I huddled in the vinyl chair near the foot of the hospital bed. That man lying there, pale and still, monitors blinking all around him, oxygen tube clamped to his nose–I barely recognized him. How could that be Mike, the husband I’d relied on for 31 years?
My take-charge guy was battling multiple blood clots in his lungs that had debilitated his body. The doctor said the worst was over. Now we just had to be patient.
But I’d made myself sick with worry, spending my days at the hospital and night after sleepless night at home, scared and completely on my own. For the first time in my life, I had no one to depend on.
We were one of those couples who did everything together.
At breakfast we did the daily crossword puzzle, sharing a pen. We went together to the gym, where we climbed aboard adjacent treadmill machines, plugged in our ear buds and watched the same show on TV. When Mike tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the screen, I always knew exactly what he was thinking.
Mike was my rock. Lord, please help him get better. I feel all alone without him. A strange sound came from the hospital corridor. A sharp click-click-click-click on the linoleum floor drew nearer till it stopped outside Mike’s room. I did a double take. A dog loomed in the doorway.
I recognized the breed by his distinctive black and white coat highlighted by rust-colored markings–a Bernese Mountain Dog. The special collar distinguished him as a therapy dog. I gazed at Mike, awake but dazed.
I’d been a dog-lover all my life, but what could a therapy dog possibly do to help my husband? The dog seemed to read my thoughts. He had a job to do and he got to it.
Purposefully, he stepped into the room, handler in tow. I sat quietly watching this well-trained beauty. Maybe petting the dog’s soft fur will give Mike some small comfort.
As the dog headed toward Mike’s bedside, he suddenly stopped. He padded over to my chair and looked into my eyes. With that, the dog nudged his head against my waist, as if asking for a hug. I put my arms around him and buried my face into his thick, velvety fur till I felt the gentle pulsing of his heart.
I am here, its rhythm seemed to say.
My whole body relaxed. My stress lifted away. Mike smiled from the bed. The dog let me hold him for as long as I needed to. When I finally released him, he put his paw on my knee and looked up at me. I turned to his handler. “How did he know that I was the one who needed him?”
“Gabriel always knows,” she said.
I stroked the dog’s neck. Gabriel. My angel dog. The Lord knew how to soothe me. He’d keep me strong while my husband regained his health. On that I could depend.