The joy that our pets bring us day after day can turn a sad day into a smiling one when greeted with a wag and possible a lick 😊. Every dog owner has lots of stories to be told about their fluffy friend. I remember the day we brought home our two labradoodles. I had literally flown in from India after a time of ministry and feeling complete exhaustion from a twenty-six-hour flight home, yet I didn’t want to disappoint my two sons (Daniel and David) who were excited for their new puppies’ arrival. Here’s where the glitch began… I got sick at the time of landing, possibly food poisoning. Ugh. I was on a time crunch though to get the puppies and meet my sons at the baseball field after school, but I was challenged to stay close to a restroom. (TMI, right?! ☹) “Oh God help me get to the breeder’s home so I don’t disappoint my sons.”
Focused and determined, I was able to make the 20-minute drive to the breeder’s home to pick up the adorable, fluffy black and brown labradoodles. YES! Next stop… (oh yeah, one more restroom visit) to the school by the baseball fields where our fluffy puppies greeted the boys. While driving home in a car filled with excitement and cute puppy sounds, another wave of flushed feelings arose in me! The surge of uncomfortableness took over, making driving impossible. That’s when I called on Daniel, my 14-year-old son at the time, to assist me in driving us through the neighborhood to our home. Whew! We all made it, safe and sound with happy boys and puppies!
Each son named a puppy. Daniel named the black labradoodle “Google” and David called the brown one “Roma”. Google and Roma had fluffy, curly hair along with endless energy and playfulness. We all worked together with trainers to train the puppies and us … who knew we needed a dog whisperer?! Ha! Ha! 😊
I don’t know about your experiences, but Google and Roma have been a special part of our family. We had several routines they loved to do with us. We could get quiet, look at them a specific way or posture ourselves a certain way and BOOM! Before we said the ‘word’, they were OFF to chase the geese or run to the garage to go for their car ride around the block. Looking at their faces, those eyes that showed love and excitement, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction they bring.
When there was a lot of activity in our home with friends around, Google became protective. I’d try to get her to focus on my eyes to reassure her that these ‘people’ were safe to be here. As she got older, she would snip at people she was uncomfortable with or their fast movement scarred her, yet I knew she was only protecting her family and the wonderful people who worked with and around us. Roma on the other hand, fit her name in multiple ways. Roma was eager to share lots of licks with her tongue and hugs with her paws! She would roam around in circles before she sat or laid down. She was the friendly one who greeted everyone who came to the door. She couldn’t resist, even if we knew some people didn’t like dogs and didn’t want to be greeted by a lick, she would sneak around to sniff them.
The Day we Got the Report
Recently, when taking the girls with me for an errand, we noticed Google limp after jumping out of our SUV. She’s a hardy girl, yet she could move in a flash at the sight of a squirrel, a bunny, or geese! No warning, just a fast dash to catch one, up a hill or down towards the neighborhood pond. She often limped for a while from her sprint, and we would massage her tight muscles and have the vet check on her. This time, at the age of 10 ½, it appeared her landing affected her left paw as she limped more than usual. I took her to the vet, only to learn from the X-ray that it wasn’t broken, but a huge tumor located just above her paw. WOW! Here we thought her leg was inflamed or broken by the jump, but the X-ray showed a disturbing story. Things progressed quickly. Her limp turned in to a partial 3-legged hopping dog, yet we knew with her arthritis, this would be difficult to maintain.
The following Sunday would change everything for our family. Google and Roma were sisters from the same liter, yet they could turn viciously on each other. They acted like Siamese cats, inseparable sisters; it didn’t make sense why they would turn against each other without much warning. We had learned to make everything equal; including a raw hide or toy which to keep them from fighting. They could be jealous over little things, yet they couldn’t be apart from one another. This would make Roma afraid and hide in the corner of my office… she went into that corner that Sunday, yet there had been no fight. That day would be a dark, unexpected war that sounded off with the fierce growls outside my office. I had been preparing to go to bed when I heard them and came running out to see what had happened.
