A true story, with identifying factors changed.

An Angel With a Tail


My child lives with a death sentence. When she was just a baby, the doctors diagnosed her with cystic fibrosis. It's a genetic disease that my husband and I didn't know we were carriers for. I don't know if there's anything we could have done if we had known, but I can't help wondering.

At age six, Jessi is the size of the average four year old. She's an excitable, vivacious little girl who only partially understands why she tires so much more quickly than her brother. She wears at least one article of purple clothing every day, and she loves the classic Disney movies. I'm pretty sure she could recite the entire script of The Little Mermaid. She also loves to read, which is handy, because she spends most of her time in bed. Cystic fibrosis causes problems with the way nutrients are absorbed, so Jessi had to be tube-fed twelve hours a day, or else she would starve. We do this while she sleeps, but it is not easy for her to fall asleep with the humming of the machine and the tubes everywhere. My husband and I used to take turns reading to her, playing quiet games, trying to get her to fall asleep each night.

Then he came. He was a ten month old golden retriever and Labrador cross with the silliest personality I had ever seen. I had had a few dogs growing up, but having one with Jessi would have been impractical. There just weren't enough hours in the day, plus the shedding would have made her breathing problems even worse. Then one morning, a friend called and said they were moving to a rental house that wouldn't allow dogs and she needed a place to keep him until she could figure out a permanent solution. I agreed on the condition that it would be no more than a week and he would stay outside. So, Frankie came home. Who names a dog "Frankie"? I mean really, that's just cruel. I let him into the backyard to play with my son, then brought Jessi out to sit in her chair.

Jessi giggled as he leaped over a pot of flowers and looked behind him to see if the little boy was still chasing him. He was, but the dog had twice as many legs and the apparent ability to hurdle any obstacle. Jessi turned to look at me and said matter-of-factly, "His name should be Bounce." I laughed and reminded her that he wasn't ours. Her face fell a bit, but lit up again when she turned to watch the pair continue their game of chase.

My son finally got close, and the dog turned and tackled him to the ground, licking his face as his new friend laughed hysterically. He stopped suddenly and looked up at me with that goofy, doggy grin. My smile vanished as he made a beeline for my fragile daughter, but I needn't have worried. He stopped in front of her and ran his nose over her pants, shoes, shirt, and hair, snuffling all the while, before licking her face. Jessi laughed and hugged his neck. I was stunned. This dog, who had played so roughly with my son, treated my daughter as if she were a piece of glass. He brought her a tennis ball, which she threw as hard as she could. It didn't go far, but the dog didn't mind. He chased it and brought it back perfectly, licking her face each time and earning a giggle. When it was time to come in for dinner, Jessi begged for her new friend to be allowed to come in. I hadn't seen her that excited about anything in a long while, so I let him in.

Later that evening, I went to her room, as it was my turn to help her fall asleep. As I neared the door, I heard my daughter's voice. "I do not like them, Sam I Am," she said. I opened the door. Her brother should be in bed by now himself, so who was she reading to?

The dog was lying next to her, his long legs hanging off the edge and his face turned towards hers adoringly. He turned to see who their visitor was, and wagged his tail when he saw me.

"Hi, Mom. I was reading to Bounce. Would you like to hear?"

I considered quickly. She would fall asleep fast if she was the one reading, I knew that from experience. I had groomed him well so he would only shed a little. And they both looked so comfortable and happy. How could I separate them now?

"No honey." I bent down and kissed her cheek and gave his soft blonde ears a quick scratch. "You read to him, and then the both of you go to sleep, okay?"

"Okay. 'Night, Mommy."

"Goodnight. I love you."

"I love you to."

As I pulled the door shut, I heard, "I do not like green eggs and ham."

My husband and I talked for hours that night, trying to decide if the benefits for our daughter outweighed the cons of having a dog and a severe medical condition under the same roof.

The next morning, I called my friend and told her that we would be willing to adopt him. She was delighted, but her excitement was nowhere near Jessi's when I told her that the dog, who was officially "Bounce" now, was ours forever.

I cannot describe the kind of difference he has made in our lives. Jessi sleeps enough now, and has managed to gain some weight. I've been told I look less stressed. My husband used to go for jogs every day, and has started again now that he has a buddy to go with him. I have more time to spend with my son, something I had always felt very guilty about. It always seemed like he got the short end of the stick when it came to attention.

My grandmother always told me that everyone had their own guardian angel, watching over them all their life. What she didn't tell me is that not all of them have wings. The most amazing ones have tails.