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Three Gifts from a Dog Angel

My baby girl, forever loved.

It is often said that things tend to come in threes.  Three musketeers, three amigos, three signs of something. Three gifts from a dog angel, perhaps.

Indeed, it is often said by many (and I am a firm believer in this) that those who we love and lose will send us signs from beyond. Some may call that place heaven, the great beyond, eternity, or the great unknown. For me, heaven is a mere tail's wag and puppy breath away.

So when my dog, Dexter, was admitted to a veterinary hospital for surgery under anesthesia this week, the familiar twinge of anxiety hit my stomach. Memories surfaced of my previous Cocker Spaniel, Brandy Noel. If you've read my blog for any period of time, you know she is the one who came before and really inspired my career in the dog world and pet industry. You know that first doggie love of your life? Brandy Noel remains that first love, always. In fact, I never thought I'd open myself up to love another until Dexter.

With an IV line in, Dexter awaits surgery

On the way to the hospital, my family member and I talked about our fears, we talked to Dexter about being a good boy and how he is oh so loved by us, and how we'd be right there waiting for him the whole time. Somewhere deep inside their souls, I do believe dogs feed off our emotions and moods, so a sense of calm and confidence were of utmost importance. I also felt the familiar angst of having to hand your dog over to a complete stranger and know that your dog's life is in their hands, literally. Whenever general anesthesia is given, whether to a person or a pet, we give our bodies over to modern medicine. Thinking of Brandy and her several surgeries (she had mast cell cancer and survived), the image of her little face in similar situations raced through my mind the morning of Dexter's surgery. I remember her look of “where am I going, Mama” that washed over her Cocker innocence, me standing with the leash and Brandy being whisked away. She was always okay until I had to let her go, and then I was the crumpled ball of mess.

Miracle One

So the morning of Dexter's surgery on August 20th, I stood at the registration desk and filled out all the necessary paperwork: CPR if a problem, signing my credit card away, what medications my dog took that morning, etc. As the receptionist checked us in and forms were exchanged, a little red tail caught my eye. From behind the reception desk, I spied the back end of a reddish-colored dog and a wagging tail. Being the dog lover I am, I had to take a peek at this cutie's front end and say hello. As I bustled down to the end of the check in area, I stood by the swinging gate at the end and peeked my  head in to say hello to this dog.

“We don't have a dog back here, Carol,” the receptionist informed me.

You could have knocked me over with a hairbrush. I clearly saw a little reddish colored butt and wagging tail scurry by. I know I did, in fact.  It wouldn't be unusual for a dog to be roaming at the reception/check in area of a veterinary hospital, right?

There was no dog. There was no scurrying.

Goosebumps ran up and down my arms then, as they are now as I recall the incident. A sign from Brandy? Perhaps. Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Explainable? Nope.

The check-in area where I saw the dog scurry by…

Miracle Two

Sitting with Dexter in the waiting area, one sees a host of dogs being dropped off and picked up: Someone is getting discharged, another is coming in for a followup appointment, and someone is being escorted out for a potty break. The hustle and bustle of a busy vet hospital is evident when seated in the waiting room.

Dexter is like a little politician, having to meet and greet those who cross his line of vision. I am a pretty chatty Cathy myself, conceding to any dog who sits near me and striking up conversation. So when the cute brown and white Golden Retriever/Husky/Shepherd mix plopped down near us with his dog mom, we all said hello. The dog insisted on us petting him, putting his chin on our legs and reminding us when we stopped.

“This is Brandy,” his dog mom shared. “She's here for a followup appointment for a shoulder injury.”

Again, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

One Brandy reference might have been highly coincidental, but two? I welled up, hiding my tears from Dexter, not wanting him to see his mom getting watery eyed and wondering what's up.

I love my Dexter so…

Miracle Three

The vet tech eventually came out to get Dexter and to start an IV catheter line to use for medicine administration. They would give him something to calm down, not sharing the sedative with me, but it's all relative. In any case, when the vet tech took Dexter away, I stood up to stretch my legs and to look at the wall of framed photos and thank you notes from previous patients at the hospital.  Labradors and housecats all lined the shelves, their grateful pet parents thanking the staff for the miracles they perform every day.

And then it happened.

Over in the corner on an end table cluttered with magazines, sat an 8 x 10 beautiful frame. I noticed the photo because it was so very cute and funny: A dog with a stick several times the length of his body, carrying it proud as can be, thanking the doctor for helping him along with surgery.

In fact here's the actual photo, as I had my smartphone camera with me:

By this time, I knew Brandy was with me…

The signature is what made me weak in the knees.

Signed, Brandy.

