This is the story of Lady Freckles.
My youngest child, a daughter, had been asking for a dog forever. Both she and her older sister had asthma and allergies, so a dog was not a good idea. When she turned thirteen and still asked, we agreed. Off we went to the breeder. From a litter of cocker spaniels, we chose the blond and white runt. She had fallen all over herself and had landed in the water bowl where she almost drowned. She needed to be rescued!
It was love at first sight.
She sat in my daughter’s hand shivering all the way home. She looked so small and so frightened. First she came with us to the pet store because we had absolutely nothing. We bought a pink cat’s collar because her neck was too tiny for a dog collar. We bought a matching pink leash, water and food bowls, a crate, some toys, food and treats. We were now pet owners. We had bantered names back and forth on the way to the breeder and in the car on the way home. Nothing seemed to fit. Then, while patting her on her tummy we noticed that she had freckles. She was named! We called her Freckles but on her papers we decided to give her a more majestic name so we added Lady.
Freckles reconnected me to the wonder of God’s creatures. Walking with her I watched as she attempted to catch squirrels and chipmunks. She ran after fallen leaves dancing in the wind.
She had no idea what to do the first time she saw snow. After she captured my heart, she opened me up to all creatures great and small. Freckles brought out in me a wellspring of empathy that had been misplaced over the years. This tiny ball of fluff had grown into my companion. My children still chide me about the time I slept on the laundry room floor, beside her, holding her wee paw, as she recuperated from her neutering. I couldn’t bear to let her be alone.
Years later I was in the hospital for an extended period of time. One day while trapped in my bed attached to I don’t know how many tubes, I looked up and there she was, her little legs pumping away, ears flying in the air. Then she was on the bed next to me, cuddling with me, licking my face, so happy to see me as I was to see her. I doubt that dogs were allowed in the hospital-forget the bed. But she was the best medicine. When I returned home, she was a constant in my life, always by my side. Didn’t ask anything of me. She let me love her. She sat quietly while I cried and listened to all my fears.
God in His infinite wisdom knew at the very beginning of time that there would be a special relationship between humans and the rest of His creatures. He may have given us dominion over them but He commanded us to rest the animals on the Sabbath, just as we rest ourselves. And then He sent St. Francis of Assisi to remind us of that special bond. When Freckles developed arthritis, my good friend invited me to her church for the blessing of the animals.
There we were two adults with our puppies, Parker and Freckles, surrounded by children and their pets; gerbils, hamsters, parrots and budgies, turtles, and every type of cat and dog. We stood in the courtyard on a beautiful sunny day while the priest visited each and everyone. When it was our turn, the Priest patted her gently while asking about her and I told him about her arthritis. The priest was ever so careful not to offend any of the pets! All of the Catholic pets were on one side and the rest of us stood on the other. After he blessed the Catholic pets with a Catholic blessing, he blessed all the non-Catholic pets with the Priestly blessing; a very old blessing that as a chaplain I would say to my patients.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord cause His presence to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord turn with favour unto you and give you peace.
Before I knew it, Freckles was 15 years old. Her back legs had become very tender. She would lean forward on her front legs and stand on the tippy toes of her back legs while she ate. The previous winter she hadn’t gone out much. We had a deck off the kitchen and she turned it into her poop deck. The fall of 2007, Freckles fell down the stairs. I heard a yelp and there she was on the landing, sitting in her own mess, unable to move her legs. I had always hoped that she would slip away in her sleep. I had always wondered how I would know when it was time to let her go. Other pet owners had told me that she would let me know. She did. I picked her up and gently carried her up to the bathroom to give her a warm bath. I wrapped her in a towel and dried her hair. Freckles never grew that beautiful long skirt that all her relatives had. Her hair always matted and she had really long fluffy ears that just barely kissed the floor. When she got a haircut she usually looked like a chicken.
I always suspected that she was embarrassed after her grooming. She would walk by the mirrors and look the other way.
Freckles and I sat on the front stoop. My daughter sat with us. It was a warm sunny fall day in October. October 24th to be exact. I had wrapped Freckles in her blanket and sat with her in the sun, cuddling. She was so very quiet and calm. It was as if she knew and she was ready, even though I wasn’t. She seemed to be telling me that it was all okay. She’d had a good life, all the treats any puppy could want and all the human food she could eat. Our appointment with the vet, who had been caring for her all her life, was at three o’clock. My daughter couldn’t bear to be there. She had said her good-byes to Freckles at the house. When we arrived we were taken into a special quiet room. I held Lady Freckles on my lap, my arms wrapped around her, whispering in her ear, telling her how much she had meant to me, how much she had taught me, while the vet ever so gently injected her with the magic potion that would take away all her pain and let her go off into that good day.
And then it was time for the last stroke of my hand along her back and a kiss on her head.