50: Boundless Devotion

50: Boundless Devotion

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Boundless Devotion

If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.

~Pam Brown

A good set of neighbors is a lot like good health. It’s something you tend to take for granted until problems arise. After our wedding, I moved into my new husband’s already established abode. As a new bride, I was eager to share my gardening passion with him. Our yard was adequate in size but limited in sun. The massive branches of our trees covered a good portion of the yard. Therefore, the actual vegetable garden was regulated to the back corners of our property, where a chain-link fence bordered the property line.

One particular neighbor, Judy, also shared a passion for the great outdoors. She lived behind our house, on the other side of the fence. Rather than growing vegetables, Judy preferred to nurture flowers and decorative shrubs. She also had an interest in general landscaping. Both her front and back yards were a testament to this hobby, as they were adorned with many a figurine, bench or planter. I believe her crowning achievement was the day she had the pond installed.

My association with Judy was limited through the years. Even so, I noticed her affection for animals. At one point she had three dogs and three cats, all appearing to live in harmony. Any time Judy was outside, at least one of her furry friends would be trailing her. A black Schnauzer-Poodle, known as Elvis, was one of her most faithful companions.

At the peak of the economic recession, I was laid off from a full-time position. I eventually found a replacement job, which was on an on-call, part-time basis. Although I missed the wages and lifestyle that accompanied my earlier job, I welcomed a change. With the part-time work, I could devote more time to the house and yard. And I was able to develop deeper relationships with some of our neighbors.

It was at this time that I got to know Judy better. Her life had also seen changes . . . personal changes not as welcome as mine. Earlier in the year she had gone to the doctor with a pain. After examination and testing, the doctor determined that she had cancer. Her treatments left her too weak to care for her menagerie of furry friends or her gardens. That explained the overgrown shrubs that previously had been so meticulously trimmed. It also explained why one sole furry friend, Elvis, remained at her home.

Every time I saw her in the yard, Elvis was sure to follow. If Judy walked around the corner of the house, within seconds you would see Elvis running around the corner too. If I happened to drive by and they were out front, it wasn’t uncommon to see Elvis curled up by her side on a bench.

Our discussions that summer covered a broad range of topics. We discussed everything from garden care to deeper subjects like cancer, prayer and the afterlife. One day she asked if she had seen me praying in my yard. I confirmed that I had been. She asked if I would pray for her. I promised we would, and my husband and I kept that promise.

The last time we talked, it was a crisp fall day and I was out raking leaves. I saw Judy walking down the street with Elvis on a leash. I stopped my raking and told her it was great to see the two of them out on a walk. I was shocked when she revealed that the doctors had only given her until Christmas. The cancer had spread.

True to that prediction, Judy left Elvis and her gardens three days before Christmas. While festive trees sparkled in neighbors’ windows, her house sat dark and empty.

A couple of weeks later, the local TV news reported on a story about a faithful dog. Apparently the owner had died and the dog had been gifted to the nurse of the deceased. The first night the dog moved into his new home, he ran away. The daughter of the deceased was distraught, and she looked for the dog to no avail. She feared the worst. Against all hope she placed a Lost and Found ad in the local paper. On New Year’s Eve she had a call. The dog had been found!

I looked up at the screen and saw Elvis, Judy’s beloved pet! The screen had an old picture of Judy holding Elvis in her lap. The TV story was about my neighbor’s faithful companion! What makes the story even more amazing was where Elvis was found after a nine-day search. He was located outside of the church where Judy’s funeral service had been held days earlier. It was seven miles from our neighborhood, and it was not Judy’s church. Elvis had never been there previously. But through the distance and winter weather, Elvis had somehow managed to reconnect with his human companion!

Hearing the astonished newscasters I felt a range of emotions. After my initial shock wore off I realized that Elvis was just doing what’s he’d always done. Wherever Judy went, her faithful companion was sure to follow.

~Michelle A. Watkins

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