Even more ironic, my favorite photo of Brandy, the one that catapulted her to the nation's eye, is a similar pose: A dog with a stick, for all the world to see. She won a national contest with that photo.

My Mighty Dog forever, Brandy Noel.

Are you getting goosebumps yet? The tears came from a deep place, and it was in that moment I knew my little girl was right there, in that hospital, by my side. Breathing her puppy breath on my skin, Brandy told me in her own way that Dexter was going to be okay and she was right there.

Some may say this is wishful thinking, highly coincidental, and that I am a desperate dog mom who just wanted a sign her dog was going to be okay. Maybe.

Others will say that three time's a charm and there is no way I could turn the other cheek and dismiss these incidents as sheer circumstance. Indeed.

I asked my Brandy to always stay by her mama when I had to let her go in her final moments of life, standing by her side as the vet injected her veins with the drug that would take her life and stop her pain. I kissed her and sobbed uncontrollably, but in her final days and throughout her life for that matter, I told her to always be with her mama, stay by my side. I would carry her with me and long after her physical presence left this world, her soul could live on through me.  Yes, I am deep and yes this is heavy, but this is me, and it is what it is. I am who I am.

She will ride along with me forever…

I know she whispered in my ear that she was there yesterday and always will be. Three time's a charm and there is no way those incidents were isolated. Together, they are signs from an angel who crossed heaven and earth to be by my side. If any dog would cross heaven and earth to find me, it would be Brandy Noel. Our favorite game was hide and seek, after all. She forever finds me.

Dexter made it through surgery and the long, arduous process of recovery and rehab associated with his surgery begins.  He survived the anesthesia and he sits at my feet as I write this update. Some things are simply meant to be and the signs our loved ones give us should not be ignored when they gift us with them.

On the way home from surgery, medicated but on the road to recovery

As the saying goes, Love Never Ends. If you've loved and lost a human or a pet, pay attention to the things happening around you. Or better yet, let your guard down: It is when we least expect it that miracles happen. And sometimes, in threes. I'm feeling pretty damned loved these days.

Did you ever get a sign from someone you lost?


A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.


    • Carol Bryant says

      Thanks, Roxanne. You have been very inspirational to me throughout the entire ordeal that you and Lily are experiencing. I can think of no greater bond of love than the one you two share.

      • Terri Moffitt says

        Wow! The tears are flowing, nice that Brandy was giving you support! Beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Hugs to Dex!!

        • Carol Bryant says

          Blessings, Terri. I am glad we got to meet you and your family, including Mason, in person, and we are coming back out to Vegas in May of 2014 so hope you can join us. Hugs back.

  1. Becky says

    there is no dog that could ever be more loved than yours. brandy and dexter were/are do fortunate to have you as their mom. you bet brandy would find you when you needed her most! she is always there looking down on you and dexter. brilliant story you shared with the world! what an incredible message.

  2. Tharice says

    OMG I can’t stop crying as I can so relate my 2 previous cocers (mother and daughter) Daisey and Samantha give us signs all the time especially my husband I often will catch a tear streaming down his face as he looks over at their ashes next to his favorite sittin’ place talking softly to them and thanking them for all they were and still are to us. Daisey was the child we couldn’t have and Samantha was the blessed granddaughter dog we also couldn’t have. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story with us as you always do. I love you and your blog stories….from one person with a heart that beats dog to another <3

    • Carol Bryant says

      Love you right back, Tharice. Amazing the people that our dogs introduce us to, and you are one of them. I know Daisey and Samantha are there with you…. they never leave us, do they…. It took me forever to stop taking her remains with me when I went out somewhere. I didn’t want to leave her “alone.” I don’t feel silly sharing that here…. I know you understand.

  3. Linda Lowry says

    Oh Carol. My eyes are full of tears. Your story touched a part of me that knows how you felt. I broke down when I read how you kissed Brandy goodbye.

    I believe those were indeed signs that Dexter was going to be just fine. I believe what you saw. When I saw the picture of that yellow lab, I thought of Brandy and sure enough, I scrolled down and there was that famous picture of your baby with a stick in her mouth.

    I am so so glad he is alright and that you are alright too. We love our babies so much, don’t we? There are times when we feel so helpless and so frustrated when they are not well.

    Hugs to that cute pup of yours, Carol xox
    And a big one for you too.

    • Carol Bryant says

      And you know your Shannon is smiling down on you and brings you the wag of the tail in your two cutie pies/troublemakers at present;)

      Much hug, my friend. I am glad I got to meet Shannon when you were in town.