My memory is a bit blurred from the dog’s fight, but my husband and I tried multiple times and ways to separate them. We knew that it could end bad if we didn’t try to intervene. Their jaws were locked on to each other, yet I recalled my sons’ advice and pulled Roma, the lighter one, away. As I grabbed up under her chest and front legs, we moved backward together to pull away from Google. As we did, Google lunged directly towards us – I don’t recall much after the sharp pain of being bitten. I pulled away, leaning over the kitchen island, trying to pull my left arm up onto the counter, yelling to Tim, “She bit me! She bit me!” I could hear the dogs continue to go after each other as the air filled with their growls. I tried again, screaming at the top of my lungs. For anyone who has been to my sons’ sporting events, they’ve experienced my high-pitch scream that saves my vocal cords believe it or not, however you wouldn’t want to be directly in front of me – it’s a head turner! That scream was barely heard over their vicious sounds. I knew I had to try again. I had done this before, and got bit, but what options did I have? Google wouldn’t hurt me, right? I positioned my left leg in between them to try to divide them. I lost balance and fell to the ground where my leg got bit a few places. A trail of blood began to merge on the floor. Tim was unsure whose it was. I was stunned. I didn’t think she’d hurt me, but I got in the middle of the fight.
Eventually the adrenaline subsided, and Tim was able to separate them. He then discovered that all the blood was not from the dogs, but from my leg where a puddle of blood was beneath my left shoe. I stopped moving to avoid getting it on the carpet or elsewhere. (I know, us clean folk like order, even in the chaos.) Tim got a belt and made a tourniquet to slow down the bleeding in order to get me to the ER for stitches in my arm and leg.
That week would be one of the most difficult for Tim and I as well as our sons, David and Daniel and daughter-in-law, Breanna. We would discover from the oncologist the next day that Google’s behavior was aggressive due to her pain because the cancer had spread throughout her lungs and beyond. The options were bleak… amputation, out of state treatment (if we could get her in) followed by chemo to maybe extend her life, but to what quality? Our hearts sank with grief. Still in shock, we had family talks to go over the news and options for Google. We saw her eyes of love yet the limping on her leg was heart-wrenching. I was fearful of her, yet I wanted to hug her. The attack on my lower leg took muscle with it and the stitching wasn’t done right, leaving an open wound for over a month. Through the tears, we would each say our good-byes and release her to heaven.
Sunday was the dog fight… Monday was the specialist report… Wednesday we released Google to the Lord… Thursday Roma had a stroke that left her right side paralyzed. We would take her to another city for an MRI and testing to see what happened and what to do. The devastation was like a bad dream we couldn’t wake up from, yet we would learn once again the prognosis was not hopeful. With tears in our eyes as we looked at our sweet Roma, I just couldn’t accept the gloom and doom of the doctor’s report. For the sake of our family and staff who cared for her as we did, I had to try. The recovery from a stroke like hers at her age wasn’t promising, but that’s when my spirit rose up to war in prayer on Roma’s behalf. I called my sister, Wendy and her family + my amazing prayer team to join in prayer for Roma to survive this stroke and walk again.
Tim and I brought Roma home for me to care for her 24/7. Since she was unable to walk on her own, we had purchased a brace to assist in getting her up and walking her. Now with my stitched up left leg, the two of us were quite a sight! Whew! Now the doctor told us that it took 2-3 staffers to care for Roma at the animal hospital and she wouldn’t personally have the stamina to care for a dog like that at home. Can you feel the spirit of defeat in those words?! Sometimes we have to stop the noise to hear God’s response. With God’s help, I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me STRENGTH (Philippians 4:13)! I was counting on that literally! And that first night was tough! My back was burning with pain carrying most of Roma’s 60+ pounds, which doesn’t seem a lot except it’s like dead weight. I gave myself two weeks based on the doctor’s feedback to know if Roma would recover or not. I’d tell myself – I can do anything for two weeks.
