Stories of Inspiration: An Angel with Four Paws

This is the story about a little angel who came into the life of a family 13 years ago. He didn't say much, at least in any language his human family could understand, but his impact was large in the ways that mattered most.

His name was Jake and he had four paws, floppy ears, and one of the happiest dispositions around.

Jake as a puppy in 2002.

Jake's mission in life was to make people feel better, show love to everyone, "torment" his canine sister (she loved it, and adored him), have fun, and spread smiles.

Jake's dad, Tom, went to the local shelter one day in 2002 "just looking" to see what was available. He walked by a cell that contained one lone puppy -- the last of a litter. This little puppy with floppy ears, long tail, and a beautiful blue merle coat took one look at Tom and knew his "dad" had finally come to take him home. It didn't take much was love at first sight on both sides!

Jake came home and immediately infused the household with laughter, fun, and love. Due to some genetic issues, Jake was partially blind and prone to arthritis, but none of that kept him from his appointed mission of love and light. 

But maybe I'm reading too much into it. After all, he was "just" a dog, right? Can dogs really have "missions?"

Sometimes his human family wondered if he was, in fact, a very old soul in a dog's body. Jake certainly seemed to think he was a person. He talked, a lot. His low-volume "WooooooWoooooos" spoken directly to their faces seemed to be his way of conversing. Unfortunately his people never fully understood what Jake was trying to tell them, which would prompt Jake to continue his attempts at speech.

Jake also had the uncanny ability to smile. No, really, he did. And it was in context, too. His family thinks he learned by watching them smile. When someone in his life smiled or laughed, Jake would bare his teeth in the biggest, most intentional grin you could imagine. In fact, his grin was so huge that it would often send him into fits of sneezing. He would smile when his family came home after a long day of work. He smiled when he was fed. He smiled at his grandparents when he visited them at their home. He smiled at his canine buddies. He even smiled at people on the street who stopped to pet him. His granddad affectionately called him "the smilin' fool." Jake just seemed to want everyone to know he was happy to see them.

Jake was also the kind of dog who instantly knew when someone was feeling down and needed special love. He would come up to the person, put his head on their knee, and just silently commune. That's what I called it anyway. I was the blessed recipient of his healing touch on a few occasions. It seemed as though he wanted the person to know that they weren't alone, that he cared, and that all would be OK. His caring touch really did seem to heal.

This communing happened all though his life, but the most touching instance occurred the night my friend, Cathy, passed away. Cathy was Jake's human grandma (Tom's mother) and lived just a block away. And being the loving grandma that she was, Cathy doted on Jake as much as she could. Of course Jake reveled in her attention!

But Cathy was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Unfortunately, by the time it was discovered it had metastasized to a large part of her body. The prognosis wasn't the best, but Cathy maintained a positive outlook and fought the disease with all of her strength. Several rounds of treatments helped her survive a few years and enjoy her human and canine grandkids as much as possible, but by January of 2014 (the same general time as my accident) Cathy and her family knew the end was near. She entered a home-based hospice program. 

One week in late February of 2014, Cathy's body started to give out. She lost consciousness one evening and everyone knew the end was very close. Cathy's husband, Jim, stayed with her constantly those last days, and so did Jake and his canine sister, Jolie. Cathy and Jim's dog, Rosie, was also there. But the family said Jake seemed to understand that something was happening.

A couple of nights after Cathy became unresponsive, Jake, Jolie, and Rosie were sleeping on the floor by her bedside. Jim had fallen asleep on a chair in the same room. In the early morning hours, something caused Jake to awaken. He walked over to the chair where Jim was sleeping. Jake then used his paw to pat Jim on the knee to wake him up. Jake was insistent. He didn't stop patting Jim on the knee until his granddad fully woke. Once he saw that Jim was awake, Jake walked around to Cathy's side of the bed and sat down facing his grandma, just watching. Jim joined him, and the pair quietly stayed with Cathy and comforted her as she took her last breaths.

After it was clear that Cathy had finally passed on, the spell broke and Jake went back to being a playful dog again. But in those moments as he sat by Jim's side comforting Cathy during her passing, he was more than that. He was an angel with four paws, helping guide Cathy on the next part of her journey.

Jake passed on this morning. His mind and soul remained the same loving, caring guy until the end, but his body just couldn't survive another day. All of us who knew him mourn the passing of this little angel, but we won't forget the impact he had on us and our lives.

text and photos copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015.