  4. Chloe Twiggy and Onyx says

    So happy Brandy was with you, comforting you. I believe she was there and letting herself be known in ways that raised the hair on your arms while settling the knot in your stomach. No explanation needed. 🙂

  5. Rita says

    Carol I know what you are saying. My bridget will always be in my heart. She is the reason I got into rescue. Thousand of cockers have been saved because of what her love taught me. Brandy will be forever with you. Funny how both of ours girls lead us down the path to helping other pets. XOXO

    • Carol Bryant says

      Awwww, Rita. I never knew your Bridget lead you down this path. Never stop doing what you do and always carry her message with you in the lives you save. She truly does shine through your work. 😉

  6. June Myers says

    Beautiful story, crying now. I believe this very much.

    I think Daisy sent me Buster and Ziggy because she knew how much I missed her.

    Ziggy kept sending his rubber balls he played with. We thought we had collected all of them. Then we would find them under the bed, in the car or the motor home. I think this was his way if telling us he was ok

    Hugs to you, Dex and Dar

    • Carol Bryant says

      Awwww June, that choked me up. I am sure Buster was playing with Ziggy. I know that I am very grateful to have met Buster and that he was a part of the Wigglebutt Wedding.

      With all my love, Carol.

  7. Christine Aiello says

    OMG! I am crying here at my desk at work! I am so passing this on to my two dog lover friends here at work. This is such a great story and I truly believe that Brandy was there with you and Darlene and watching over to make sure that Dexter would be alright through the surgery. Please send her a message to watch over my Coco on Tuesday when she goes in for her minor surgery! I am going to be sitting at work crazy worrying that I can’t be there with her. But I can’t take off for work right now and I want to get the growth removed before it gets larger and she has to go under general anesthesia. Feel better soon Dex! Can’t wait to see the three of you soon! xoxo

    • Carol Bryant says

      (((Christine))) – I know how you feel and we will keep Coco and you in our thoughts and prayers. Let me know the moment she is done, okay?

      And once little man has clearance in a few weeks and we see how rehab goes, we will figure something out. You should come to Strut your Mutt in NYC on Sep 28 and become a Pup Scout – Dex’s outfit arrived today. Beyond cute. xoxox

  8. Jan says

    Carol, As I read your blog, my eyes filled with tears, and I smiled at the same time. I so know that Brandy Noel was with you and letting you know that she was there and that Dex was going to be fine. When I lost my Maxxie, I thought no way would I ever get another dog, put myself through this again. I said that when I lost my cocker mix Suzie at 16 1/2. And after a bit of time, a thought here and there would go through my mind that maybe, just maybe, but I would always just say, I just can’t do it. I remember “speaking” to Suzie (yes I did that often) and saying, if I am meant to have another dog, you will have to help me find the right one. Not more than 2 weeks after that, my son rescued Maxxie while on a job. He was 6 months old, flea and tape worm infested, but so beautiful. From the first time I met him, and said hi, I am your new mom, he kissed me and jumped in the back seat, which was his riding place all of his years. When I had to let him go, as I talked to him and held him close, while he made his journey, my heart was shattered in a million pieces. It was 10 days before Christmas, and I was just beyond devastated. One day, not so long after, I was sitting outside looking at the clouds in the sky, and very clearly I saw a cocker spaniel, running, with ears flying, and tail up, and I had the greatest sense of peace come over me. Cloud formations change quickly, but this one lasted for a very long time, and I just knew it was his way of letting me know, that he was there, he was fine, and he would always be fine, and always be near me. I could sense him near me, feel him, feel him brush my leg as he moved by me at times. I still feel his presence. I posted about him passing on the Zim Cocker forum, and received many condolences, and I printed them out and still have them in a binder. As a result I received a message from a woman who had just lost her furbaby. We communicated back and forth, and her husband had contacted another woman from the forum who had puppies, and they had gone to meet her. They did get a puppy from her, and somehow I came up in the conversation, and this woman said she wanted me to have a dog of hers that she needed to re home, for this dogs sake. Ginger had been purchased originally to be a show dog, but from puppy hood, she had severe fear issues, so she knew this was not possible. SO this woman was looking for the right person to re home Ginger too, because she was so worried about her, not being with the someone who would understand her issues. She knew she needed her very own mom, where she was the only dog, and she wanted to make sure that Ginger would be loved. Well, I was not sure. I kept saying, it is too soon, it has only been a few months. How can I do this? I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt very strongly that Maxxie had a paw in this, and that is what kept me moving forward about possibly taking Ginger. The minute I saw her, I knew, that she was meant to come home with me. Beyond the fear was a beautiful little girl, with a very sweet and gentle soul. She is not like Maxxie was, who was outgoing, loved everyone, social, loved everything, loved car rides. Was this right? Can I do this? I just felt Maxxie telling me, she is yours. She needs you, she is meant for you. I know that might sound weird to some, but it is because of him, that I took Ginger home with me. It was not easy. She was very leery of me, stayed her distance, which I let her do. No pressure. About 2 weeks later, one day I was sitting on the bed, and she just jumped up, came over to me, gave me a kiss, and laid down. It blew me away. Kind of like how Maxxie did when I got him. I have seen her do other things that he would do, and it always makes me smile, because I know he is here with me, even when I don’t see any signs. SO that being said, YES, Brandy Noel was with you yesterday, very strongly, and I know it to be true with 100 % of my heart and soul. Maxxie rests above my head every night, on the headboard of my bed along with mementos, related to him, such as a special box, that has some of his beautiful blond fur in it. I kick myself all the time for not getting a paw print from him. I was worried about moving a few years back. This was where he lived, where he played. I was afraid he would not know where to find me. That was silly because he is here. I think we are very sensitive and loving people, that are open to things, that maybe some aren’t. All of us who are open to receiving these special messages, I believe are extremely lucky and blessed. Thank you for sharing with us, as you really made my smile, and once again, know how special you are. Thank you also for letting me right a book here! I love your blog stories and the passion and love you share with us always. Love you my friend, Jan

