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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The signature is what made me weak in the knees.
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.
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.
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.
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?