Early Wednesday morning, Grammy Leigh was walking through her forested backyard early as she talked to our Heavenly Father. This was her normal habit each morning, for an hour or two. Usually her large, faithful dog friend, Smokey - a brown and black shaggy mutt - walked beside her as she communed in this manner, but today he was nowhere to be seen. She thought about his absence as she walked and talked, but didn’t know what to think about him being gone.
Having finished her talk with the Father, Grammy went back to her farmhouse to feed the animals. She had a couple of rabbits and a flock of duck friends, too, on her place. So she went from cage to cage and pen to pen, filling their food dishes and checking that they had plenty of fresh, clean water to drink.
When that was done, Grammy went to the kitchen to have some coffee and read from God’s Word. As Grammy finished her cup of coffee and the Bible chapter she had set for the day, Farmer Joe - her neighbor behind the woods - knocked on her back door screen, as he usually did when he came to visit. But today his face wasn’t as cheerful as it normally was, letting Grammy know he was upset about something. So she invited him in.
“Grammy,” Farmer Joe started, “I have some sad news for you. As I was walking deep in your woodland, I found Smokey laying on the ground and breathing real heavy like.”
“Oh my goodness,” Grammy Leigh replied, “that must be shy hecdidn’t join me on my walk this morning. Where is he, Joe?”
“Grammy, as I was closer to my barn than your house, I took him there and called for Doc Robinson. He should be there by the time we get there. I got my truck right here. We can ride together.
“Okay, Joe, let me grab my purse and sweater and we can go right now.”
The ride to Farmer Joe’s farm took about five minutes. And sure enough, Doc Robinson, the vet, was already there. Climbing out of the truck, Grammy Leigh went to where Doc Robinson was looking over Smokey.
“How bad is he, Doc?” Grammy asked.
“Well Grammy, it looks like he was badly mauled by a mountain lion. I found a couple of punctures from its claws in his right lung, and some other bad bruises and scratches.”
“Oh my!” Grammy replied, “Can you do anything for him, Doc?”
“Well Grammy, I stitched him up and gave him some antibiotics. But I didn’t want to give him anything for his pain, because his lungs are already working too hard. The pain medicine would have slowed them down even more. The next 24 hours will be touchy. I wouldn’t move him, it might make him worse. If Smokey lives through them, he will likely make it. Only God knows for sure. Let’s pray.”
“Heavenly Father,” Grammy and Farmer Joe prayed with Doc Robinson.” We leave Smokey in Your care. We know You know what is best for him. If he will fully recover, we ask You to heal him. If he will suffer from his wounds, we ask You to free him from his pain and suffering and take him home where he can roam the fields of your Kingdom free from pain and happy forevermore.
After they prayed, Doc Robinson left Grammy Leigh and Farmer Joe standing in the farmer’s barn, talking.
“Joe, I don’t want to be far from him. May I stay here while we wait? And can you take me home so that I can pick up a few things and get my car?
“Yes, Grammy.” Joe answered, “I would be happy to have you stay here with Smokey. Let me tell Mama that I will be gone for a few minutes and see if she needs anything from town while I am out. I’ll meet you in the truck in a few minutes.”
“Thank you, Joe.”
With that, Grammy sat down on the floor with Smokey for a brief moment before walking to Farmer Joe’s truck. She had just closed her door when Joe joined her in his truck. He turned the key just as he sat down, starting the truck and pulling out of the driveway.
Grammy Leigh was back in Farmer Joe’s barn in less than 20 minutes, sitting on the hay spread out on the floor as a bed for Smokey. And that is where she stayed for several hours, until Joe came back to the barn to invite her to eat lunch with him and his wife, whom he lovingly called “Mama”.
Grammy ate lunch then, thanking her friends, she returned to the barn to sit beside Smokey to lovingly pet and pray over him as he slept. Grammy’s watch over her four-footed friend didn’t last long. For his labored breathing slowed and finally stopped about four hours after she sat down beside him. About that time Farmer Joe walked back into the barn to check on his guests. As he knelt beside Grammy Leigh, he heard her crying softly into Smokey’s neck.
Walking back outside the barn, Joe called Doc Robinson.
“Hey, Doc.” Joe said, “Smokey has breathed his last breath on this earth.”
“Yeah, Grammy seems fine.”
“Okay, I’ll let her know that you’ll be here at about 6:00 pm.”
Farmer Joe walked back into the barn and softly spoke to Grammy Leigh, letting her know that Doc Robinson was told and what time he was expected to arrive. Grammy nodded her head to let Joe know she had heard, as she continued to cry over Smokey's furry form.
Grammy stayed with Smokey for about another hour, then walked to her car, grabbed her bag and walked to Farmer Joe’s back door and knocked.
“Come on in, Grammy.” Joe replied to her knock.
“Joe, may I use your shower?”
“Yes, anything you need. You know where the bathroom is. Towels are in the hall closet to the right of the bathroom door.”
“Thank you, Joe. I want to freshen up before Doc Robinson gets here.”
