Peanut Butter, the Comfort Dog

My son, newly divorced, was moving back in with me. Worse, so was his dog.

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Peanut Butter, the Comfort Dog

My son Brandon wearily lifted the last box of his things from the back of his truck and carried it toward my house. His marriage was over, and he was moving back home. Brandon’s forlorn expression said it all. My eyes fell on the dog trailing after him. The year-old mixed breed was cute enough: her face a cross between a beagle and Chihuahua and her coat a creamy brown worthy of her name, Peanut Butter.

She turned to me—her big brown eyes pleading. For what, I wasn’t sure. I backed away, shooting her a warning look. She had been adopted by Brandon and his wife—his ex-wife, that is—and just reminded me of how their marriage had failed. How our family’s woes seemed to pile up every day. Lord, I don’t need another burden right now.

Sometimes I wondered if God was listening. A few months earlier my 14-year-old son, Wesley, had been terribly injured in a dirt-bike accident, and he missed so much school I worried if he’d ever catch up. Then the plant where my husband, Martin, worked came under new management, and he suddenly had to put in long, irregular hours. Even nights and weekends I might not see him. Now I had to clear out my home office and turn it back into a bedroom for Brandon and his dog.

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Brandon noticed me glaring at the animal. “PB will be fine,” he assured me. “She’s very well behaved.” We’ll see about that, I thought. I had my own dog—Missy, a Border collie–Australian shepherd mix who was mostly an outdoor dog. Brandon had insisted Peanut Butter stay inside. I wasn’t thrilled, but I couldn’t say no after all my son had been through. The dog quietly followed Brandon to his room. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until I noticed the carpet. A trail of dirty paw prints. Great.

The next day Brandon took Peanut Butter to work. But that evening, when I heard Brandon’s truck pull up and Peanut Butter’s accompanying bark, I braced myself for more trouble. I opened the front door and saw the two of them running around on the lawn. “How was work?” I asked.

“Okay, I guess,” Brandon said. “Having PB with me is great. She keeps my spirits up.” As an equipment-repair technician, Brandon spent a lot of time driving from client to client by himself. I guess it’s good he has the dog so he doesn’t feel so alone, I figured.

I put Peanut Butter in the backyard with Missy while I set the table for dinner. I’d barely begun when a loud yelp startled me. Then growling…Oh, no!

I ran outside. Missy was chasing Peanut Butter. She caught up and they started to scuffle. I darted between them and pulled Missy back. “Bad girl,” I scolded, but I couldn’t blame her. Missy was my guard dog; she was just defending her territory. I shook my head. God, didn’t you hear me? I think he had the volume turned all the way down on me.

Now I had a new worry. How to tell Brandon Peanut Butter couldn’t live here for long. In the meantime, I kept the dogs separated. Peanut Butter seemed to know how I felt. When I watched TV, she’d stay across the room, her eyes tracking me warily.

One Saturday night Martin was called in to work. I found Brandon on the couch watching TV, Peanut Butter napping on the floor at his feet. Now was the time for a heart-to-heart talk with my son. I sat down next to him. “You never told me how you got Peanut Butter,” I said.

“She was a stray,” Brandon said. “Back when I was working at the repair shop, she wandered in one day. A few of us took turns feeding her scraps from our lunch boxes, but some of the other guys weren’t so nice. They yelled at her. One of them kicked her.” Brandon feared for the dog’s safety. That’s when he decided to take the dog home. He changed jobs soon after, and Peanut Butter went with him.

I glanced at her now, sleeping safe and sound. I reached down and stroked her fur. She lifted her head and looked at me. Maybe I’ve been too hard on you.

If only the rest of my worries would let up! Brandon still seemed down, not himself at all. Wesley was on his feet finally after the dirt-bike accident and was back at school, but struggling. One day, after yet another call from Martin saying he’d be home late, the stress just got to me. I went into the garage to have a private cry. I sat on the cold cement floor, tucked my head between my knees and let the tears flow. Will things ever get better for us, Lord?

Something rubbed against my shoulder. I looked up. Peanut Butter. She poked her wet nose into me and nuzzled into my arms. Even though I was the one holding her, I felt warmed and comforted, like I was being embraced by someone who really understood.

The next morning I bought her a Cat in the Hat stuffed toy. She loved carrying it around in her mouth. By day she followed me around while I did my chores. In the evening she sat by me on the couch while I watched TV, and we wouldn’t call it a night without playing a game of tug. Even Missy warmed up to Peanut Butter. She could see PB wasn’t an intruder, but a playmate, a member of our little pack.

Brandon began leaving PB with me more often. I didn’t mind at all. Missy may have been my guard dog, but Peanut Butter had become my comfort dog.

One day Brandon told me he’d found a place, and was moving out. I worried about how he’d fare living on his own—but also about Peanut Butter. “I guess she’ll be moving out too,” I said, not hiding the sadness in my voice.

Brandon shook his head. “You need her more than I do, Mom,” he said. “You know I’ll be over here all the time visiting.” I looked into his eyes and knew he was right. We would all be fine. God would see to that. After all, he brought Peanut Butter to that repair shop to be rescued by my son, and then to my house to rescue me.

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