Last Friday, I decided to read through a few recent articles before I started to work on my writing assignments. Unfortunately, once more nothing but bad news appeared on my computer screen. I read about cop-involved shootings, protests, natural disasters, and other sad events. After a while, I finally pushed myself away from the computer with a sigh. I stood up, stretched, and walked into the bathroom as I thought about…
“OH, DOGS!” I cried out as I saw the mess that was left on the cool, tiled floor. We have a huge, fenced-in, lush backyard and puppy training pads laid out in the front room, and yet the dogs still choose to make their messes right in front of the bathtub. With a groan, I quickly cleaned up the bathroom and then thoroughly scrubbed my hands.
After drying off and hanging the towel back on the rack, I left the bathroom and walked into the living room where two of our three dogs, Friskie and Cowboy, were comfortably snuggled down into the big, soft, cushiony pillows that make up the back of the sofa. They like to climb up on top of the couch and then plunge their little bodies down into the pillows as if they are falling into quicksand. Only their sweet, round, dark eyes and cold, wet noses are visible. The third dog, Starburst, was cuddled up in a little, round, furry ball on the big, brown puppy pillow by the television.
“Alright, dogs,” I call out to them as I clapped my hands together to get their interest. Starburst lazily raised up her head and scootched her furry, white and brown body forward. Friskie and Cowboy slowly and clumsily pulled their bodies up from the cushions like lazy, little swamp monsters. Once I had their full attention, I pointedly asked, “Who made the mess in the bathroom?”
Of course, none of the dogs would confess, even though Starburst and Cowboy looked directly at Friskie, who had lowered her head back down into the pillows. Otherwise, Friskie refused to admit any wrongdoing. “Alright, fine,” I answered, surprising myself by how much I sounded like my own mother. “None of you did it. The mess just made itself. No, no, don’t get up. I got it all cleaned up. Just go back to sleep…”
And that’s when I suddenly noticed a large, nasty, runny, orangey, thick fluid on the carpet just a mere two inches away from the puppy pads. I stared at this new mess in shock for a few seconds wondering which dog had been sick. I was suddenly spurred into action, however, when little Starburst suddenly moved forward from her comfortable position on the puppy pillow and prepared to clean up the chunky fluid by licking at it. (I know that’s really disgusting—but that’s the way it happened!) Once again, feeling absolutely revolted, I quickly cleaned up this new mess as the dogs once more settled back down to sleep. I was sincerely and totally grossed out. I never had children, so I never had to deal with projectile vomit, gross diapers, and disgusting messes. Fate sure was catching up with me now.
Finally, after the orange mess was cleaned up, I walked around the room and checked on all three dogs to make sure they were not sick. When they seemed to be all right, I walked back to the bathroom to thoroughly scrub my hands clean once more.
A few minutes later, I decided to go to the kitchen to get some iced tea. I walked through the living room…
…and that’s when I heard it…
I stopped for a moment and looked around the room. What was that noise?
And then I heard it again…
What was that?
Oh, my gosh. The noise was a very loud, low, deep sound with a scratchy-throated screech at the end. It sounded just like a person gagging for breath as he or she was choking. Choking?
I looked around and that’s when I noticed little Starburst. She had now moved off of the puppy pillow and was lying on the hardwood floor of the dining room. The deep, guttural noise she was making continued to get louder.
Oh, my gosh, Starburst was choking! The dog was choking!
“Star?” I called out as I ran over and knelt down beside her. I reached out my hand and gently touched her side. But before I could say or do anything more, she yanked away from me as if my touch had hurt her. She moved away and crawled underneath the table. Even though she was further away from me, her gags had gotten louder. I crawled underneath the table after her. Now, when she saw me, Starburst suddenly lifted her right paw out as if she was reaching for a lifeline. But her paw quivered twice before the rest of her body began to shiver violently. Oh, my gosh, the little dog was starting to convulse! Her whole tiny body was now shaking as she continued to gasp for air!
In a panic, I got up and grabbed my phone off the table. I quickly pushed the touch-screen buttons to call my sister-in-law, Mary, who is the actual owner of the dogs.
“Hello,” Mary answered her phone sweetly and I felt horrible to have to give her such bad news.
“Mary, it’s Jamie,” I screeched. I didn’t wait for her to respond. “Starburst…” I stuttered, “Starburst is sick. She’s choking. She can’t breathe and she started convulsing now. What should I do? Where are you?”
“Oh, my God,” Mary gasped. “I’m nowhere near home right now. I’m babysitting the grandkids. I can’t leave them. But I’m going to call someone to come help you, okay? I’ll get someone over to the house really fast.”
“Okay, okay,” I answered as we hung up. God, I had studied and taught abdominal thrust, CPR, and first aid for years, but would those techniques work on a little dog? Could I possibly call 911? I crawled back under the table. Starburst now let me touch her, but I think it was just because she didn’t have the strength to pull away. “Starburst,” I whispered to her. “Little Starry…Baby…it’s going to be okay.”
