On a busy day at the hospital, I was charting my patient notes when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I glanced up and noticed Suzanne, one of our volunteers standing beside me.
“I just came from the ER. While I was loading the comfort cart with blankets, I noticed a couple in one of the rooms. They called to me and asked me if I could get a hold of a chaplain for them. Could you go? They’re in pod 36.”
“Of course. I laid down my pen, picked up my note binder and walked back to the ER. Waving my card in front of the doors, I was allowed in and headed for pod 36. When I walked in, a man in his 40’s was sitting up in the bed looking a little peaked.
“Hi, I’m Chaplain Pat. I was told that you wanted to see me?”
Mr. Tyler said, “My wife is very upset.” That seemed odd to me since he was the one admitted to the ER. “We wanted to have our dog blessed. This dog meant so much to my wife.” I could understand her feelings. I have two dogs of my own, and their faithfulness and emotional IQ went beyond any human’s ability to intuit.
Mrs. Tyler began to tear up and said in a broken voice, “Our dog just died. She’s in the trunk of our car...this has been an awful day. Now my husband is in the ER.”
My mind tried to make sense of what I was hearing. I turned to Mr. Tyler, “What brought you into the ER?”
“I was in quite a bit of pain. I guess I have kidney stones, “ he grimaced.
“Why don’t I pray for you?” I ventured. They agreed, and I did.
“Can you bless our dog?” his wife asked again.
“I’m not sure that would…” Ingrained into my mind was the disease factor, among other things.
“That’s OK. I just needed to ask.”
I wrapped things up and sat down outside his pod to chart my notes. As I was charting, I heard a very clear mandate in my heart: Bless the dog. Really? I kept charting. Once again, I heard very distinctly within: Bless the dog. I finished my charting and headed back to Mr. T’s pod.
“I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided that I would love to bless your dog.”
Mrs. T looked up with a tear-stained face. “Really?”
She led me out to her car that was parked in the emergency lot and lifted the lid of the trunk. There, in the center of the trunk, was a small, dog-sized box with a lid on it. All around the box were flowers, several bouquets, in fact.
“We were on our way to the vet to have her put down. She had been so sick, and we decided that it was time. She was 15 years old. Before we could get to the vet, she stopped breathing, and then my husband started having pain in his side. We had to come here before we could go home.” She gently lifted the lid.
There was a little white dog, laying on her side. She was wrapped in a crocheted blanket. A blanket someone had made with pure love. I placed my hand on the dog. “She’s still warm,” I noted out loud. I prayed with my hand on the dog, thanking God for her and the goodness and blessings that she had brought to this family. When I ended my prayer, Mrs. T looked up at me and said, “Do you see the blanket that is wrapped around my dog?” I nodded.
“That was my babies’ blanket. Someone made it for us when the first was born. We were in an automobile accident 13 years ago, and both of my babies were killed. I wanted Dorothy wrapped in the blanket when we bury her in the yard.”
There was a rush of recognition that moved from my head to my heart. I wrapped my arms around her and held her while she wept. “If it hadn’t been for that dog, I would have died from sorrow. She kept me alive.” My tears were beginning to flow as well.
If I hadn’t listened to the Voice, I would have never known this. I would have missed an opportunity to allow Mrs. T to grieve as she needed to grieve. I would have missed another lesson in listening to the still small voice of God within me.