THE DAY I FOUND MY LIGHT (OR, THE DAY SHE FOUND ME)
Charles Shultz, creator of “Peanuts” and the lovable, infamous beagle, Snoopy, couldn’t have been more right when he said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” As crazy as it may sound, my own nine-year-old beagle, Daisy, is not just my pet, she is my light. In the nearly nine years since she joined my family as a four-month-old stray, she has brought so much happiness and joy to our lives.
When we think of guardian angels, people usually come to mind, but I believe that animals can serve as our guardian angels too. Like human angels, animals come into our lives when we least expect them to, but always at the right time, just when we need them the most.
Until we experience an event that dramatically and forever changes our lives, we may take for granted how significant our guardian angels are to us — whether they come in human or animal form. At that moment, our guardian angels are there to comfort and heal, to improve the quality of our lives, and to teach us important lessons. They inspire and help us to see that life is still worth living in spite of our circumstances and the negative things that may be happening in the world around us.
It came as a complete surprise one day in late February 1998 when Daisy arrived. It had been almost two years since we had last had a dog. We weren’t thinking about getting another one any time soon. That changed, however, a few days before my younger brother, R.J., turned sixteen.
Danny, who was one of R.J.’s best friends, showed up on our doorstep with his mom. They were carrying a medium-sized cardboard box. Danny set the box down on our kitchen floor.My brother and parents stood staring at the box incredulously, while Danny and his mom looked and smiled knowingly at each other.
That’s when we noticed small whimpering noises and gentle movements coming from inside the box. When my brother opened up the box, the eyes of an undernourished beagle puppy, were looking pleadingly into his.
Danny and his mom had been searching for a dog to give to R.J. as a birthday present when they found Daisy wandering the streets by herself. Her fur was a matted mess; she smelled horrible. She had a cut above her right eye from a fight with another animal. We surmised that she had either run away from her previous home or had been abandoned. But, she was adorable, so, my parents decided to let R.J. keep her.
I was away at college when my family adopted Daisy and only got to know her when I came home on weekends. But my family was becoming fond of her, and she was becoming attached to them. It was obvious how helpless she was and how much she needed and depended on us. Little did we know, though, how much we would need her.
Shortly after celebrating my brother’s sixteenth birthday, he got his driver’s license. Because of his lack of experience behind the wheel, he was only allowed to drive his 1986 Mustang convertible to school and back home. One spring day, though, my parents decided to make an exception. It was a beautiful May afternoon, and R.J. wanted to go play Putt-Putt golf with Danny.
The boys were expected back home at around 8:00 that night, but they never made it. While R.J. was driving Danny home, his car hit a tree, killing them both.
Outsiders couldn’t fully understand what my family was going through and the magnitude of the pain and grief we felt after my brother’s death. They probably assumed that Daisy was unaware of what was going on. They most likely thought of her as just a dog — incapable of comprehending death and grief because she lacked the capacity to think and feel emotion.
I have no doubt in my mind, though, that in her own unique way, Daisy knew how much we were hurting. For example, my mom has told me that, early on in her grieving process, there were days when she didn’t care whether she lived or died. On those days, she gathered whatever strength and courage she had to force herself out of bed in the morning. As she walked Daisy around our neighborhood, the puppy would strain against her leash as if to coax Mom to keep on going.
Daisy was there for my mom and my entire family during our time of mourning. Day or night, she provided a warm, soft body to cry on, hug, cuddle next to, and curl up with, on the sofa. Maybe that was her way of encouraging us to go on with and face the day-to-day tasks and challenges of living the way R.J. would want us to. Or maybe R.J. himself was trying to convey that message to us through her. Either way, I honestly don’t know how we would have gotten through that awful time in our lives if R.J.’s friend and his mom hadn’t found Daisy and brought her to us.
I don’t know if we were the ones who found Daisy, or if she found us. Maybe we found each other. What I do know is that Daisy has become a part of my family for a reason — to help us carry on with our lives after the sudden, tragic, death of my brother, to pick up and mend the broken pieces of our hearts that he left behind, to show us that his memory and spirit will always be with us, and to show us that even though his life here on Earth is over, it continues, and is better, on the Other Side.
During the holidays in 1999, we decided Daisy needed a “Buddy.” So, we visited our local Humane Society, where we found a five-month-old Sheltie puppy whose owner had given away all the other puppies in his litter, except him. We almost didn’t adopt Buddy because a staff member at the Humane Society said he may have been exposed to Parvo virus. Plus, we were concerned that the long-haired pup would be too big, and would require a lot of grooming. But we couldn’t imagine him not being a part of our family. Finally, 10 days before Christmas, we were able to bring Buddy home, though, we had to keep him away from Daisy for 10 days. And the light grew brighter.
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