After her shower, Grammy Leigh found Farmer Joe and his wife sitting at their kitchen table.
“Grammy Leigh, can I get you a cup of coffee?” Mama asked.
That would be lovely. Thank you.” Grammy answered.
So Mama handed Grammy a cup of hot coffee, then gave her the creamer and sugar so she could make it exactly as she liked. The three of them sat around the table silently drinking their coffee. This is where Doc Robinson found them when he arrived a few minutes after 6.
After everyone had finished their coffee, Grammy, Doc and Joe walked out to the barn together. Doc Robinson and Farmer Joe loaded Smokey into Doc’s pick-up truck.
“Grammy,” Doc started, “I can have Smokey cremated and have his ashes disposed of , or brought back to you so that they can be buried on your property somewhere. What would you like me to do?”
“I would like him to be buried in the woods between my place and Joe’s.” Grammy started, “Joe, would you help me to bury him?”
“Yes, Grammy.” Joe began, “It would be my honor to help you with Smokey.”
“Okay, Grammy. It will be a couple of days for Smokey to be taken care of. I will call you when I have his ashes ready to be buried. Then you can set up when and how you want to bury him.”
“Thank You, Doc.”
With that, Doc left to take care of Smokey.
Grammy said her goodbye’s to Joe and Mama, got into her car and went home.
That evening, Grammy sat in her comfy chair with her Bible, a notebook, and a cup of coffee; silently crying. Looking over her shoulder, we can see that she has written some notes in her book. It reads;
Invite Mama, Joe and Doc to be there when Smokey is buried.
Ask Joe if he will dig the hole and bury Smokey.
Ask Doc to read Matthew 5:4, John 14:18 and Psalm 23 after Smokey is buried.
Ask Mama to sing “Peace, Give I to Thee” while Smoley is buried.
Friday afternoon, just before closing for the weekend, Doc Robinson called Grammy Leigh to let her know that Smokey had been cremated and his remains were ready for her. Grammy asked Doc if he would bring them out to her house about 7:00pm. When she completed her call with Doc, Grammy called Farmer Joe and Mama and asked them to come over also at about 7. They all agreed.
When everyone was gathered at Grammy Leigh’s house, she went over her notes with them, asking if they would participate in her funeral for Smokey on Saturday. They all said they would be honored to help her bury her long-time furry friend. So they decided to gather at 1:00 pm the next afternoon in the woods between Grammy Leigh’s place and Farmer Joe’s barn, by the large granite boulder.
Once gathered, Grammy asked her friends to bow their heads for a word of prayer.
“Father God,” Grammy started, “today we say goodbye to our furry friend, Smokey. I thank You for the years we spent together. As You know, he was my nearly constant companion for more than 15 years. We walked together and talked to You daily. Now he is in Your arms, waiting for the day we will walk together once more in heavens’ fields. Thank You, Father for caring for me and Smokey. And thank You for Your continued care of myself and my friends gathered here. Amen!”
“Now friends, Joe has already prepared the hole. So Doc, would you place Smokey’s ashes in it? Then Joe can fill it in. Mama, while Joe is shoveling the dirt would you please sing ‘Peace Give I to Thee’? And Doc, would you read scriptures that I requested? I want to end by all of us reciting Psalm 23, OKay?”
“Yes, Grammy,” they all said in chorus.
Then everyone did as they were asked.
Once Smokey was buried and the Psalm had been recited, they all walked to Grammy Leigh’s kitchen and sat around the table, silently drinking coffee. As darkness started to fall Doc, Joe and Mama left, going their separate ways, leaving Grammy to her reverie.
For several months after Smokey’s passing, Grammy Leigh seemed to be in her own little world. Her bunny and duck friends noticed Grammy didn’t sing to them as she filled her water and food dishes anymore. And Grammy was spending less and less time walking through her woodlands and talking to God. It was’t just noticeable to Grammy’s animal friends, it was also noticeable to her neighbors; Farmer Joe and Mama. But they didn’t know how to help their friend. So they spent many hours in prayer for Grammy.
One day, about two months after Smokey’s death, while Farmer Joe was cleaning out the stalls in his barn he heard some very small whines coming from the further back in the barn, so he went looking for their source. Joe searched the entire barn. Stall by stall he searched, until he found a large, mama black lab and a bunch of pups in the very back corner of the last stall. They were so tiny, they must have been born just a few hours before he found them. So they were too young to be taken from their mama just yet.
Farmer Joe knew God had placed the dogs in his barn to help his friend, Grammy, work through the loss of Smokey. Finding them gave Farmer Joe an idea of how best to help Grammy Leigh. He would keep them all, feeding the mama and caring for them all, until the pups were old enough to be weaned away from their mama. To start with Joe called Doc Robinson and asked him to come out after he closed his office for the day and give them all an exam and give the mama her shots.
