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The Adventures of Pilgrim

An angel had brought her home. We couldn’t ask for more than that, could we?

Child asks guardian angels to protect dog

We were still living in the city when our family became the proud owners of a 6-week-old puppy. She was blonde, with the nose and tail of a chow, and the eyes, fur and build of a cocker spaniel. Our teenaged sons named her Pilgrim after John Wayne’s sidekick. But it was our 10-year-old daughter, Juli, whom Pilgrim followed everywhere and slept beside every night.

After our move to the country Pilgrim thought it was her responsibility to patrol the fence around our 160 acres. We put up a No Trespassing sign, but sometimes hunters came onto our property anyway. If Pilgrim came across an uninvited guest she planted her feet firmly and twitched her nose upward, baring her teeth with a low growl. That usually worked.

Every evening after dinner she ran with the coyotes that lived in the forest behind the house. We could tell where she was by her howl-bark as she tried to imitate the coyotes. No telling what other wild animals she came across among the streams, rocks and gullies on our land. But she never failed to return home in time to curl up with Juli till morning.

Until one spring night when the children and I were home alone. Pilgrim was nowhere to be found. “She knows it’s bedtime,” Juli said.

“She’ll come home when she’s ready,” I told her. I just hoped that would be soon. I tucked Juli into bed. “Wherever she is,” Juli said, “I know Pilgrim’s guardian angel is watching over her.”

I stayed awake all night, listening for the sound of her paws on the porch screen door. In the morning Juli and I went out to the garage, then searched all over the yard, calling her name. The dawn was just breaking; morning mist sprinkled the trees in the forest. It would have been a beautiful day if only we knew Pilgrim was safe. 

The boys went on to school, but Juli wouldn’t budge. “I can’t leave until we find Pilgrim,” she said. 

We took another look around. I went back to the garage. “Pilgrim!” She was lying on the garage floor. Her breathing was labored and she was bleeding. Where had she been?

Pilgrim struggled to get up. She couldn’t move her hind legs. How had she gotten herself all the way home? But there was no time for questions. 

“Juli!” I called. “Bring the car keys! I found Pilgrim!”

Juli came running with the keys. She knelt over Pilgrim. “Mommy, what can we do for her?” 

“We have to get her to the vet right away,” I said. I grabbed an old blanket off a shelf. “You sit in the front seat. I’ll put Pilgrim in your lap.”

Juli nodded bravely.

I wrapped Pilgrim in the blanket and placed her on Juli’s lap. Pilgrim whimpered but looked at me as if she understood I was trying to help her. Juli held her close. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We’re going to get you help.” 

Pilgrim didn’t look like she was going to live long, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her dying in Juli’s arms. The vet’s office was six miles away. Please, God, let us get her there. As I drove I pictured Pilgrim dragging herself home over the rough terrain of our property. With wild animals roaming freely, and in her condition, it truly was a miracle she had made it home at all.

“Mommy,” said Juli, “we could pray and ask Jesus to heal Pilgrim.”

I didn’t know what to say. I had to admit I did not have the faith that God would be interested in a prayer asking him to heal an animal. But I couldn’t very well tell that to my daughter. 

“Sure, honey,” I said. “You go ahead.”

Juli bowed her head over her dog and I held her hand in mine. Pilgrim’s eyes had closed. She was no longer conscious. Juli said a silent prayer for the dog she loved so much. Let her hope a little while longer, I thought.

We pulled up to the vet’s office and hurried inside. The vet laid Pilgrim on the examining table and checked the wound in her chest.

“She’s been shot,” he said. 

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“She must have surprised trespassers,” I said. The vet listened to her breathing. 

“You can make Pilgrim better, can’t you?” Juli asked him.

“I’ll do all I can,” the vet said. But when I caught his eye, he shook his head. “Why don’t you come back in a few hours?” he said. 

Juli kissed Pilgrim’s head and went out to the car while the vet gave me the bad news. “One lung has collapsed. The other lung is weak. She would never survive surgery to find that bullet, if it’s even in there. Frankly, I don’t think she’s going to wake up.”

“We’ll be back this afternoon,” I told him. I had to get Juli away from there. Pilgrim was comfortable; she was sleeping. The last thing she would remember would be lying in Juli’s arms. We would come back in a few hours and take her home to bury her. That would be hard enough for my daughter. But I worried about something else, too. Juli had asked Jesus to heal her dog. What would happen to her faith when her prayer wasn’t answered? 

I let Juli spend the day at home with me. Chores kept us busy most of the time, but we talked over lunch. “She made sure to find her way home, didn’t she, Mom? Even hurt so bad she was thinking of us.”

“That’s right,” I said. “Her guardian angel helped her home.” I hoped one day it would be enough for Juli that she got to say good-bye. Should I tell her now that Pilgrim is going to die? She’d learn the truth soon enough.

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It was a long ride back to the vet’s office that afternoon. We pulled up and heard barking inside. 

“Pilgrim’s happy bark!” Juli shouted.

It couldn’t be. Juli pushed open the door and ran in. She collided with a wiggling blonde ball of fur. “Pilgrim!”

Her fur was still a bit matted, but she was breathing fine. In fact she looked as strong as ever. As if she had just been out running with the coyotes.

“God healed Pilgrim!” Juli said. 

“It looks like she’s good to go,” the vet said. Juli took her outside to play.

I turned to the vet for an explanation. “I don’t know how she survived,” he said. “She was getting weaker and weaker.” The vet looked out the window at Juli and Pilgrim romping outside. “All of a sudden she was standing on the table. The next thing I knew she was running around barking. I didn’t do anything for her except clean up that wound.”

“Doctor, in the car on the way to your office Juli asked Jesus to heal her dog. She believed her prayer would be answered. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t so sure.”

“Then that is the only explanation,” he said. “I never would have believed it myself.”

We took Pilgrim home that very afternoon. The vet said to bring her back if she had any trouble whatsoever. But nothing seemed to bother her or slow her down in the least. We had nine more happy years together, and Pilgrim had plenty more adventures. Her guardian angel watched over her through it all. Now I know God’s love for us includes whatever and whomever we care about—yes, even our animals. He always listens when we pray.

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