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Nov. 12, 2019 | Tuesday
Local News
Miracle at Halloween
Was Teddy part of a Halloween miracle? (Supplied)

J. Richard Wright

Special to The Lake Report

 I swore that I would never tell another living soul about this. Other than my wife, of course. And yet, after a few years and having personally explored what happened from every conceivable angle, the whole thing still seems to defy logic, science, nature and any combination thereof. So I come to you. You be the judge. You tell me if I’ve lost it and should be kept away from sharp objects, or, if I should simply regard it as … well … a blessing.

One of the hardest things in the world for any pet owner is to take the family dog for that final ride. This is the one where your excited K-9 doesn’t have his or her head hanging out the window, tongue lolling and ears flapping. This the one that ends with a sobbing goodbye in a cold, sterile room for a good friend that loved nothing more than to stretch out on a soft carpet in front of a roaring fire. This is the one where the family dog may not have the strength to even give you a final wet slurp when you touch noses. And, sadly, this is the one where you dash out of the vet's, barely stopping to pay, so your heart can break at home.

Our family loved Teddy, our brown, curly haired cockapoo. No other word for it. We were thankful for his gentle mouth, adored those soft brown eyes and embraced his tail-wagging disposition. Every morning, when Sandi and I tried to make our bed, it became a game with Teddy madly leaping on and off as we tried to straighten covers. It would usually end with us fully covering him up and he’d “nose” his way to freedom. When I made breakfast, there wasn’t a sound until all the work was done and my plate hit the ceramic table top. Then I would hear the inevitable click-clack of his nails on the hardwood and tiled floor as he just “happened by” and moseyed up to the table for some bacon and eggs, if you please.

Teddy had long, colt-like legs and he loved to run more than anything else in the world. When he was let out in our fenced yard, he would forsake the steps, leap off the wooden porch and tear around the forlorn-looking Weeping Cyprus tree in the front yard. He would race up one side of the house and down the other looking for all the world like one of those cartoon characters with the rotating hind legs. I’d groan if it was wet outside since he’d gather more mud on his legs and belly than a Woodbine Queen’s Plate finalist on a rainy day.

One of Teddy’s favourite times of the year was Halloween when he’d eagerly await the ghosts, goblins and superheroes that arrived fully costumed at the door. He was our “First Alert” jumping up on the couch to stare out the window and then barking madly to announce our temporary guests. Next he would always try to get his nose in the candy plate, as though eager to pass out treats. Of course, we knew different since he’d vanish afterward, just long enough to strip the paper off a Halloween Kiss and devour it.

No, he didn’t save “Timmy” when he fell down the well, and he didn’t save our lives by waking us in the middle of the night to escape a roaring fire. Over the years, however, he did come between us whenever tempers flared and voices rose, presenting himself for a quick pat that lowered both blood and ambient pressure in the room.

He was always there if you were feeling the winter blahs and needed a friend with a warm, smooth tongue to give you a gentle kiss. If a family tragedy was happening (and there were a few) he’d leap onto the couch, press himself against your thigh and drop his head in your lap. Those gentle brown eyes would then look up at you and somehow acknowledge your pain, convey empathy and even a modicum of understanding. By his presence, and a small, hopeful wag of his tail, he seemed to say that though it was hurtful and terrible now, the sun would shine tomorrow.

But, as the princess said: I digress. It was Halloween and Teddy had been gone for several years now. Sandi was out with her twin sister Sue shopping for the day and I was seconded to present the treats that night if she didn’t make it home in time. I stood on the front porch in the brisk cold of an October sun and drank my coffee. I watched clouds slowly thicken overhead to finally banish any post-summer warmth offered. I hoped there wouldn’t be rain for the children as fog was now rolling in off the lake barely a half-kilometre away. It was making its way up Dixie Street, an insidious mist that slipped through the picket fences, surrounded and obscured the massive trunks of the 100-yea- old trees of the Chautauqua area, and separated neighbour from neighbour by a white obscurity more suited to the Arctic blizzards of my youth.

The neighbour’s house across Dixie was now invisible as was the house across Lakeshore. Parents shepherding their children for trick-or-treat night, and drivers in particular, would have to be extra careful if this kept up. I thought back to Halloween being one of Teddy’s favourite days and how I’d give just about anything to ruffle his head once more and give him a big hug. Of course, he’d inevitably pull away, starring sideways out of his eyes as though to say: “Don’t crush the merchandise. There’s only one of me.”

With a final glance at the carved pumpkin already mounted near the porch corner awaiting illumination when darkness fell, I turned to go in and start a fire to take the outdoor/indoor nip out of the air. I also had time for a nap, I decided.

That’s when I first saw it. It was just a slight movement in the mist to my right at the end stairway leading down off our front porch. Then nothing. I turned back at the noise of a barely visible speeding car driving way too fast for this weather on Lakeshore. Then I heard the click-clack of the nails.

Slowly I turned, empty cup in hand, to see a brown, curly haired cockapoo emerge from the mist and make his way down the porch toward me. To say I was frozen in place would be an understatement. It felt like I was suddenly encased in a block of Lucite suspended not only in time but in space as well. I had stopped breathing, I had stopped thinking and I had certainly stopped worrying about any fall bite in the air.

The dog didn’t hesitate. He walked with his head down and tail wagging in a tentative way, almost like he was asking if I was glad to see him. But, shades of Pet Cemetery, you don’t expect to see your dog that you put down because of a brain aneurysm seven years ago, suddenly walk up and ask you to “throw the stick.”

