God's Fluffy Messenger

She got a Labradoodle puppy to help assuage her grief. But was it too soon?

- Posted on Jun 20, 2013

An artist's rendering of a winged Labradoodle soaring in the sky

Finn, my Labradoodle, pushed through the backdoor. I struggled to hold him long enough to unclip his collar. Then he was off, tearing down the hall to the bathroom. “No!” I called uselessly. When did my big puppy ever listen?

A second later he flew past me, toilet paper waving like a banner from his mouth. The entire roll had spun off the cardboard tube before he skidded into a white paper heap at the bottom of the stairs. I wanted to sink to the floor too. That’s it. I give up.

I stomped over to the phone and called my daughter. “I’m taking Finn back to the breeder,” I said. “I can’t take it anymore.”

“Give it time, Mom,” said Lindsay. “The puppy phase will pass. Things will get easier. You’ll see. He’ll be a little angel—just like Gucci!”

Gucci was a teacup Maltese, I thought bitterly. He couldn’t even reach the toilet paper roll.

It was my children who had convinced me to get a dog for company. My husband, Bruce, had died from cancer only a few months ago, and shortly after that Gucci died too.

I felt so alone, I couldn’t even sleep in my own bed. I spent nights huddled on the couch in the living room, listening to the sounds in the dark house that now seemed huge and threatening. My grief counselor said this wasn’t unusual.

And my daughter agreed. “It just takes time,” Lindsay said. But when I looked around at all the evidence of Finn’s mischief—teeth marks on the sofa, stray socks he’d tossed around, heaps of shredded tissue—I wondered how much time?

Having a larger breed was supposed to make me feel safer, get me out of the house. But to me it meant long walks every hour, lots of dog food and my furniture being turned into chew toys. Some days I could barely care for myself. Finn was just too much.

I knew this was a bad idea, I thought. From the first minute, I knew. I’d let the kids convince me, sure I was so lost without Bruce I couldn’t trust my own judgment.

I hung up the phone. Finn rolled happily in his pile of tissues. I felt defenseless. And alone. God had felt so close all during Bruce’s illness. There was nothing I couldn’t handle with God.

But when Bruce died God seemed to leave with him. Then I didn’t even have Gucci. It was too much to bear. “I need to feel God close again,” I’d confided to a friend at church. “I need him to wrap his arms around me.”

She immediately hugged me herself. “That’s what friends are for,” she said. But friends hugged friends all the time. I needed something special. Nothing less than an angel enfolding me in his wings would do.

I dropped down on the sofa and reached for a tissue from the box on the coffee table. Finn wagged his tail, sending bits of toilet paper flying. Despite the mess, he was adorable.

He deserved to be loved. And everyone loved him. Except me.

“Woof!” Finn bounded into the living room. Before I could stop him he’d swiped the whole tissue box right from under my hand.

“Finn!” Lord, I can’t handle this! Where are you? I pushed myself off the couch and followed Finn into the hallway. In just a few seconds he’d torn open the box. Tissues already covered the ground like snow, but Finn was hard at work making an even bigger mess.

I sunk down to my knees in the pile. I picked up one of the shredded tissues on the floor and cried into it. Lord, why did you leave me? Finn picked that moment to lunge for the tissue box one more time. When he missed he grabbed the leg of my jeans instead and tugged.

“Stop it!” I shouted. I’d never sounded so angry, even to myself. “Just stop it!”

Finn cringed and whimpered, backing away. His big brown eyes were full of hurt. He didn’t understand what he’d done wrong. It wasn’t his fault I was suffering. And now he was suffering too.

“I’m sorry!” I said. “Come here, baby. It’s okay.”

I scooped him up into my arms. I knew what it was like to feel alone, to cry out for comfort and get nothing in return. No one should feel that way, especially not a big, silly Labradoodle puppy. “I’m sorry,” I cried. “I’m so sorry.”

Finn wiggled up my body and licked my chin. He pressed himself up until his neck was nestled right next to mine. His curly haired paws slipped around my neck. His back legs wrapped around my waist and he buried his nose in my hair. What’s he doing? Finn held me tight.

All at once I realized what this was. A hug. Finn had wrapped himself around me in a hug! Finn’s furry paws might as well have been angel’s wings. Here you are, Lord. Right here with me. Just like you’ve been.

“I’m going to make this right,” I said to Finn, squeezing him tight. “I promise.”

I had to find Finn a good home. Over the next few weeks I showed him around the neighborhood. I hired a trainer to teach him not to tear up paper. By myself, I got him to ring a bell by the door when he needed to go out.

I wanted whoever adopted Finn to know what kind of special dog they were getting. Then a friend put me in touch with a woman who ran a Labradoodle rescue group. She knew just the right home.

“It’s a lady who recently lost her own dog,” she said. “She’ll take him everywhere. He’ll never be alone. No one could love him more than she will,” she assured me.

I looked over at Finn, snoozing at my feet. He was an angel, just like my daughter had envisioned. Once again I was tempted to ignore my better instincts. Should I keep Finn after all?

“Are you really sure this lady is the best thing for Finn?” I asked.

“I know absolutely. You see, she’s my mother.”

Finn’s new owner came to get him a few days later. When I saw the way she looked at him, with a love unencumbered by grief, I knew it was the right thing to do.

My house was empty once more. But I wasn’t alone. Finn had given me a hug that could only have come from God, and renewed my faith in him. It would take time to get through the worst of my grief. But I could do it. Finn and I were both in God’s embrace.


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