60 pounds, and had to be sold because the family had just adopted a baby who was allergic to him. I agreed to meet the owner the next day in a bookstore parking lot on the other side of town. And in that parking lot, I caught sight of the first angel I had ever seen!

From the back of an SUV, peering out of a dog kennel, he looked into my eyes as slobber hung from his huge jowls. Hmmmm... definitely not most people’s idea of a first angel sighting. However, in my mind’s eye, I could almost see his beautiful angel wings hidden under the thick and shedding white fur on his muscular back. As the two of us looked into one another’s eyes, I somehow knew, deep in my soul, that this dog and I were meant to be together. I paid the previous owner and loaded my new angel into the back of my Jeep and we headed home.

However, just a couple of miles down the road I had to wonder if I might have been mistaken. A stench unlike any I had ever smelled filled the interior of the Jeep. With outside temperatures in the low 30s it didn’t take long for the Jeep to completely fog up with his musk! A few more miles and I found myself driving down the interstate with the heater on high and all the windows open, desperately trying to clear my nose. Even my eyes were watering from the smell! I kept thinking that perhaps this wasn’t the angel I had envisioned, because surely nothing from heaven could smell this bad.

Twenty windy and cold miles later we paid a surprise visit to the vet. She quickly diagnosed infected glands and said I would have to help her clear them since she had no vet tech on Saturdays. I’ll tell you right now, angel or not, I don’t think I would ever agree to do that again. I don’t know what she did, but as I firmly held his sturdy body, a stench was unleashed that rivaled that of a stockyard auction! Whatever she did fixed the problem because on the rest of the way home, my angel no longer emitted his foul smell. What a relief! But there was still another challenge ahead of me.

At home, there were two very spoiled girls who I doubted would view this new addition as the angel I believed him to be. Abbey, a 14-year-old English Cocker Spaniel and Casey, a 12-year-old West Highland Whitey ruled the house. I feared that they might be too set in their ways to accept a new member of the family. But I had to make it work because deep in my heart I knew that Mart had sent this dog to me. So with a hopeful heart and sweaty palms, I introduced him to my two old spoiled girls through the backyard fence.

Typical excited dog sniffing took place and then some barking from the old girls ensued. My angel calmly took it all in, his tail wagging in a funny little circular way. Strange, I never knew angels could wag their entire behinds. Things appeared to be going well, so I opened the gate and let him join the girls.

Within a few hours it was like he had always been there with us. Known as King Solomon in his first life, he quickly adopted his new name, Sully. He brought life back into the house. In the evening, when other families were settling in to eat dinner or watch television, I would curl up on the couch, feeling the loss of Mart as strongly as I did on that first day. But Sully would come put a slobbery face on my lap and look up at me with those two beautiful light brown eyes and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. Other times he would be so intent on scratching an itch he would literally fall over in the middle of the floor. It’s impossible not to laugh at a 70-pound dog when he just falls over!

His sheer joy at seeing me come home from work every day and the way his tail wagged in a complete circle added joy to my life. Not known for being very outspoken, it is pure joy to hear the occasional WOO-WOO bark Clumbers are known for. And “Clumber” describes the movements of this breed perfectly. Watching him clumber across the yard and tumble head over heels trying to not overrun the toy I’ve thrown for him makes me laugh so hard I worry the neighbors will think I have lost my mind.

On the other hand, there have been days when I thought I could just shoot him. For example, there was the day I came home to discover that he had eaten part of the linoleum in the laundry room. Then there was the phase of pulling all the toilet paper off the roll and shredding it throughout the house. And apparently, television remote controls can be mistaken for rawhide bones. That’s all in addition to the daily antics that many of my friends find repulsive, but that I have learned to accept as just another part of living with a Clumber angel.

He sleeps at my bedroom door and snores so loudly that he sometimes wakes me up and I have to get up and roll him over! He snorts like a pig when he’s excited. White fur covers my furniture, carpet, basically everything in the house, including me. But hey, lint brushes aren’t that expensive and I should vacuum more often anyway. Worse than the fur, my angel feels an instinctive need to share his slobber with everyone who enters the house. And it doesn’t matter how he shares it. Pant legs, shoes, and sleeves are apparently great places to deposit a little Clumber love, but hands and faces are the best! Most people just don’t seem to understand his need to share with them, but they can’t see his angel wings like I can. And every single day he makes me laugh and brings joy to my broken heart.

Almost a year later, I still have bad days along with the good. Marty is in my every thought every second of every day. But through it all, I have a 70-pound Clumber Spaniel angel, sent to me from my beloved husband, who helps me realize that life is short and that some slobber in your life is okay, as long as it comes from a funny, furry angel.

~Kelly Van Etten

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