The Story of the Little White Dog
I have always believed that the lessons we are taught by nature seem to be the simplest in form and the most complex in content. Nature has the ability to show us in a few well-chosen moments what would take many textbooks and years of study to produce in an academic-only atmosphere, and even then may never succeed. The spirit of nature seems to know and understand that human beings learn the fastest when they see and feel the lesson. Maybe schools and churches should sit back and rethink their means of presenting the materials that they think are so important. Maybe the lesson should aim to touch the heart first, before the intellect.
Let me give you one example of what I am trying to say. Animals have played a great role in my life. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a dog or cat in my house. There were also rabbits, turtles, hamsters, and even little shrimp bought from the back of a comic book store, without mom’s permission, but mine just the same. Having these pets taught me responsibility, respect, joy, and comfort. I tried to look beyond the simplicity of nature’s teaching.
The one pet that is foremost in my mind is one little white dog named Pipkin. She was a total accident because she was the last little puppy in a litter from a Maltese mother named Pooka. This little mother had given birth to three puppies over the course of 12 hours, and we all thought that she was finished. Then, lo and behold, she slowly made her way over to me and began to softly whimper, signaling one more birth.
It didn’t take long at all before puppy number four was born and came into my world. Little did I know that I would never be the same after this event. The newborn puppy was smaller than a mouse and was not breathing. She was blue and cold, and I thought she had been born dead. But I had yet to learn how powerful the spirit of life was in the heart and soul of that tiny creature.
I picked her up and gently began to rub her with a warm towel and blow into her little pink nose. The mother sat there looking up at me, as if to say, please, don’t give up, do all you can to save my littlest child. Looking down into those little black pleading eyes, I knew I would not give up.
Then, a miracle. The little form began to stir, and the faintest whimper came out of her mouth. Reaching down, I presented her to her mother, who knew what to do from there. She began to softly and gently caress her newest offspring until that little ember of heat and light, showing the evidence of life, had been fanned into a bright flame, and Pipkin was finally with her three much bigger brothers.
From the very beginning of her life, Pipkin showed that one’s size doesn’t really matter that much in this world. It is the size of the heart and spirit that makes all the difference.
No matter how many times these much bigger puppies pushed her away, Pipkin fought back to her mother and got her rightful share of food and love. She began to grow but was always miniscule compared to other dogs. When she was grown, she was just a little handful of fur with four legs, two tiny black eyes, one black button nose and the heart of a lion. She never realized how small she was. It didn’t matter to her if it was the giant of a postman or the elephant of the neighbor’s dog; they were not coming into her domain without her permission. Many times I arrived just at the last moment to rescue her from being swallowed by a cat or carried off by a large hawk. But still, even at these dangerous times, she would never back down.
The thing that I remember most about her heart was not just her lack of fear or her great power to give what seemed like endless energy, but how much she could love me. Whenever I would pick her up, she needed to show me that she understood those first few seconds of life and what I had done. More important, she would always show what it meant to her. She loved me with her whole spirit because I gave her a chance to live and become herself. I was never able to discipline her (not that she ever needed it) because her answer to anything I ever did or how stern my voice was to bestow on my hand many soft and gentle kisses. She would slowly work her way to my cheek. By that time I had forgotten what she had done, and I would softly stroke her head and ears and rub her little chest. I would hold her close to me and love her deeply, simple, purely.
It is an interesting fact of life that when we are in love or love something, we are never aware of the finality of what we have or are doing. We just seem to enjoy the time, and we are shielded by our joy and love from any thoughts that the situation will ever change or end. I was this way with Pipkin. The thought never entered my mind that the seeds of her death were sown in her size. Although she had a great heart and spirit, her tiny body was frail and somewhat weak; that her ability to fight off disease had been very much compromised and that cancer was already eating its way through that little body and would end her beautiful life, all too soon.
Even now as I write these words, many years later, my tears are freely falling onto this page as I type the story of my gentle and loving little friend. I can still see her standing there looking at me with those two twinkling little eyes asking me to pick her up just one more time and hold her close to my heart, gently and softly patting her little head. What I wouldn’t give for one of those little kisses that are so fresh in my heart as I touch my cheek and cry.
I began to notice that something was very wrong when it was already too late to do anything to stop the situation. My little dog had cancer in her brain and there was nothing I could do to help her when she looked into my eyes for understanding and comfort. The only blessing was that there was no pain in her condition. But it seemed that the more her body failed, the more her love increased. When she could no longer hold her head up, I would sit and rock her in my arms humming sweetly and out would come her little tongue, and she would softly touch my arm. She would look up, I would touch her head, and she would soon fall asleep, and I could almost believe I saw her smiling up at me.
Finally, on the last day, she could no longer open her eyes and her breaths were short and in little pants. I placed her on the bed between my wife and myself and holding her gently told her it was alright to leave us. Then with one last little effort she drew in her last breath and was gone. Her little head turned slightly and for the last time rested on my arm. It ended where it had begun, in my hands.
I wrapped her in a blanket with her favorite toy and buried her in the little garden under my front window where I could see her always. I planted many flowers there and every spring and summer I see her beautiful spirit in the glory of their colors.
The story of this little dog does not end at her death but it begins there. As I stated when I began this story I now have to tell you what nature taught me by this smallest of souls.
As I now look back on her time in my life, all that I want to do is to love all others and especially my GOD as this little dog loves me. I never want to remember that they made me angry, hurt my feelings, and slighted my ego. I don’t want my first reaction to be to strike back at all who offend me or wrong me. I want my first reaction to be to gently kiss their hand and by the time I get to their cheek forget what made me angry and to only enjoy the love of the moment.
When it is my time to die I want my GOD to gently put me on HIS bed close beside His chest and to stroke my head gently and tell me it is OK to come to HIM because no matter what I did, HE still loves me. And when I am gone I want Him to plant me in HIS garden lf Love and let every flower that booms above me give testament to His great love for me and humble love in return. I want to love as I was loved by this little dog. I want to be thankful for the Hands that brought me into this world, protected me and touched my heart while I was here and then gently carried me home when it is my time to leave.
As I stated when I began, “Nature is the greatest teacher.” In spite of all of my formal education, great readings and diligent study, after all of my academic honors and degrees my greatest lesson in life was taught to me by a little dog with the biggest heart I have ever felt and the greatest spirit I have ever known. In this world that seems so harsh and cold at times, there can be found in the simplest of places pure love and grace if we know where to look or would just let it happen to us.
I can only hope and pray that, at the end of my life, I have finally become worthy of the great gift and lesson in love that was my little white dog, Pipkin.