Doc Robinson arrived about 6:30 pm. Farmer Joe and Mama were still sitting at the kitchen table, having just finished eating their dinner, and lingering over coffee. So they invited Doc to have a cup with them. He accepted, wanting to know more about why Farmer Joe called him and asked him to come out. As they drank their coffee, Joe explained how he found the dogs and wanted to give one of the pups to Grammy Leigh to help her work through her pain over losing Smokey. Doc thought it was a great plan and offered to look over the Mama lab and her pups until they were old enough to wean. Then Doc would take the Mama and the remaining pups to the shelter so that they could be adopted.
Their coffee finished, Doc and Joe walked to the barn, Doc grabbed his bag from his truck on the way. As they reached the back of the barn, Joe turned on the lights and showed Doc where the dogs were. Doc sat down on the hay in the stall with the mama lab and her pups. As Farmer Joe hadn’t gotten close enough to count them, he asked Doc how many pups the mama lab had.
“Joe, you have Mama and 12 puppies. Mama looks to be under weight, she probably hasn’t eaten regularly since she got pregnant with this litter. I have given Mama a rabies shot and a vitamin shot to help build up her blood so that she is up to feeding and caring for the puppies.”
“Joe, I think you were very close when you said the puppies were born last night or early this morning. They are no more than 24 hours old. There are five girls and seven boys. The puppies won’t be ready for their puppy shots until they are at least six weeks old. And shouldn’t be separated from Mama until they are eight to nine weeks old.
“Ok, Doc. I would be glad to take care of Mama and her brood until they are ready to leave. Do you think Grammy would want a girl or a boy?”
“Why don’t you keep one of each and let her choose, or give her both of them?”
“That sounds like a great idea, Doc. I will care for them all and pick out one boy and one girl for Grammy. I think this is the perfect gift to help her walk through her loss.”
“I think you are right, and two more months is the right amount of time for her to process her loss on her own. She should be ready for new furry friends when they are weaned.”
So Farmer Joe helped Mama lab raise her puppies and watched them grow for the next two months. One day in mid-February, Farmer Joe met a couple of the puppies walking out of the barn, investigating their surroundings, as he entered to feed the animals and clean out the stalls. These pups - a sister and a brother of the brood - were both the largest, tail wagging and the most forward of the 12. So Joe set them aside for Grammy Leigh as he went into the kitchen to call Doc Robinson to pick up the rest of the puppies and their mother to take them to the animal shelter he volunteered at.
After lunch, Farmer Joe walked through the woods he shared with Grammy Leigh to present her with the black lab puppies he found in his barn. Placing the box of puppies on the ground beside him, Joe knocked on Grammy’s kitchen door and waited for her to answer, which she did about two minutes later.
“Joe, to what do I owe this visit?”
“Grammy, I brought you a couple of four-footed friends that I thought you might like one or both of. I found them, their mother and siblings - 10 of them - in a stall in my barn a few months ago. When I asked God why, He let me know that you may be ready for a new friend or two. Doc Robinson took the mother and the rest of the pups to the shelter. They are adorable, so they will go fast. Doc gave them their puppy shots last week. He said when you are ready to have them ‘broken’ as you call it, to call and make an appointment with him”
“Joe, they are very cute. Our Father was right, I do need a new four-footed friend … or two. Do they have names yet?”
“No, Grammy. I wanted their new ‘parents’ to have the honor of naming them. These two pups were the most curious of the 12, and they always stick together. So I really don’t want to separate them.”
“That’s fine with me, Joe. Since we have been standing here talking, I have been watching them tussle. They remind me of the rumbles my brothers and I used to get into. I will take them both, do you know without checking their bottoms which is the male and which is the female?”
“Yes, Grammy, the girl has a small white spot over her right eye, the boy has a white triangle patch on his chest, right between his shoulders.”
“Thanks, Joe. That helps me choose their names. I will call him ‘Trinity’ and her I will call ‘Dotti.’ Thank you, Joe, listening to our Father and for bringing me these pups. I have been crying inside ever since Smokey died. I didn’t know how to rise above the tears and sadness. I think this pair are just what I need to get back on top again.”
Farmer Joe and Grammy Leigh sat on her back steps, playing with the puppies for about an hour before Grammy took the puppies inside and Joe went back home through the woods.
A few days after adopting the little, black duo Grammy Leigh was almost back to her previous daily habits. She was again singing while feeding her animals, and had started walking through her woods and talking to God much like she used to. But now she had a pair of tails that followed her on her walks in the woods each day. Now she had a new reason for living … a rowdy pair of black lab puppies named Trinity and Dotti.
God made each of us different, and the time it takes me may be longer or shorter than what it takes for you. There is nothing any of us can say or do to get our family members or friends over their loss, but we can help them through it. We help them through it by being there with them and walking beside them in those tough days.
This story of Smokey’s passing, though mostly made up, is a story of how Grammy has been working through her loss. I hope this story helps you work through the loss of your loved ones too. So I pray;
Help my little friends work through the pain of losing their loved ones. Walk with them and guide them in the tough days ahead. Give them good friends to walk with them in the way as they find their “new normal” way of life. Hold them close in Your arms all their days.
Until the next time my friends …
God bless you,