When I was 5 or 6, my family adopted a black lab dog named Charlie (pictured above). Black labs are the extroverts of dogs and are lovable and steal your heart instantaneously. Charlie was on some days my best friend. I would curl up with him when I was sick and somehow things would be better. When my grandpa died, it was like Charlie knew and stayed with me constantly. He was the definition of loyalty. As he grew up, we had a few close calls where he was hit by a car. Thankfully, he never was severely hurt. I thought he would grow old and see me through until at least high school.
Then something tragic happened. In the spring of my 5th grade year, Charlie became dreadfully ill. We took him to the vet and we learned he had ingested rat poison. However, the vet was hopeful that Charlie would pull through. I missed him, but I eagerly awaited his return to my life. I knew God wouldn’t take my dog from me. On a sunny April Sunday afternoon, we were going to go visit him in an effort to encourage his recovery.
We never went. Before we left, the vet called. Charlie was gone.
I was absolutely heartbroken. That afternoon and evening was the first time I experienced that feeling. I was inconsolable. I was so angry that Charlie found that poison. I was so upset that my mom had been the one that had left it somewhere my dog could find it. But most of all, I couldn’t believe God actually took Charlie from me.
I’m not sure how I ever fell asleep and got through the next day.
I remember overhearing my mother say to my father “We need to do something in order to see her smile again.” I think I thought something along the lines of “Good luck with that unless you can bring my dog back.” I’m pretty sure I pleaded with God to bring him back but I knew that was not happening.
It was a rough next few days. I vividly remember having to write a book report on Abigail Adams that Tuesday and it was not going well. That whole afternoon was a blur of tears.
Then my mother brought in the local merchandiser and turned to the pet section. While she was doing so, I recall her saying something about looking for a new dog. My ears perked up but I decided not to get my hopes up. She didn’t say much, but she left to make a phone call. When she returned, she told me there was a black lab available not far from our house. We could go look at him the next afternoon.
I was stunned. Sort of. The joy of possibly getting a new dog was tinged by the pain of losing Charlie. I also wondered if I could love another dog as much.
The next day after school my mom and I drove to the house. I asked my mom if she knew the dog’s name. She didn’t. I said I hoped it was Midnight.
When we got there, I caught a glimpse of a gorgeous labrador, a bit bigger than Charlie. He was predictably enthusiastic and I knew he would be mine.
My mom paid the owner and got paperwork on the dog’s history. I poked my mom and reminded her about the dog’s name. My mom asked.
The dog’s name?
God may have taken Charlie away from me but what He gave me a few days later helped cement my faith. He really did care about me enough to listen to my prayers.
He gave me a beautiful, loving, excitable, kind, quirky dog with spots on his tongue that helped me through even harder times which was exactly what I needed and wanted… right down to the name I secretly hoped for.
I learned that God gives us things and then sometimes takes them away. But then sometimes He gives us something even better in return.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
And that was my first miracle.