    • Carol Bryant says

      Jan – this is a three box Kleenex day for me — aye aye aye – I am crying all over again reading your story. Lord, these dogs get inside our hearts and steal them.

  9. RosieA says

    Carol, I so believe these things happen. I’m sure my departed Meggie picked out my Hannah for me, then sent Ginger our way a few weeks later. A few days after I told Meggie it was alright to relax and go with her already departed sister, Scarlet, I could feel her presence against my leg when I was on the computer. She always laid pressed against my leg when I was on the computer… In fact, I could feel one of my departed kitties pressing against my shoulder like she always did. I could sense many of my departed loves in my bedroom – including my one of my horses! I believe, that since losing Meggie was one of the most heart breaking loses I ever experienced, they all came to help me survive.

    Our pets are our families, at least that’s how it is in my world. I, too, believe that their love for us goes on through eternity, as does ours for them. I am often seeing shadows out of the corner of my left eye. Left because that was Meggie’s side of me… Some times they’re light colored like she was, and other times they’re dark colored like my other babies were. I believe they’re here and that Brandy was there with you, watching over you for Dexter while he was away from you!

    Thank you for sharing this! Prayers that you and Dex have an uneventful, complete and rapid recovery!

    • Carol Bryant says

      Awww how special, Rosie! I get goosebumps reading the stories of when it happens to others, so thanks for opening up and telling me this. Many wags and hugs!

  10. Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says

    Another kindred spirit! As I read your story, I felt a lump growing in my throat — it’s still there. Yes, Brandy was definitely there with you. My Kissy — who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge nearly 10 years ago — is always with me, in my heart and thoughts and by my side. I cried for nearly four months after her “physical presence” (as you called it) left my side. But one night, not long after that day, I heard my Mom (who passed in 1979) whisper to me that Kissy was happy, healthy, and out of pain and playing with our three family poodles. I knew Mom would always take care of my baby for me until I join them in Heaven. And I know between them Callie was going to be okay throughout her TPLO surgery. Her knee is fine now — healed beautifully — and all that slows her down is her arthritis on a rainy day. Our dogs mean the world to us because we are their world. They are always with us in one way or another, and each one is special to us for a different reason. When they are sick or injured, it just about tears us to pieces. And when we’re sick, there they are right there with us trying to make us smile.

    Sending lots of healing energy for Dexter and happy, comforting, positive thoughts for you.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Oh wow, you had a dog with TPLO!? I am glad to hear it all went well. Indeed, they are special and all affect us in their own unique way. Many warm hugs to you and yours, friend.

  11. Lucy Maloney says

    Well thank you for the tears and wonderful stories .. I of course know this to be true… thank you for that picture that totally changes a sad feeling to a smile. Tell who is cuter?? love you both

    • Carol Bryant says

      I thought of you within minutes of all this happening, Lucy. You are a kindred spirit, and I only ever would have trusted your love and care for dogs with crafting the likeness of my Brandy Noel. xo

  12. Bonnie Marshall says

    I am CRYING MY EYES OUT!!!! I have experienced this too.. with my second cocker Abby.. one of the greatest loves of my life. They JUST KNOW when t YOU need their comfort, assurance and moral support during difficult times… Brandy WAS THERE Carol, and ALWAYS will be.. she is your rock! Glad you & Dex have your very own guardian angel !
    XO ~ Bonnie~

    • Carol Bryant says

      I cannot wait to meet you, Bonnie Marshall – you are a special lady… ty friend….. and I am sure that Abby is always there for you!

