when my in-laws took an extended vacation to visit family in north dakota, we dog-sat for their beloved german shepherd, trigger. our lab mix, erin, was somewhat of an escape artist so we normally allowed her to roam through our four acres. in the summer she loved to lie in the creek to get cool and she mostly stayed nearby, came home to check in regularly, and was always home at night.
trigger, on the other hand, had always been inside when he wasn’t, was in an enclosed yard. so we made beds for the two of them on the screened porch, and restricted erin from running loose while her pal was visiting. they loved playing together and the arrangement worked well – for several days.
then we discovered the gash erin had made in the screen and both dogs were gone. we lived, at that time, in a rural area of mostly farmland between the potomac river and the chesapeake bay. we therefore spent a couple of days driving around to ask neighbors we’d never met if they had seen the dogs. sadly, no one had. time passed and the dogs did not return.
when nearly two weeks had passed, i called our vet to ask what he thought were their chances of survival in this area of farms, woods, and wetlands. his assessment was that either they were staying with someone and being cared for or (the dreaded bad news) they had not survived. in an act of caring omission, he chose not to mention the billboard-sized sign on the highway which announced that the university was using our pets for experimentation.
we had suffered through two weeks of missing our furry friends and agonizing over the thought of telling my in-laws that their trusty companion was gone, when my uncle, a parish priest, died. our minds on a new subject to mourn, we drove with our kids, to the funeral home about an hour away. my son was still an infant, my daughter six years old.
my husband, who loved to explain the world to our daughter, carried her over to the casket and explained that uncle george had died and that, though his body was still there, he had gone to heaven. in the same little voice she had used at the zoo to ask about the lion, “can i kiss him?” my daughter now asked, “can i talk to him?”
“sure”, her dad said, whereupon my sweet six-year-old asked uncle george to please bring back erin and trigger. she really missed her pals.
on the drive home we worried over how she would react when they didn’t return.
two weeks was somewhat of a turning point. after that, the vet had said, it was much less likely that we would ever see them again. much of our drive was filled with silence and sadness. it was late, darkness had fallen, and we were weary.
we were finally turning onto the quarter-mile dirt drive to our house, when the miracle happened. at the entrance to the drive stood several neighbors and – two dogs. i was out of the car in a flash, asking, “oh my gosh, where did you find them?” “right here,” was their reply, “standing right here in your driveway.” my uncle, who loved dogs and could never resist little children, had brought us a miracle.