How Persistent Prayer Saved Her Beloved Dog

She was praying for a healing miracle during the holiday season. Would her spaniel ever walk again?

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Posted in , Nov 24, 2021

Peggy and Kelly; Photo credit: Roy Gumpel

Sad brown eyes stared back at me from the wire cage in our living room. I poked my fingers through the holes, stroking the graying fur of my spaniel, Kelly. Eight weeks. That’s how long she’d be confined to this crate, if there was to be any chance of her recovering from the injury that left her unable to move her back legs. I looked up at the Christmas tree, still decorated from the holiday a few days before. We’d adopted Kelly from a rescue group on Christmas 12 years earlier, and it seemed especially cruel that she was failing at this time of year. The vet’s words replayed in my mind: “She might never walk again.”

“I’m praying for a miracle,” my daughter, Kate, said, huddled beside me on the floor, looking at Kelly. She and her husband, Aaron, were visiting us for the holidays.

“Kelly is 13,” I said. “Too old.”

“That doesn’t matter. You should pray for a miracle too.”

I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in miracles, but we’d already received ours. Just a year earlier I’d prayed desperately as my husband, Mike, lay in the intensive care unit on a respirator. He’d been given only a 10 to 20 percent chance of survival. Yet he’d made it. How could I ask God for more?

Kelly’s ordeal started on Christmas Day. Mike and I were headed out for a family get-together. Before leaving, I hugged Kelly close and thanked God for our best gift ever. I tossed her a present from her stocking, a pink stuffed bunny. She snatched it in midair, then trotted over by the coffee table to happily unstuff it. A spry and active senior canine. Several hours later we were canine. back home. Kate had gotten there before us.

“Mom, I just let Kelly outside and she could barely get down the steps,” she told me. “Is she all right?”

“What? She was fine this morning,” I said.

I looked out the door at Kelly. She sat awkwardly in the snow. I called her name. She turned her head toward me but didn’t budge. I carried her inside and made her comfortable on a soft blanket. She probably just pulled a muscle while we were out, I thought.

The next morning, Mike and I took Kelly to the veterinarian. The vet knelt down beside her, listening with her stethoscope. She gently flexed Kelly’s legs and pressed along her back. “How did she injure herself?” she asked us.

“We’re not sure,” I said. “When we came home from Christmas brunch, we found her like this. Could it be a muscle strain?”

“No.” She helped Kelly to her feet. “Show me how she walks.”

I coaxed Kelly on the leash, but her back legs collapsed and she fell. My heart sank.

After a series of X-rays was taken, the vet came back.

“I’m afraid she’s ruptured several disks in her spine,” she said, pointing to one of the X-rays. “You can clearly see the bone fragments in the spinal fluid.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“You’re going to have to keep her as still as possible.”

We could do that. “For how long?”

“Eight weeks,” the vet answered. “For even a possibility of healing.”

“Possibility?”

“She might never walk again,” the vet said.

I’d followed the vet’s orders, keeping Kelly confined in a cage. No running in the yard or tromping with me through the neighborhood. No tagging at my heels around the house or pawing at my knee while I worked in my home office. No jumping up on the bed to snuggle beside Mike and me every night. It had been only a few days but there wasn’t any improvement. And now, watching her lower her head in the cage, I wondered if there ever would be.

“Come on, Mom, let’s let her sleep,” Kate said, standing up and helping me to my feet. I looked back at Kelly, my eyes filling. “Keep praying,” Kate reminded me.

Of course I’d been praying! But I was confused. How come God chose to heal some and not others? I’d cried out to God for healing before. For my dad when he’d suffered a heart attack at only 55. For our beloved golden retriever Brooks, after a cancer diagnosis. For friends bat-tling terminal illnesses. They hadn’t made it. There was no logic to miracles, not that I could comprehend. How was I to pin my faith on something so rare and tenuous?

Every day for a week, I watched Kelly in that crate. She lay so still. I set her food bowls next to her. When she had to go outside, I carried her, supporting her with a sling the way the vet showed me. I kept her on a short leash, so short she couldn’t even sniff around. “Sudden movement can cause worse damage,” the vet had said.

And every day after Kate went home, she called to check on Kelly—and me.

“I’m still praying for a miracle, Mom. You are too, right?”

Sweet Kate, trying to give me hope. But Kelly was as limp as that stuffed toy I’d given her for Christmas.

One night, near the end of the week, the house was quiet. I took Kelly out of her cage and carried her outside with the sling. She was old. She didn’t have the strength to beat this. She struggled to move her front legs. “No,” I said, circling her with my arms. “Be still.”

The words echoed in my heart: Be still. Be still. As if God were speaking to me. I closed my eyes and held Kelly close. Be still and know that I am God.

Was it Kelly who didn’t have the strength to beat this? Or was it me? I opened my eyes and looked up at the stars, at the heavens that stretched farther than I could see. The God who created a miracle of such vastness could surely heal a little injured dog.

Lord, Kelly is in bad shape. But I know you can heal her, if it is your will. I am trusting you to do what is best for her.

Kelly remained slumped in my embrace. Somehow, though, I felt an assurance that God was with me, no matter what happened, holding me as lovingly as I held her.

The next day, New Year’s Eve, was Kelly’s first follow-up appointment. The vet examined her. “Let her walk,” she said. “Let me see if there has been any change.” I supported Kelly with the sling. At first she drooped. Then she took a tentative step with her front paws. Then another. Her back legs followed. As she pulled ahead, the sling dropped. She was walking! Not just walking but trotting around the room. No sign of weakness. She scampered to the chair where Mike sat, to the door, then back to me.

”Should I stop her?” I asked.

“No,” the vet said. “I mean…I don’t know. I’ve never seen this happen so fast before.” She did a few more tests, gently manipulating Kelly’s legs. Then the vet looked up at us, her eyes soft. “I can’t explain this. The recovery was supposed to take eight weeks if it happened at all. It’s only been one week.”

I couldn’t wait to tell Kate…and not just about Kelly. I wanted to tell her that now I knew why she had kept urging me to pray: If we are still enough to let God in, we will see his miracles. We may not understand them, but we will see them everywhere, like the stars in the heavens.

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