Christmastime at the Reynolds’ house was bright, cheerful and mad. Add five eager-to-please pug puppies into the mix and it was bedlam. Bedlam of the best kind, of course. There were carols and movies – A Christmas Carol, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Holiday Inn and It’s a Wonderful Life just to start – cookies and all sorts of festive moments that really made the holiday sparkle.
One by one, my brothers and sisters were given to good families. It’s never a good idea to give a dog as a Christmas present to a child or family that cannot really take care of them, but the Reynolds were smart people. My brothers and sisters, as far as I am aware, all found happy homes.
The Reynolds kept me, and through the winter, things went really well. I even got on well with their fat grey cat, Tabitha. The little girl, Sophie, was a pleasure to have as my human. I was a very lucky puppy.
Spring arrived with a burst of color and birdsong. Critters chased each other in the yard, making merry and taunting Tabitha and me. Everything was alive, clean and new. It was my first spring, and I’ll never forget it. I cavorted about the house and yard with Sophie and Tabitha. I was the stalwart knight defending the fortress, Tabitha was the dragon, skulking about, ready to pounce and Sophie was the princess – in every sense of the word.
My first spring also meant my first love. I adored Sophie, but as goofy as she was, she wasn’t a dog. Missy was the dog of my dreams. She was a beautiful free spirit. She was a dog who longed to be off the lead. Unfortunately, Missy was not the best influence on me, and we started taking nighttime journeys together.
We were safe enough on one front – the Reynolds had made sure that I wouldn’t be creating any little Claudes of my own. That was good, because Missy was a Golden Retriever and those may have been very odd-looking pups. But, we didn’t necessarily travel by the safest roads. And we didn’t always come home the next day. Over the course of the summer, we stretched our journeys from one to two and sometimes even three days. I couldn’t help myself. She was funny, proud and independent, and she loved having me chase after her. Besides, our families were always there with worried looks and happy arms, welcoming us home.
I had not learned my lesson. My heart was full of love, but it was a fallible heart. One night, we were chasing each other down a dirt path. I didn’t know that cars used it to race one another. But they did, and their headlights startled us. We froze.
I barked for Missy to get out of the way and the car struck me instead. I was tossed into the ditch, hurt, but alive. My body was one mass of pain; it was so bad that I started to lose my grip on consciousness. I whined and Missy came to lick my face and my paw. My paw was badly hurt – it was bleeding and it twisted in a funny direction. I didn’t like looking at it. I looked up at her, instead.
I asked her to get help – to run back to the Reynolds or her humans and bring them back. She promised and she was gone, running as fast as I’d ever seen her run. I don’t know how long I lay in that ditch, but she really was a good dog. When she returned, the Reynolds were with her.
In the hospital, after all the doctors and nurses went away, taking my poor leg with them, I heard Mr. Reynolds speaking to the vet: We just can’t keep a dog that keeps on running away. Sophie is starting school in the fall, and he won’t have anyone to keep him company. I just think he’ll be better off with people who are home, who can keep an eye on him. With that missing leg, he’ll need extra care. We just can’t.
My heart broke. The pain of his words, the truth in them, went deep into my soul. My whimper was tiny, and pathetic and more real than anything I had ever felt. Why? Why had I done this?
The Reynolds left me there. All night, I kept hoping I had heard them wrong, but no one came to rest with me, comfort me. Finally, just before dawn, I fell asleep, and dreamed.
The fields were golden and butterflies dusted the air. Love and calm filled me. It made me forget the pain of my missing limb. When I heard the voice, I knew Who it was.
Claude, my sweet little Claude. You are so weary. Let me give you peace.
“Peace? Can you give me back my family? I lost them; I did it. And now, I don’t know what to do.”
I cannot give you what you lost, but I can help you find something better. You can give your love to someone who needs you very much. You will be My emissary for him and he will be Mine for you. Will you do this for Me Claude?
I hesitated; my fallible heart was doubtful. “How will I know him?”
You will have a guide for part of your journey, Claude, but eventually, you will have to go out on your own, and trust.
Ah, trust. That was a scary word for a runaway puppy with only three legs. I agreed and woke with a start. There was a man next to my bed.
“Hi Claude. I’m Clarence. I’m going to stay with you a while. You don’t mind, do you?”
No, I didn’t mind. In the moonlight filtering through the window, I could see the glimmer of wings. No, I didn’t mind a bit.
To be continued…
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