The Dog That Answered a Prayer

The Dog That Answered a Prayer

The amazing story of how this dog saved her life.

Barbara Aqua and Shredder

I opened the door to the Trents’ house and was greeted, as usual, by Shredder, their Airedale. He bounded toward me, jumped up and put a paw on each shoulder. “Okay, boy,” I said, rubbing the inside of his ears the way he liked.

He groaned contentedly. Then he brought me the raggedy old stuffed monkey he liked to play fetch with. I tossed it down the hall a few times. “That’s all for now,” I told him.

If Shredder had his way, I’d play with him all day. He had energy to burn. But with so many things on my schedule—PTA meetings, Girl Scouts, dinner, other houses to clean—I didn’t have time.

I’d been cleaning for the Trents going on two years. I should have been used to dogs being underfoot. After all, my husband, Dave, our two girls and I had a pair of high-energy Scottish terriers. That day I told Shredder to lie down on his pillow. “I’ve got to get to work now,” I said.

I headed downstairs to vacuum the family room. Shredder settled on his pillow. Probably can’t wait till I’m done so we can play some more, I thought. Too bad for him that I’m out of here as soon as I’m finished.

All of a sudden pain shot through my head. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt–10 times worse. Light exploded behind my eyes. The vacuum hose slipped out of my hand, and I fell to my knees.

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I knew someone who’d died from a brain aneurysm. Is that what’s happening to me? I had to get help. Now. Before it was too late.

Phone, I thought. The nearest phone was in the kitchen. I tried to stand up, but couldn’t. I have to get upstairs. It felt like my head was going to explode. I managed to crawl to the foot of the steps. But I couldn’t move anymore. I was helpless.

Through the pounding pain, I said a prayer. God, I don’t want this to be the end. I’ve got a husband and two kids who need me. I want to see them again. Please help.

I looked up. Shredder stared back at me from the top step, tail slightly thumping the floor. Did he think I was playing?

“Come here,” I whispered, trying to make my voice sound playful. He cocked his head and stared quizzically. “C’mon, boy,” I said. Shredder padded down the steps and stood next to me. His tail stopped wagging. Did he sense something was wrong?

“Help me, Shredder,” I said, grabbing his collar with my left hand. He climbed a step, then stopped. “Up!” I said. He looked back at me as if to say, “Is this right?” “Go,” I whispered. He started to drag me.

My left arm went numb. I had to look at Shredder’s collar to make sure I kept my grip. I reached with my right hand, managed to get hold of the banister and pulled. Shredder tugged, and I made it up one step at a time.

I squeezed my eyes shut. Little explosions of light flashed across the inside of my eyelids. “Hurry, Shredder.”

Shredder got me to the top of the steps. Then I started to crawl. Shredder grabbed my sleeve in his teeth. He pulled and tugged, helping me across the kitchen floor. Now I knew what that stuffed monkey must’ve felt like. Finally, the phone.

You’re not going to make it. Call Dave. I needed to tell him what had happened. I didn’t want the Trents to have to deliver the bad news. I got the answering machine. The message I left must have scared him silly.

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“I’m at the Trents’. I think I’m having an aneurysm. I’m going to die. I just wanted to tell you I love you.” Then I called 911.

Shredder sat down next to me. “Good boy.” I wanted to rub his ear, but I couldn’t. Still, he stayed right by my side.

The EMTs showed up in minutes. Shredder, who is friendly almost to a fault, jumped to his feet and started growling. “It’s okay,” I said.

He seemed to accept that they were here to help, and sat back down obediently, head cocked.

“Any history of heart trouble?” one EMT asked.

“No,” I told her. “It’s my head. Pain.”

“Looks like you’ve been without oxygen.” They strapped me to a gurney and rolled me out of the house. The last thing I recall is seeing Shredder.

Doctors discovered that a heart valve had gone into a spasm. It could have been caused by any number of things: a temporary blockage or a sudden severe migraine (which would explain the extreme pain in my head). They discharged me after four days, but I had another 16 weeks of complete bed rest.

All that lying around doing nothing nearly drove me crazy. Maybe I was a little bit like Shredder, always needing to be active. I kept worrying about all the PTA meetings I was missing, the dinners I couldn’t fix, the houses I should have been cleaning.

Then one day my girls came into my room after school. “Mom, we’re so glad you’re here with us all the time!” one said. They told me about their day, then went off to do their homework.

I thought about what they’d said. Maybe this was an opportunity to slow down and spend a little quality time with my family. Okay, Lord, I get the message.

Still, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Trents’ house. Not to clean. But to finish a game of fetch. Shredder had been waiting to play for too long.


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