A Woodsy Angel Helped Him Find the Perfect Solution

This heaven-sent dream helped him build the perfect dog house for the cold winter.  

Posted in , Feb 25, 2021

A giant woodsman's peeking through pine trees; Illustration by Chris Wormell

Our big, scraggly mutt, Ralph, had joined the family when his original owner couldn’t keep him. In the few months he’d been with us, we had come to love him, and all signs were he loved us too. But he’d developed one habit in his former life that no amount of coaxing could break. We couldn’t get him to come into the house.

“Some dogs prefer to stay outside,” I explained to the kids when Ralph settled to sleep in our yard on summer nights. Now, looking at him out there this fall day, I worried what would happen when the weather turned. Sure, Ralph had a thick coat of fur. He’d spent winters outside all his life. But that didn’t make me feel any better. I couldn’t let him sleep outside in the cold without protection, even if he preferred it.

At my job as a plant foreman, I found myself imagining what kind of doghouse I might build to suit Ralph. I tried to picture him curled up in a bed with a roof over his head. A roof, I admonished myself. Ha! No way would Ralph set foot in an enclosure with a roof. I knew that much. But wasn’t there something inviting I could build to give him a little warmth? I turned the problem over in my mind every day, but winter was almost upon us and I still didn’t know where to start.

One night I got home from work, exhausted. I fell into bed and dreamed. I was in a forest, trees surrounding me on all sides. It felt so real, I could practically smell the scent of pine. Looking ahead curiously, I saw a clump of trees moving. The tops shook and swayed back and forth. Then I saw what caused the movement.

A giant man as tall as the trees themselves emerged in one deliberate step from the woods, parting the oaks and pines as if they were bushes.

I stared up at him, craning my neck. Dressed in denim overalls, he looked at home in this forest like an old-fashioned woodsman from a fairy tale. My eyes traveled up to his face. That’s when I noticed his eyes. They were the most beautiful blue. In all my years working with paint I’d seen many shades of blue, but nothing like this.

The woodsman looked down at me and smiled, then began to speak. Not with words, exactly, but I understood him. He was giving me instructions.

Build a box. He gave me the exact dimensions—exactly how wide, how long and how high. Coat the box with pitch, inside and out, to weatherproof it.

I nodded. It was a lot of information, but somehow I felt sure I’d remember it all. His message delivered, he retreated into the trees.

What a dream! I thought when I woke up for work. It stayed with me all day. Not just the image of those swaying trees or the giant’s piercing blue eyes, but the information. I knew I had to make that box as soon as possible!

That weekend I got a call from my brother. “A friend has offered me some timber, but I need help picking it up. Want to help me out? I’ll split it with you.”

“Sure,” I said. I could always use spare lumber—and I had a box to build. I soon had my share of the wood. I started measuring according to my instructions. As I did, I noticed that the wood was already coated in tar on both sides. I didn’t even have to find pitch to weatherproof it myself.

In no time, my dream box was a reality, exactly sized, coated with pitch, not a crack to be found. The only thing left was to fill it with straw and then show it to Ralph, the only test that mattered. I brought the box to him where he was sitting in the yard.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked. Ralph looked skeptical. Perhaps my woodsman dream was nothing more than that. Just the dream of an exhausted father desperately worried about the family dog. While I prepared myself for disappointment, Ralph walked around the outside of the box. He stuck his nose inside the opening and tentatively sniffed at the straw. He carefully stepped in, turned round and round, getting a feel for the space. Was it too big? Too small? With a final turn, Ralph lay down and claimed the box as his own. Success! “Good boy, Ralph!”

“All this for me?” I reached for a vase for the flowers.

Ralph loved his box for the rest of his life. Even on the coldest Michigan nights when we all tried our best to coax him into the house, Ralph chose his box instead, curled up inside it, happy and warm. I would never have guessed a simple box would be so cozy. But then, it wasn’t simple at all. It was designed by an angel.

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