Mom and Sally

The Guideposts editor-in-chief shares how God uses animals to heal us.

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I was editing a story this week for the magazine about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s when I was reminded of an incident with my own mom when she was in the early stages of the disease.

Mom was still able to live on her own at that point, but she required such careful watching that we had moved her into a house next door to my brother. One week Julee and I flew out to Michigan to spend time with her. We brought along our young cocker spaniel, Sally, whom Mom took to instantly.

Satisfied that Mom could look after Sally, Julee and I were confident that we could leave them alone while we spent time with my brother and his wife, did some shopping and a few other touristy things around Detroit.  

We noticed right away that Sally had taken an unusual liking to Mom. Whenever we came back to the house, Sally wouldn’t leave her side. Now Sally was a wonderful dog, but like many cockers she could be a bit willful and independent, so it was amazing to see her suddenly so devoted. We were moved to see her show such extraordinary empathy towards Mom. “What a great dog,” I said to Julee.

However, a couple of days into our visit Julee and I noticed that the food (check out my dog food recipe) we brought along for her was disappearing at an alarming rate. One night I took Sally aside, sat her down and looked her right in the eyes: “What’s going on here?” I asked. 

You can probably guess. Mom’s short-term memory was impaired to the extent that she couldn’t remember from hour to hour if she had fed Sally. So she would feed her again just in case, since she hated to think of a dog as being food-deprived (a state of affairs that no self-respecting cocker would ever allow to happen). So we put a note on Sally’s food telling Mom not to worry about feeding her, Julee and I would take care of it.

That was the end of Sally’s amazing gourmet vacation, and I think she held a little grudge over the fact that her scheme had been found out. But here’s the good part—even after Sally got back on her regular feeding schedule, her devotion to Mom didn’t abate. She seemed to know that Mom needed all the care and attention she could get.

When we left at the end of the week, Mom cried saying goodbye to Sally. “Thank you for coming to visit me, Sally,” she whispered. “I hope you come back soon.”

God uses animals to comfort and heal us, we all know that. For years GUIDEPOSTS has published stories about the incredible role animals play in our lives. Check out our pet channel for a taste of these unbelievably inspiring tales. And if you have your own Animals and Healing story, please post it below. I would love to hear about it. 

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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