First night, I set up a room with low lights and worship music to hopefully give her peaceful rest. Her sadness from the traumas and missing her sister Google was heart wrenching. They had almost never been apart from each other for more than a few hours. Roma woke up each hour… once from wetting herself and then because she was alone. I was beginning to become undone with little sleep, so I began to pray for guidance from the Lord on how to survive this moment. I got the urge to pick her up and assist her down the hallway to exercise her. The stone floor was slippery and hard to walk on, even on a normal basis, but I felt I needed to help Roma release some energy so we both could rest for a few hours. We made night one.
The next night, my amazing husband helped pick up some fake turf to place on the stone floor in a room so if she attempted to get up, she could crawl or sort of walk on it. Roma NEVER liked to be alone or isolated, but I knew I needed to sleep a few hours. I would wake up around 3:00 a.m. that morning, get in some quiet time with the Lord and go to her. I heard her crying, so I opened the door to see her up under a desk, but with her head sticking out between a chair that she had managed to get stuck in. WOW! How did she get up and move there? I gently helped untangle her from the chair and then BOOM! Off she ran out of the room, down the hall, running in multiple rooms, looking for family or anyone at 3:30 a.m. I ran to catch up to see where she sprinted off to. I was in shock!! How in the world did she stand up, let alone run down the hall with braces on, but no paralysis!?!! I ran to the front door, unlocked it and then whispering loudly for Roma to come outside with me to avoid an accident. Booyah! There she was, running to the door and outside to our front yard. I was running to keep up, praising God and in shock! She ran around and did her business before we came inside. I knew nobody would believe this unless I recorded it, so I grabbed my phone to try capturing a moment of her running around, looking for her family. WOW! A MIRACLE! It’s literally nothing less than a miracle that Roma recovered so fast!! Now she has her struggles and tiredness, but she literally changed from messing on herself on the floor because she was paralyzed to running out the door! God answered our prayers profoundly!
What I'm Learning from Roma
Do I wonder about my faith to believe in a miracle for Google vs Roma? Do I have some anxious thoughts when seeing two animals fight each other? We can totally overthink, question, accuse, and blame people and things when life doesn’t go according to ‘our plan’ and yet through this emotional, tough journey, I have learned a new quietness. In the process of healing, I’ve reflected on the joys, challenges and sorrows these fluffy friends bring us. I think on how Google and Roma made an impact on my family and friends. Some not so good, yet I choose to see that through it all, we were graced with a gift of life that reminded me to slow down, share a few pets, lay on Google’s backside as a pillow pet and rest next to her when exhausted. She gave me permission to be me, to rest, to have fun, to enjoy even the same car ride around a one-mile square, to take in everything around us and SIMPLY ENJOY LIFE!
My heart aches when I think of her eyes looking at me for the last time, trusting me completely to rescue her. I feel like I betrayed her and yet I saw her struggle to walk and thrive. All of us pet owners will experience that fateful day and will feel their loss when God captures them for their heavenly place, yet I am still learning from her. Tears flow when I give way to the memories of her bouncing around in the sprinklers to catch the water in her mouth or the boys dressing them up in their t-shirts and ballcaps or the chase down the hall to retrieve the toy ball. But the special moments of looking back at her in my SUV with her head slightly hanging out with a position of contentment. She was my protector, my friend, my helper to ease the shift of change when my sons were no longer riding in the car with me. I was never alone and unafraid with them nearby.
The God of miracles is still present. Not everything happens as we might hope for and yet I’m confident that we will see her again. And her sister Roma misses her immensely, so I hug her a little tighter and see her as our walking miracle who brings peace wherever she’s at. Roma has now become a part of another family. She is now a blessing to our friend’s family also. God has a way of working all things for our good when we trust in Him. I don’t have to understand it all, yet I choose to place my hope and trust in God to help walk me through the most difficult of times. Yes, even when we say shalom to our beloved pets as well as the reminder of His miracle work with Roma!
May you enjoy each moment like our fluffy friends can do, take moments to take a deep breath, enjoy the beauty surrounding you, rest, smile, or dance a little of that stress off and see the goodness of the Lord… even in the midst of the most unlikely hard times.