UUUUUUHHHHH, Starburst replied to me. She was still gagging and her little body was convulsing terribly. I reached out and pulled her gently towards me. I raised her head and stared down into her little face. Oh, my God…Starry’s beautiful, soulful, brown eyes were completely unfocused now!
Oh, my God… Her left eye stared lifelessly ahead while her right eye had rolled off to the far side. Then both eyes suddenly began to roll to the back of her head.
That was it! I pulled the dog out from under the table and held her tightly. I got up from the floor with little Starburst in my arms and grabbed my keys off the table. I was going to take the dog up to the vet’s office that was just a few blocks away on State Avenue and 78th street. It was after 5 o’clock already, though. I didn’t know if the office was still open but I hoped they would have some kind of emergency information posted somewhere by the front door. I had to do something to help this tiny dog. I love this dog so much. “God, please,” I prayed as I ran into the living room. “Please, God, please let this little dog be okay. Please, God, don’t take this dog.”
I squeezed little Starry close to m y chest as I ran and prayed. “Please, God…please, I love this dog.”
Just as I yanked open the front door, Starburst’s body suddenly stopped shaking. There was one more hard UUUUUUUUHHHHHHH…
….and then silence.
No more movement…no more noise…
…just stillness… and silence…
And then the dog coughed. She coughed.
“Starry?” I called to her as I held her away from me to look at her face. I stared down at the little dog and suddenly saw her small mouth move. She suddenly worked her furry jaw up and down in a chewing motion
…. and then she swallowed.
And then Starburst opened up her eyes and looked directly up at me. I stood very still and stared down into Star’s sweet, funny face. We just stared at each other for a moment.
And then Starry took a deep breath and whimpered. “Ummmmmm ummmmm”
It was so different from the loud choking sounds of a few seconds before. This sound was soft and tender and heartbreaking. Starburst now feel limply against my chest as she started to whimper uncontrollably now that her horrible, scary ordeal was finally over. I held her tight to me and cried right along with her as I gave thanks that she was now miraculously okay. I sat down slowly on the couch and tried to sit Starburst on the floor but the little dog wouldn’t leave my arms. We cuddled together for a while until her cries finally calmed down. I placed Starburst carefully down on the floor. “Oh, Star!” I sighed as she ran over to the dog dish and began to eat. “Seriously?”
After her near fatal choking crisis, she was now snacking on dry dog food. I don’t know if the whole ordeal had just made her hungry or maybe she just wanted to show me that she wasn’t afraid to eat again. Yes, she had been through a bad choking experience but she showed no lingering fear as she chomped on the food. I just shook my head at her and laughed. Then, once she was satisfied, she crawled back up into my lap. For the rest of the evening, little Starry followed me around the house and wouldn’t leave my side until we both exhaustively fell into our own beds and went to sleep.
The next day, I came home from work and checked on the dogs to make sure they were okay and there were no messes to take me by surprise. I went into my room and turned on the computer to catch up on the news. More deaths, more disasters…
And suddenly there was a knock on my door. I got up and opened my door to find Starburst waiting patiently in the hallway. Now as she saw me, she jumped up and down, daintily dancing on her tiny, white, hairy paws. Starry would run towards me and as I stepped forward she would joyfully jump up and back and spin around before prancing back towards me once more. I laughed as I playfully chased her back into the living room where Mary was cuddling with Friskie and Cowboy on the couch.
“Starburst wanted you to come out and play with her,” Mary informed me. “You don’t’ have to if she’s bothering you.”
“She’s not bothering me at all,” I told Mary. “I’m just so relieved she’s all right.”
“Yeah, I am, too,” Mary sighed. “I think you are her best friend now.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “We are very bonded. We’re best buds now.” I got down on the floor as Starburst rolled over onto her back so that I could rub her pale belly.
I had told Mary the details of what had happened the day before. Now my sister-in-law stated, “I think when you picked her up yesterday from under the table and held her tight, you probably dislodged whatever was in her throat so she could start breathing again.”
“Probably,” I answered, “but I don’t really know what happened. I just remember holding her and praying…”
I stopped talking and Mary and I just smiled at each other. Mary got up from the couch then and called, “Come on, dogs. Time for dinner.” I think all three dogs understand the word “dinner.” They all trotted after Mary into the kitchen as I walked back into my room and sat down at my computer once more. After a few minutes, there was a knock at my door again.
I got up and opened the door. Starburst walked into the room and over to my chair. I knew what she wanted. I picked her up and placed her on my lap after I sat back down in my chair. I rocked her back and forth as I looked at the articles appearing on my computer screen. Nothing but bad news. I clicked off the computer and pulled Starburst close to me as I realized that it really doesn’t matter how much money we have or what job we do or what kind of cars we drive. When it’s all over, the only thing God will want to know is how much compassion we displayed and I how much love we gave. Because all life, no matter how small and furry, is precious in the eyes of God. In God’s glory, all lives matter, I thought as I cuddled tiny furry Starburst close to me and once more gave thanks for God’s sweet mercy.