  13. Sue says

    No goosebumps here. Only tears. Big ones rolling down. I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe that you are truly blessed. Not only do I believe in angels, I believe in reincarnation and my life has been blessed by the return of 2 of my beloved dogs. And… I’m so glad Dexter is doing well!

  14. Arlene R. O'Neil says

    Carol, you know I am sitting here bawling my eyes out because we were together for a miracle the time Brandy and Little Bit appeared to us in the form of a double rainbow. Yesterday when I knew Dex was headed to surgery I asked Little Bit to go find Brandy and keep a paw on her shoulder so she could help her Moms through this time. It wasn’t more than 2 minutes later that Bruno came and put his paw in my lap. Not unusual as I sit all day and edit, but he was insistent. When I backed the chair away from the desk, both his paws found my shoulders. He doesn’t do this often as he is 90 pounds and usually the chair and I go flying. Not this time. His paws touched my shoulder, his nose touched mine and he got down. I think it was his way of telling me that Little Bit got the message and was with Brandy, holding her so she could hold you. Strange? I don’t think so 🙂
    August 31 will mark 6 years since Little Bit’s body left this world and August 16 marked 3 years since Bruno entered my life. You know how I wrote “The Whisper of Love” in my book. Part of our babies hearts have returned to us in the form of another, and the rest of their heart watches over us always.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Arlene, I have more goosebumps. If you search for Rainbow here at Fidose, you will find the rainbow story we share. I look forward to meeting Bruno and Holly. I know Little Bit carries on through them, and I am certain he did connect with Brandy.

  15. Sharon Gilbert says

    OMD I had goosebumps and tearing running down my face with Schooner looking at me and seeing the tears rolling down my cheeks ..Schooner starts to lick my tearing away and a look like I will make it better mommy and give me a hug, There is nothing like the having a dog by your side. Loved you story!

    • Carol Bryant says

      Awwww, Sharon. How special is that! Smooches to your furkids and ty for those very kind words.

  16. Diane says

    Thanks so much for sharing your miracles. Your story touched my heart (as the tears ran down my face).

  17. Lisa Bregant says

    I truly believe Brandy was with you. I feel my Nicky and Nino’s presence a lot when I need them. I’m glad to know I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  18. emma says

    What a great post! We believe that others including pets are watching over us and do give signals and signs. Those of us here on earth just need to pick up on the signs and while they can be comforting, they can be eery too! So happy Dexter came out of surgery fine and we wish him a speedy recovery even though we know it will be long and hard.

  19. sandy weinstein says

    i am crying so hard now i can barely see the screen. what a wonderful post and story. if only the millions of other people in this world felt the same way abt their animals, pets….i wish dexter a speedy recovery. my mother used to speak to her grandchild, rose, who died at 7 with leukemia. my parents paid more attention to my dog, their first grandchild, than the human kids. and she loved them so very much….adored them…now she is buried b/t them in my mother’s casket. so they can all be together again…
    if other people would have the same feelings as you and many others, there would be less animal abuse, etc. i am still upset over a dog at a shelter that was euthanized by a shotgun in nc, the triangle area. nothing was done, the person was not fired, apparently it has happened many times b4 at this shelter and no one is doing anything abt it…

  20. Dawn says

    Not only did I get goosebumps, but I had to step away to wipe my eyes and blow my nose. So sweet! I can’t say I’ve experienced anything like this with my past pals. But Cassie, Smokey, and Sephi occasionally show up in my dreams. ♥ ♥ ♥

    • Carol Bryant says

      You know, Dawn, I wish for her to be in my dreams and now and then she comes dancing into them. Isn’t that the best feeling? My heart goes out to you knowing you have loved and lost babies, too.

  21. Amelia Hughes says

    This is beautiful. Tears, Goosebumps…yup! It’s comforting to have an angel looking out for you and I love that that you and Dexter have Brandy. I used to think I was crazy and said nothing to anyone but seven years ago when we sent our 14 year old cat to heaven (at our home) I started to see him out of the corner of my eye. I then became afraid when we went to the shelter and adopted a new family member that maybe I would stop seeing him and he might be sad that we “replaced” him. Not only did I keep seeing my Goofer but my husband told me he saw him every once and a while too. We have moved twice since he left us and I still see him once and a while. So, so comforting.

  22. Jobi and Fisher says

    Goose bumps – yes. Tears – a ton. I am so happy to learn this kind of thing happens to others, as I believe them all. Fisher shows up when I need her most. She loves it that I am always surprised,