In Her Golden Eyes

In Her Golden Eyes

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

In Her Golden Eyes

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.

Martin Buber

My six-year-old daughter, Mariah, held on to my hand as we walked through the animal shelter. We wanted to pick just the right puppy for her sister Vanessa’s twelfth birthday. I scanned each cage, noticing all the pairs of needy brown eyes staring back at us. It was neediness for love and a happy home—things the girls and I also hungered for since their father and I had divorced.

“Here are our newest arrivals,” the volunteer said. He led us to a cage where three puppies were sleeping. They were the size of small bear cubs with beautiful fur.

“What kind are they?” I asked, stooping down to take a closer look.

“They’re chow mixes,” the boy said. “I’ve never seen such awesome-looking dogs.”

My heart quickened as the pup in the middle suddenly yawned and looked up at us. She was breathtaking, with oversized paws and silvery-black wolf markings on her face. Most of all, it was her eyes that struck me. They were so gentle and sweet. As golden as her fur. Something told me that she was the one.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget Vanessa’s face when we surprised her with her new companion. It almost made the pain of the last several months disappear.

“I’m going to name her Cheyenne,” Vanessa beamed.

In the coming days, Cheyenne accomplished exactly what I was hoping for. Instead of the children feeling homesick for the life we’d lost, they spent time playing with their new puppy. Instead of feeling depressed over missing their daddy, they romped and laughed for hours. It gave me hope that they would make this very difficult transition a bit better—if only something would help me do the same.

It was on a late April afternoon that things took a horrible turn. The girls were in the backyard playing with Cheyenne while I went to the store. When I got back home and pulled into the driveway, a pickup truck came speeding down our street. I got out of my car, keys in hand, and saw that Cheyenne had gotten loose. She ran past me in a blur.

“Cheyenne!” I called out. “No! Get back here!” But it was too late. She chased after the truck, caught up to the front tires, and was flipped in the air before landing with a thud on the side of the road.

Luckily, the vet was still open and they took her right in. I kept watching Cheyenne’s side, willing her to keep breathing as the vet put her on the examining table.

“The front leg appears to be the worst of her injuries,” he said, pinching between her toes with a silver clamp. “The nerves have been damaged and she doesn’t have any feeling. I’m afraid we’ll have to amputate.”

The day of Cheyenne’s surgery was the longest day of my life. Nothing prepared us for what we would see once we went to pick her up. In the bottom cage, Cheyenne lay panting and blinking sleepy eyes, the entire right side of her body shaved clean from her stomach to her neck. A huge white bandage was wrapped around the shoulder area where her leg used to be. A plastic tube was also taped to the area to help the surgical site drain. She looked totally miserable. Tears slid from my eyes as I saw Cheyenne’s tail give a faint wag.

That night we all camped on the floor to sleep next to Cheyenne. As she moaned in agony and lay on her side unable to move, I kept trying to picture her as she used to be: running, playing, jumping up on the bed to snuggle down next to me. I felt frightened and uncertain, wondering how she would ever be that same carefree pup again. In a way, I understood the kind of trauma she was going through. One day you were happy, then life just shattered, inexplicably, leaving you in a world of pain.

Vanessa and I took shifts for the first few nights. We’d keep watch, try to comfort her, give her pain pills and feed her vanilla ice cream from a spoon. She’d doze, but usually she was too uncomfortable to sleep. Every few hours, we’d carry her outside and help her stand so she could go to the bathroom. We were exhausted, but nothing was more important than Cheyenne coming back to us—even if she would never be the same again.

On Monday I had to take care of her myself when Vanessa went to school. Mariah kept busy with her coloring books while I constantly hovered over Cheyenne. I changed her bandages and made sure she wasn’t trying to bite at them. I stroked her head and kept telling her how strong she was. Seeing her so miserable and watching the blood ooze from her drainage tube broke my heart over and over again. I missed her sweet eyes looking at me with love instead of so much suffering.

“You’re a survivor,” Iwhispered in her ear. “We need you, so you have to get better. Those children are depending on you, so please . . . don’t give up. Fight and get through this.”

As I said these things to her, something struck me deep inside. The same words applied to me. It had been a nightmare since the divorce, the pain so deep that I wanted to curl up and die; I didn’t see myself able to stand on my own. But weren’t the children depending on me, too? Didn’t I have to fight and get through this? Tears ran down my cheeks as I lay my face against Cheyenne’s muzzle. It was so soft and her breath fanned my skin. Breath that reminded me how precious life was.

“I’ll make a deal with you, girl,” I said. “If you fight and get through this, I’ll fight my way back, too. We’ll learn how to walk on our own together.”

From that day on, things steadily improved. Cheyenne looked more alert and comfortable, daring to take her first steps, while I started crying less and smiling more. A healing was beginning to take place and it felt so very good. One day at a time, one step at a time, Cheyenne and I were making it together.

“Look, Mom! She’s doing it! Cheyenne’s walking on her own!” Vanessa pointed as Cheyenne wandered about the yard one week later. She managed just fine with the front leg missing. In fact, it seemed as if she didn’t miss it much at all.

Mariah clapped happily. “Just like her old self!”

I thought about that a moment and had to disagree. “Actually, sweetheart, I think Cheyenne’s going to be better than she used to be. She’ll be stronger because she’s a survivor now. Just like us . . . better than ever.”

In that instant, Cheyenne stopped and looked at me. The gleam was back in those golden eyes. We both had a new life to look forward to, one precious step at a time.

Diane Nichols

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners