There’s just something about the yellow lab.
They have those sad, droopy eyes. That tail-wagging, can’t-control-themselves-cuz-they’re-so-happy-to-see-you disposition. That Every Dog look about them.
I had one of those labs. Her name: Jewel.
No longer, though.
Notice that I specifically used the word “had” a lab. You see, we said goodbye to our Furry Love a few weeks back. I’m only now coming up for air from the experience.
Labs are great, and Jewel was a great lab. A great of the greats, if you will. But, no more. All that’s left are the memories. I’ll cherish them, each. For, with Jewel, there really weren’t any bad ones.
If you wanted to be high-energy and race, play and chase, she was right there – frolicking right alongside you. But, if you wanted to just sit by the fire and just relax, she’d be laying by your feet, sleeping. The perfect pooch.
But, to my fresh and divinely inspired delight, I was somehow entrusted to make a single phone call to Doggy Heaven – a second goodbye. If you’ll indulge me, then, I’ll let you in on how this little exchange transpired.
* * * * *
Hello. Is this Heaven? St. Bernard? Oh, wow, really? I was expecting St. Peter. Oh … I get it now. No, no, no, no. Yes, yes, I see: you’re St. Peter’s dog. And, St. Pete put you in charge of all canine admissions and orientations?
Should’ve known that. Makes total sense now that you state it that way.
Since I’ve got you on the horn, Bernie – can I call you that? – do the monks really make you wear that silly little wooden cask around your neck? Oh, wow…they do?!? That’s really a thing, even in Heaven, huh? And, you say it actually is filled with brandy?
Those crazy monks.
Hey, so yes, I’d like to speak with Jewel. Jewel who? Jewel Anter. That’s Alpha-November-Tango-Echo-Romeo. Check your records for an adorable yellow – she’s 10 years, 62 lovable pounds, yard sale-like fur – who checked in on 27 October. She probably still has 57,395 tears strewn all over her body from my kids, my wife and me as we hugged her, kissed her and held her paw as she peacefully slipped from earth’s surly bonds. I’ll never forget it.
I’m sure she’s there. Do you mind checking your Dog Log and then patching me right through?
And, hey, before I let you go, would you please put in a good word for me with St. Pete?
You will? Great; thanks.
Oh, what’s that? You know MY check-in date? Crazy. And, what? … well, no thanks. I’m good not knowing that, but I appreciate the offer.
So … you found her and you’ll connect us? Good stuff. Thanks. Yes, I’ll wait.
<Harp music plays>
You’ll never believe this! A doggy angel came to me in a dream and told me I’d get this one phone call – almost sounds like a prison thing, doesn’t it: one phone call? Yeah, I know, right? Funny.
Wait! What? You do believe this because you’re the one who sent that angel to me!?! Oh, how cool is that! And, you say, the angel you sent was Clarence’s dog from that Jimmy Stewart movie? Wow! It really is a wonderful life.
So … tell me, furry friend: how was your trip up there? Do you like it? Are my mom and dad taking good care of you? And, what’s Doggy Heaven like?
Mom and dad are great and helping show you around? Check. You got a new doggie bed and all the biscuits you could ever ask for. And fields forever to run in. Tennis balls to chase. Bunnies to play with. And, you actually come down here to our Michigan home from time-to-time to check in on us?
That’s. Just. AWESOME!
I thought I felt your presence the other day.
Oh, and really? You got to meet Marley – that yellow lab from the movie? And Lassie? And Toto, too? Hey, are they famous in Doggie Heaven just like they were down here? Oh, they are – kind of – but fame doesn’t matter at all up there? Hmmm. Oh, up there, everyone’s on an equal-pawwing. I see.
Hey, do you ever joke with The Big Guy that “‘God’ is simply ‘dog’ spelled backwards?” Oh, you did. Once. But He’s heard that five billion times? I see. He laughed anyway!?! So he will, in fact, like my stupid jokes one day, too? That’s good to know.
Oh, and that tummy thing you had here on earth. You know … the one where you had the cancer and the internal bleeding. Yes, that one. That’s completely healed now? Great. You suffered enough, sweet girl. Too much.
What is it with you dog-creatures, anyway? Why are dog’s days so numbered, so limited? That’s one of those things I’ll have on my life’s hard drive list of questions when I get to Heaven. Well, that and “Why do mosquitoes exist?” I trust that God’ll have great answers, but I yet don’t know the “why” to so many peculiarities here in our gravity-grappling existence.
Wow do I miss you! That feeling just all of a sudden hits me sometimes. Hard. There; it just hit me again.
After all, daily you were my running buddy, my friend, my dog. A great dog. Best dog ever.
And, looking back, you were perfectly named: Jewel. For, you – like a jewel – were precious. To be valued. To be appreciated and admired. To show off.
And, I don’t know if you know this, but I learned so much from you. You taught me that forgiveness should be instantaneous and that everyone has the right to be considered your best friend — full stop. You taught me that people everywhere are worth approaching with abundance, joy and thankfulness. With assuming the best in them.
What a great way to go through life. Has a blood pressure reducing effect, this.
It was so hard saying goodbye, sweet girl. You even greeted the vet who assisted with your death with the same tail-wagging enthusiasm as you would with someone offering you a treat. Dear God that was a sight. We shed a lot of tears that day. Still do – weeks later. I know they’ll end, but …
But, you know, it’s in those same painful tears that I find solace – solace that’s the other, much sweeter side of that same coin: pain, through grace, morphed into thankfulness.
Thankfulness that such a loving God saw us fit to be your steward – for ten full years, even! To bring three infants home to you – first to sniff, and then to love, play with and protect. And, as ridiculously hard as it was, you even gave our kiddos one last great lesson: that of learning how to deal with grief and loss when your time with us was done. All fur-drenched blessings, these.
Hey, listen, since I’m still imprinting my signature on this craggy Third Rock, the more we talk, the more those earthly tears keep flowing. I sometimes just can’t stop them, and I’m afraid that, if we talk much longer, they’re going to short-circuit our connection, so I should probably let you go. Again.
But, before we part, I wanted to let you know that, shortly after you left us, we received a card from the vet that stated: “Heaven … where all the pets who ever loved you will be waiting at the gate.”
I already knew there was a Heaven for us humans, and before this call, I had hoped that dogs were, in fact, waiting there for us. Smiling. Dog breath permeating the gates. Tongues hanging out. Tails wagging. And biscuits, like, everywhere!
I now know for certain that’s also the case – this Doggy Heaven thing. See? You continue to impact me, even at a soul level.
When I get there, one day, maybe you and I could first catch up and have a shot of brandy with St. Bernard. And then, oh, I dunno, spend eternity together? Is that too much to ask?
I should be so lucky.
Know that, when I get there, I’ll bring your special ball – the one with all your teeth marks – as well as few kajillion more biscuits and my huge smile. There’s just no way I can hide my smile. No. Not around you.
One day, Jewel. One day.
Hey, listen, I really gotta go now, cuz it’s a flood in here.
Goodbye again — for now.
I love you, sweet girl. I always will.
— 30 —