My sons wrote me a little prescription about four years back. Although neither of them is a doctor, I must admit that they were experts at curing what ailed their mother.
You see, I was broken-hearted as a result of losing my husband. The main symptom was a severe case of loneliness, which manifested itself through lack of sleep and a hanky full of tears.
I tried to deal with my sleeplessness by counting sheep, white noise, hot baths, chamomile tea, and sleeping pills, but sleep never came.
I was exhausted!
The only thing that came was tears – buckets and buckets full.
I cried so much that my whole body just ached from sobbing. Crying became my MO. I cried in bed, in the shower, while praying, while eating, at work, at church, and in the car. I was lonesome and the only man who could relieve my pain was gone.
There was no more pillow talk when I crawled into bed – just a deathly silence while I lay awake on my side of the bed.
This went on for many months, until one evening my married sons suggested that I get a dog. I had always loved dogs, but due to my oldest son’s allergies, I hadn’t had a pet since childhood. Now that my son had passed away, my surviving children thought a dog might be just the ticket.
Andy and Mike’s prescription called for a sweet little dog that I could shower with love and who would return that affection in spades. I do love a man with a plan! As far as I was concerned, my sons were geniuses.
So, off I went to the Humane Society to hopefully rescue some poor dog who would love me forever. I found a sweet little beagle named Matthew.
Since Matthew was the name of one of the Gospel writers, I figured this was a match made in heaven. Boy, did I ever have a wrong number!
I went to pick up Matthew on Valentine’s Day by myself. He cried all the way to my house. The pet books I had bought told me to acquaint him with the yard before entering the home. So even though it was below zero, I made an effort to let him sniff the yard.
That’s when the little rascal yanked the leash from my hand and bolted!
I couldn’t catch Matthew, so I called the Humane Society and they eventually located him and asked if I wanted him back. I told them that since he didn’t want me, I was just going to wait on an adoption until I had time to think it over.
What to do?
A few months later, a couple of people at work suggested that I look at labradoodle puppies since they do not shed much and are very calm.
The owner went to find a pup that she considered to be very calm and who she thought would be perfect for this widow lady. At the same time, I spotted a friendly little fellow and asked if I could see him also.
We took both puppies out in the yard and although calm puppy snuggled with me for a while, he kept walking away from me, while the other little guy, who was all of about 6 pounds or so, kept toddling into my lap and kissing my face. He wouldn’t leave me alone.
Well, that was it.
I had found my pup.
The owner showed me the dad, who was an enormous standard poodle in a crate. She made a point of mentioning how large he was so that I would be aware of what I might be in for. It never occurred to me to have her take him out of the crate either, just to get a sense of his behavior. Instead, I focused my attention on the mother, who was a quiet, gentle, yellow lab.
Since the pups weren’t weaned yet, I would have to wait three weeks to pick up my new baby.
Before I left, the owner asked me what I was going to name my pup. I thought that “Gabriel” seemed to fit my little boy since he was coming to live on Marion Lane. It was in honor of the Angel Gabriel who had come to Mary.
Three weeks dragged by and finally I was on my way to pick up Gabriel. The owner brought the pup out to greet me.
Believe me when I say that my little boy had doubled his weight in three weeks and now at eight weeks of age, he bore no resemblance to the sweet little lad that I had picked out. I made the owner prove to me that this was the same pup, and when she did, I gave him the unconditional love that only a mother can give.
A new home
Gabriel cried the whole way home, but once in the house he went about exploring and found a safe haven wrapped around the toilet in the master bathroom. It was probably then that he decided that his favorite snack in the whole world would be toilet paper – rolls and rolls of it!
Little did I know that the day after bringing him home, we would be off to the races…
Very early on Gabe considered it his sworn duty to race through the house at top speed to defend his property from intruders. One day while making his daily rounds, he took a corner too fast and ended up splayed out on all fours in the entryway.
From that time on, Gabe swore off walking on any floor that wasn’t carpeted. To this day, he needs to walk on an area rug to his water and food dishes. He would rather starve then set foot on a bare floor.
When Gabe was just a pup and had a hard time sleeping at night, I would sing to him. He began to associate the song “Good Night Ladies” with sleep and never fails to nod off whenever he hears that tune. Last winter he was introduced to the voice of Doris Day and it was then that he decided to switch to “Que Sera Sera.”
You may be laughing, but I’m serious! He’s into anything Doris Day!
When Gabe was about six months old, I decided one evening that I could trust him to be out of his crate while I took a bath. I had just settled down into a nice bubble bath, when out of nowhere I heard the thunder of a galloping puppy and a gigantic splash!
There was Gabe, about 50 pounds of him, in the tub with me, ready for his bath.
Did I forget to mention that he’s the only dog in history to love a bath?
He also acquired the bad habit of ripping the downspouts off the house for the sport of it when he was young. My brother John thought that he’d cure Gabe’s bad habit, so he screwed the downspouts into the house and left.
By the next morning, Gabe had somehow removed the screws and could be seen happily gallivanting through the yard, downspout in mouth, with the expression “Catch me if you can!” on his face…
It’s a fact: Gabe’s stomach is made of iron. So far he’s eaten lights off the Christmas tree, pantyhose, pencils, paper money, the book “90 Minutes In Heaven,” the remote control from my stereo, and tennis balls. One night he even tried to drink hard liquor out of the glass of an unsuspecting guest.
But the most memorable meal of his consisted of a tube of hand lotion.
Now the vet indicated that the lotion couldn’t kill him, but the fact that he ate the whole tube and swallowed the cap in one piece could. When his stomach was pumped, the unsuspecting vet also found pieces of Gabe’s pink baby blanket in there.
Of course, after the stomach pumping, Gabe laid in the backseat of the car like a drunken sailor with his eyes crossed all the way home.
Then a couple of months ago, Mr. Right decided to give me a little kiss while we were watching TV. I opened my eyes to see Gabe’s nose resting on my leg and his big brown puppy dog eyes staring intently and with great interest at this new development. He simply didn’t know what to make of it.
Well, as you can see, 40 obedience classes later, I’m out several hundred dollars.
But after four years of joy, I guess you could say that Gabe has fulfilled his mission in life as a companion dog. He never fails to make me laugh or to comfort me when I’m feeling down. I think back to meeting Gabe’s mom and dad and I can see my baby is a good combination of sweet and sassy all rolled into one.
They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. About two years ago, He decided to add another challenge to my plate when my sweet Gabriel was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, which means that his adrenal glands have basically shut down.
In order to survive, he must receive shots and tests at the vet monthly and daily medication. Gabe has his good days and his bad days. At 113 pounds, he’s a gentle giant, who is in pain from time to time. I medicate him as much as I can until he’s feeling better and then his adventures continue.
You might say that Gabe and I are survivors. I would not trade him for the world. I never fail to tell him that I love him every night and he, in turn, never fails to give me his unconditional love.
Thank you, my sons, for giving me the kind of medicine that money can’t buy…laughter!
If you are a pet lover also, I thought you might enjoy this little prayer, which asks for God’s blessing on our faithful companions:
A Pet Blessing
Dearest God, Heavenly Father
maker of all living creatures,
I ask you to bless Gabriel,
who brings so much joy into my life.
By the power of Your love,
enable him to live according to your plan.
May I always praise You for all Your beauty in creation.
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
Blessed are You, God, in all Your creatures!
Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation
For further reading, Barb recommends the book “The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy” by Dr. Marty Becker.