I literally, as well as figuratively, shook myself and managed to forestall going into any form of medical shock, though I’d swear I had barely escaped same. I reached down and scratched the dog’s ear. “You lost boy?” I asked. “Where did you come from?” He looked up at me with Teddy-like brown eyes and refused to look away. “T-Teddy…?” I stammered. A light shone in the dog’s eyes and he wagged his tail. “No way,” I said aloud and glimpsed a tarnished, bone-shaped, brass dog tag dangling under his chin. I got hold of his leather collar, turned the identifier and the rabies tag up to where I could read them more easily. My mind reeled: it simply said: “Teddy” followed by my address and telephone number.

I was squatting near the dog and I recoiled and fell on my seat. This was impossible. Or, was it a sick joke? There was no way. We had even been asked by the vet if we wanted his ashes after the terrible but necessary deed was done. As Sandi, who was a charge nurse in the busiest emergency room in Canada for 25 years had assured me at the time: Teddy had suffered an unrecoverable brain bleed and we had to let him go … for his sake.

That left a sick joke by someone. But who would do this? Where would they get a dog that looked exactly like Teddy? A warm tongue interrupted my thoughts by licking my cheek and I stared at him. He dropped his front end, stuck his hind quarters in the air, and with tail wagging, wheeled and leaped off the porch. He waited below to play one of our “catch-me-if-you can” games on the grass. I really couldn’t stop myself and stumbled down the steps and ran at him. He dodged and tore his way round the Cypress tree, reappearing in a nanosecond. I dove at him, noticed I somehow had the empty coffee mug in hand and discarded it under a nearby bush.

He darted away, only to suddenly turn and charge as close as possible, giving me what he thought was a sporting chance to catch him. As usual, I grabbed at his blurred body as it went by; he pulled up at the fence and turned around. His tongue was fully extended now and he barked excitedly. He was already a muddy mess from the damp earth.

We played like that for almost an hour, until I was almost too exhausted to think. “Got to rest,” I said between gasps and realized that he also needed water. “C’mon boy,” I said. I climbed the three stairs to the porch, noticing that the fog wasn’t letting up. Inside I gave him a bowl of water which he lapped up. I collapsed on the couch and Teddy, mud and all, leaped up, lay down, pressed his body against me and dropped his head in my lap. Suddenly he sat up and I threw my arms around him. He let me hug him for almost a minute before giving me that look and pulling away.

From outside the first cries of the early trick-or-treaters filtered in and Teddy jumped down and gave a bark. I went out and lit the candle in the pumpkin with my Zippo; it was past twilight. Inwardly, I fought with myself. Whoever owned this dog would be looking for him. This argument crashed hard against the reality that he was wearing a dog tag that listed me as the owner.

For the next two hours Teddy jumped on and off the couch to look out the window and spot the trick-or-treaters and I served out candy to both little kids and a few older kids who obviously didn’t want to give up their childhood just yet. The occasional car went by at a slower speed than normal, the driver peering nervously ahead to make sure he or she didn’t hurt any strange creatures of the night. Meanwhile, Teddy managed to sneak off with a few Halloween Kisses. I found the shredded papers in my study later.

When the last child had emptied the candy bowl, I went out on the porch to blow out the candle in the pumpkin, I was sure I had left Teddy inside. But when I went to go in, I noticed he was out on the porch. “Time to go in, boy,” I said. But rather than making ready to go inside, his nails clicked on the porch as he walked toward the side stairs. Teddy?” I said, some inner instinct making me more than a little afraid of what was going to happen.

Teddy paused and looked back at me, his eyes bright, his little tail erect and slowly waving. “You can’t go boy, I’ve just found you again,” I said, feeling my eyes fill. He gave a very soft bark, more like a snuffle of some sort and he cocked his head to the side. Then he slowly made his way down the steps and walked off into the mist.

For the next hour I was in and out, calling him repeatedly. I was sure the neighbours thought I was daft since they all knew Teddy had died several years before.

A car pulled into the driveway and I brushed away the tears and helped Sandi unload the groceries and parcels she’d purchased. Her twin, Sue, drove off in the Pilot, leaving Sandi looking at me strangely. Finally, she stared into my eyes, put her hands gently on my shoulders and asked: “Okay, what happened?”

Though reluctant, at first, I finally told her everything. She hugged me close and then in her best nursing voice patiently explained what had happened: “Remember when you were coming in for a nap? Well, you had one.” Absentmindedly she scooped up the empty metal water bowl from the floor. “And you had a dream. That’s all it was – a dream.”

“A dream?” I mused. She looked at me with a gentle smile. “I miss him, too, you know.” Then she sighed, poured some fresh coffee she’d brewed and handed it to me in a cup. “Sorry, I can’t seem to find your favourite mug,” she said. “So why don’t you go out, take the pumpkin down off the rail and get a bit of air at the same time. Meanwhile, I’ll clean all that mud off the couch. You really should take off your boots there kiddo if you’ve been in the garden.”

I just smiled at her, went outside and drank my coffee while looking at the gleam of my favourite mug reflecting the porch lights from the bushes where I’d thrown it while playing with my amazing friend. I’d have to pick it up in the morning.

So was it real? Did it happen? What do you think? I know I always believed that miracles were more associated with Christmas than Halloween. Now I’m not so sure.

* NOTL resident J. Richard Wright is the author of more than 50 television and radio dramas, 2,000-plus corporate articles and two novels. Both "The Plan" and "Torngat" can be ordered from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca either as an eBook or paperback. Go to Amazon, select “books” and then write "Torngat by J. Richard Wright" or "The Plan by J.Richard Wright" on the search line. Visit the author’s website at www.jrichardwright.com.

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