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William J Loftus
The Last Time An Angel Visited Me

Many years ago when I lived in the country, a stray, black, beautiful dog came to live in our out-building.  He seemed just to wander around a lot by himself and caused no one any problems, so we gave him a box and a blanket and fed him, figuring that eventually his master would come looking for him. He continued to stay with us and was soon named Been, not Ben, but Been, because he had “been” around our home for some time. 

He loved his box and blanket and each of us, as we fell in love with him.  Been never wanted to come inside the house; he liked living in the out-building in the box with his blanket.  As time passed, we noticed that he had developed some sores around in his underbelly, so we took him to the vet who removed what she called the larvae of wolf worms. These, she said, could have come from sleeping on a garbage pile.  The larvae would have continued to grow and eventually would have burrowed out of Been to continue their life cycle. 

When Been was brought home, he was weak and tired, and only stayed in his box with his blanket. We visited him and tried to comfort him by just talking about anything and everything.  Been loved to listen and he loved to be petted on. It was after these interactions that he began to tap his front paw, which we came to know as “yes.”  As Been repaired and grew stronger, he started talking with his paw more and more. He would come to the back door, bark and then tap his front paw once – answering “yes” when we would ask if he wanted to take a walk.  He soon began tapping his paw twice, which came to be understood as “walk.”  If you asked “walk?” just to be sure, he would tap his paw once to indicate “yes.”  And so he healed and we continued our walks with him. He enjoyed the exercise and all the many conversations.  We knew that he was fully healed when he added the third paw tap, which meant “run.” As we would walk with Been at our side, he would stop, and I would tap one foot to signal “yes?” and he would tap his paw three times in response. 

His run was such a wondrous thing to see. He would begin with a slow, lopping stride and then run faster and faster, until he seemed to go into an over-drive. It was perfection in motion. One night, something magical seemed to take over him during his run.  He literally vanished into thin air, with only his breath and a whooshing sound being heard – here and there, and then in the distance and then right next to us.  The magic continued, and sometimes he would reappear out of thin air, slowing down so gracefully until he was again walking right beside us.  These walk-runs became a daily event. 

It was a Thursday when he came to the door and tapped once again for a walk. Off we went.  Somewhere along the walk, I tapped “yes” and he tapped once, then twice, and then a third time, and then looking right into my eyes, he seemed to smile and tapped a fourth time. I smiled back and tapped my foot softly once.Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I knew that four times was meant as a “goodbye.” I reached down and petted Been for what I knew was the last time. He turned and began his magical flight until I thought I saw his wings lift him up toward heaven. It was then that I knew for sure that he was not a black dog named Been, but an angel that needed his strength returned for his wings to work again.  We were simply the family that he found to help him in this recovery.  We were so fortunate to have been given the gift of Been, and to this day, I have never “been” taught so much by a dog.

We still talk of Been every now and then, knowing that we were blessed with his friendship.  After a bad day, I often find myself lifting my foot and tapping three times, and I find that my troubles seem to fly away, as it is on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

Dr. Bill Loftus is Professor of Psychology at Big Sandy Community & Technical College. He has taught at the college since 1990, has a “Ticket to Heaven,” writes stories that intend to make people cry happy tears sometimes, is getting kinda cranky with age, and still adores and loves his wife, editor, and life partner.

 

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