Blu Parts the Veil of Sadness

Blu Parts the Veil of Sadness

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Blu Parts the Veil of Sadness

A black-and-white border collie came to our house to stay, Her smiles brushed life’s cobwebs away.

Only Blu knows of her life before she was tucked into a small space with wired walls labeled “Animal Shelter.”We had been without a dog for a couple of months when Blu’s telepathic message, “I need a loving family,” reached the ears of our teenage daughter Christine.

At the time, our family of six had a home in the country. Our small acreage bordered the Plateau River outside of Casper, Wyoming. Resident pets included an assortment of aquarium fish, laying hens and a few silky chickens that resided in the chicken coop. The 4-H bunnies nestled in their hutch. A Manx cat, dressed in dolls’ clothes, often accompanied our younger daughters during their imaginary adventures. And last but not least trotted Smokey, our two-year-old quarter horse.

Into our Wyoming Noah’s Ark came Blu. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed. To hide from the confusion of her new surroundings, Blu sought an invisible cloak in a variety of shapes. She took cover beneath the chicken coop, under the hay manger, the water trough or the loading chute—anyplace where she was in the shadows of the activity but could observe our day-to-day routines.

Her behavior gave us clues to the abuse that she’d endured before coming to our home. It left her cowering whenever a hand was raised to pat her or voices were too loud for her sensitive soul. Yet as the weeks dissolved into months and our calendar pages went out with the trash, Blu’s demeanor changed. She progressed from following us during chores to romping out front as our leader. When someone approached her with a hand for a pat, Blu no longer cringed or slunk away. Instead, she sought affection from us. If we didn’t acknowledge her when she came near, Blu would nudge our hand until she received the hug and loving words she now enjoyed.

She trotted alongside Smokey when the girls rode him bareback. Blu’s herding instincts were displayed when she gathered stray chickens and drove them back to the coop. After playing tag with the cat, Blu’s impish smile was reflected by anyone observing her play. At the close of day, Blu rested at the bedside of one of our daughters. Like our children, she listened with rapt attention to their bedtime stories. The beauty of her canine soul touched our lives in many ways. Then one cold evening, she showed us her remarkable capacity to love.

That year, eleven-year-old Joanne and her sister Kathy were each given a calf to raise for their 4-H projects. Morning and evening, they faithfully made sure there was fresh water in the trough and food in the bunker for their calves. When the colder weather arrived in late fall, they made straw bedding inside the calving shed.

One evening the cold stiffness of winter hung icicles off the barn roof and wrapped a blanket of snow across the meadow. I had just put dinner in the oven when Kathy yelled from the back porch.

“Mother . . . hurry . . . Joanne’s calf is hurt!”

Zipping up my jacket, I ran to the barn, where I found Joanne sitting on the snow-covered ground. Blu lay close to Joanne’s side while the calf lay across her lap, legs stiff. Blue wool mittens off, Joanne’s one hand cradled the calf’s head, the other clamped nostrils shut while she blew puffs of air into the calf’s mouth. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “She’s barely breathing, Mommy.” She blew again into the calf’s mouth. “I found her lying here . . . all by herself. I don’t want her to die.”

“Honey, she could have been kicked by another cow. You need to understand that she may have injuries inside beyond our help.”

“I know.” She wiped the tears trickling down her cheek.

“Let’s get her to the house where it’s warm.” I carried the calf. Blu followed close to Joanne.

Only the kitchen clock marked the passage of time while we worked on the calf. Blu kept her vigil just paw steps away from Joanne.

The calf’s labored breathing slowed . . . stopped.

I hugged Joanne close. “I’m sorry, honey.”

“She was too little to die. Why . . . ?”

The sadness on her face was like a blow to my chest. I gulped for air. My mind whispered, Oh honey, I wish I could protect you from death . . . but I can’t. I felt so helpless.

I said, “Injuries from an accident don’t always heal; sometimes the animal or person dies. And for a little while, we cry our sadness.”

Kathy took her sister’s hand. “I’ll share my calf with you.”

“That’s okay . . . I don’t want another one right now.”

My vision blurred while I explained to Joanne that when an animal or person died it was only the end of a tangible life, that her dad and I believed life was ongoing for the soul. Before my words were out, I realized that there would be time later for us to talk about our spiritual beliefs, to help Joanne build the personal strengths that would ease her through other losses. Just now, she was an inconsolable little girl, and I didn’t know how best to help.

As I watched, Blu crawled across the floor and put her head in Joanne’s lap. Blu nudged her hand until fingers moved through her black-and-white fur. Slowly Joanne bent her neck and kissed the top of Blu’s head. The dog raised her head and looked into Joanne’s eyes. No words were needed in those quiet moments when unconditional love touched Joanne’s bruised spirit. She hugged Blu and whispered, “I love you, too.”

Filled with wonder, I witnessed a black-and-white border collie—who was once afraid to love—part the veil of sadness from my young daughter’s heart.

Margaret Hevel

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