As a child, one of my favorite Christmas books was "The Littlest Angel". My parents bought me a record with the story read by Loretta Young, and I used to peer over the top of the old 78 record player watching the record turn as I heard her beautiful voice tell the story of the little angel who yearned for the things he left on earth, and who had a box containing things like the collar of a favorite dog. At the end of the story, as the Birth of Christ approached, he had nothing for the Christ Child. Timidly, he offered his box from earth, and that was proclaimed the greatest gift to this baby who would live on earth....and his gift rose until it became the shining star over Bethlehem.
I still love that story, and thought of it this week as my good friends, the Grossers, dealt with the illness and finally death of their beloved Golden Lab, Buddy. His name fit him well. They had adopted him from a shelter, and brought him to their ranch, where he loved to chase their son, Tommy, as he walked, then biked, and later 4-wheeled to his friends. He once visited a neighbor's farm where a hog butchering was in process. Buddy proudly carried home the heavy head of that hog to present to his non-appreciative family.
When my 3 year old grandson would visit the ranch to see my horse Bart, who was boarded there, Buddy was always there to greet with a wagging tail and sloppy tongue. CJ had a lab of his own, so had no problem holding his own around the campfire when Buddy would try to share a marshmallow. CJ had learned the stiff-arm approach to preserving your food around a moocher like Buddy. When Buddy would lay down to relax, CJ was often seen laying down next to him and using Buddy for his pillow.
Buddy was having some lame issues, which may have been caused from some buckshot he picked up on one of his neighborhood visits. He had lived a good life at the Grossers in his 9 years, but as they were Christmas shopping, a call came from Tom that they needed to hurry home....Buddy was having a seizure. They took him to the vet and he had surgery for a twisted gut, and never really recovered. Finally, the difficult decision was made to let their beloved Buddy go.What do you say to friends who are grieving a family member during this holiday time? All I could think of was Buddy, now free of the limp and pain, romping happily through the Heavenly Gates, and seeing a party ahead, trotting up and looking for the food. So I told them to tell Baby Jesus to watch out....Buddy was at his best begging for a treat, and was great at snatching a piece of birthday cake! So as we celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, just think of the babe laying in the manger with a big yellow lab laying beside him, with big brown eyes watching that baby carefully for any treats that he might drop his way.
My friend, Carol, sent this poem to Tommy. I think of the other precious pets who have passed on this year.....and I think this goes out to their owners, and anyone who has lost one of their wonderful, loving animals in 2007.
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep
Then will you do what must be done
For this…the last battle…can’t be won.
You will be sad, I understand
But don’t let grief then stay your hand
For on this day, more than the rest
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so
Take me where my needs they will tend
Only stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see
I know in time you will agree
It is kindness you do to me
Although my tail its last has waved
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do:
We’ve been so close…we two…these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.