When Ken and I got married back in 1993, we knew that we were going to be parents right away–his mother’s Golden Retriever was due to have a litter of puppies just a few weeks after our wedding. We were both very much dog people and were raised with dogs in the house. We brought our first baby home a few days before Christmas, and the timing could not have been more perfect. That was the winter of the great ice storm that crippled most of the Mid-Atlantic, particularly the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Ken was working in Annapolis and was stranded. I was home alone–two hours from my own hometown–with no friends, no family (I still hardly knew Ken’s family), and nowhere to go. I was housebound with nobody but Tucker to keep me company. I’ve often kidded that it was that puppy who got me through the first year of being married.
Ken and I had been married just over two years when we became pregnant with Rebecca, our oldest daughter. Everyone laughed at me because along with the typical expectant mother books, I read all of the books about introducing your dog to your new baby. They laughed, they teased, and they told me I was crazy, but I remember my sister-in-law worrying that our dog just would not accept a new love in my life. As recommended in the books, the evening after Rebecca was born, my mother-in-law took home the little cap she had worn all day in the hospital and let Tucker smell it. When we arrived at the house the next day, I carried Rebecca in one arm and a large dog bone in the other. I presented Tucker with the bone, but he wasn’t interested. He was instantly smitten, and for the next nine+ years, he and Rebecca were the best of friends.
By the time Rebecca was ten, and we’d been blessed with two more little girls in our family, and we lost Tucker to cancer. It was such a tragic time for us. We all cried for so long, but I was increasingly sad. Every day that went by, I felt so lonely. Ken was away so much due to work, and the girls were all in school. I missed the affection and companionship that my first baby had provided. One day, Ken arrived home and said, “Let’s go. I’m getting you a puppy.”
We had Sunny for only five years, but he was a beautiful part of our family. He was extremely smart and well-behaved. He loved being with us, but found his true home on the boat. Unfortunately, he vanished from our yard one day and was never seen again. This time, it was Ken who took it the hardest. He’d wanted a Brittany Spaniel ever he’d had one as a child. He and Sunny were inseparable. Ken was cutting the grass one day, and Sunny and our latest addition, Misty, were playing in the yard. A frantic Misty got Ken’s attention, howling, crying, running in circles, and begging him to follow her. Ken realized Sunny was missing, and took off toward the end of the driveway, hot on Misty’s heels, but Sunny was nowhere to be found. For three days, Ken walked every inch of our small peninsular town, wading through marshes and combing through fields. We’re pretty sure someone just took her, and all we could hope was that she had a good home.
This time the heart-broken one was Misty. Sunny had been her constant companion, and she cried and moped and stared out the window for hours. It was torturous to watch her decline, day after day. She was dying of loneliness. She had literally lost her best friend. The day we brought Rosie home to Misty was the happiest day of her life.
After a long illness at the age of four, Misty developed a heart murmur. The vet told us that she could love another ten years or die the next day. He encouraged us to give her the best life we could, allow her to run and play, and just treat her like we would treat any beloved member of the family, and that’s what we did. When Misty was ten, she returned home from her favorite past-time, swimming in the creek across the road, pranced into the yard with her tongue hanging out and tail wagging, and then jolted and fell to the ground. I held her and begged her not to leave me. Like Tucker, she had become my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine life without her. She had taught me so much in those short ten years. I held her in my arms as she took her last breath. Little Rosie watched from the doorway, and I know she felt the pain as deeply as I did.
The dog we bought as a companion for Misty became my constant shadow, and I may spoil her just a little. Rosie is so sweet and so good. She just wants to spend her days by my side, always under my desk as I work and staying close by while we take our daily walks. She loves her animals and cares for them like they’re her babies. She’s been the only dog in the house for two years, and we thought she was content that way, until…
That little baby we’d brought home from the hospital over twenty-five-years ago grew up and got married and adopted a puppy of her own. The first time Rebecca brought Casper to the house, Rosie was the happiest we’d seen her in a long time. It was like she was a puppy again, running around, nipping playfully at Casper, and just having a grand time. When Casper went home, Rosie sulked. It took two days for her to be herself again, and the more she and Casper had playdates, the more we knew…
Rosie needed a sister. She needed someone to cuddle with, to play with, and to care for. She needed a companion during the day and someone to snuggle with at night. She needed someone like…
We brought Luna home yesterday. The whole process, from being notified that there may be a puppy available for us to the ride home, puppy in tow, took about 30 minutes. We hadn’t planned on pulling up to someone’s house, having a puppy thrust into our arms, and then being told to have a nice day. That’s pretty much what happened. My youngest, Morgan, and I were stunned, but I didn’t question it for a minute. Luna needed us much more than we needed her. With ribs protruding and fleas feasting, she melted into Morgan’s arms like she was at peace for the first time in the four months she’s been on earth. After baths and a quick trip to the vet, Luna and Rosie are bonding (and Casper has FaceTimed with them). This new sweetie is still timid and still adjusting, but I think she already feels the love. She’s not quite sure where her place is while I’m working, but we’ll get there. For now, I’m just happy that she has found a home, and we have found a new family member.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’, “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.” This official writing finally put to rest the two-hundred-year debate in the Church about whether or not dogs go to Heaven. For me, it’s not really about whether or not I will see my dogs, made whole and beautiful and healthy again, in Heaven. I’ve always felt that I would. No, for me, these helpless creatures we take in and make a part of lives are a tiny glimpse of what Heaven is like. Unconditional love, companionship, and healing (really, is it just a coincidence that dog is an anagram of God?). We mere mortals have been given the most precious gift. We get to feel a love that shows no bounds and weathers any storm. From stories of dogs waiting outside the hospital for their humans to be released to the ones who lie by the bedside of someone leaving this world, we witness to the smallest degree what God’s love is like. All we have to do is open our arms and accept the love being handed to us.
Be sure to catch me on one of these dates:
August 28 – Book signing – St. Mary’s Crab Festival in Leonardtown, Maryland 10:00AM-4:00PM
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).