Still feeling somewhat foreign in this Southern town, I wondered who to call. This isn't the type of veterinary appointment in which you want to "try out" a new place. It's the type of heart-wrenching appointment that you don't want to make at all, but if it needs to be made, you want it to be with friends.
As the appointed time approached, Tony's strong arms scooped up our Chuggie Chugiak, our "Sits With a Purpose", the dog who had been so present and faithful to us for the last nearly 17 years. He was a musher's cast-away, an unwanted pup, which I found along with his sister under rickety, wooden, rural post office steps, just a few weeks after moving to Alaska. We wanted him, and we moved across town in order to keep him.
Chuggie lived for even a glimpse of us, all day long, every day. At any given time, he was pining away for us at his "post", staring at the house window, or down the driveway. In the dog yard, he tripped us up trying to be as close as possible to us at all times. If I were to stand still, he would immediately sit down, directly in front of me, staring up at me. The moment eye contact was made, he dramatically threw himself down, exposing his belly, waiting for a nice rub.
One by one, all of his dog buddies passed away. He grieved every death by moping and barking incessantly, day and night, for days and nights on end. He would not eat nor sleep. With the passing of his litter mate sister a year and a half ago, Chuggie was the last remaining member of the pack. He has been a constant in our family life, and part of what makes home, "home", whether it be a house we own, or rent, or a camper driven across two countries.
In Tony's arms, on this bright, warm, spring Tuesday, Chuggie did not struggle. Hind legs, which had once been so strong and pulled us miles and miles on dogsled and skis, hung limply down his master's side. He trusted those arms to hold him tight, to have his best interest at heart, to do what was best. Observing his trust, I realized that even on this day, there were lessons still to be learned from this dog. You see, there are Strong Arms that hold me also and have held me continuously for forty years, yet I still fight against them at times. For half my lifetime, I didn't realize those Arms were there, holding. For the other half of my lifetime, I have known it, received it, and rejoiced in it. Even still, I sometimes struggle and flail around, not always trusting.
Our drive to the new and unknown veterinary clinic was a nearly silent one. It was also much too short of a drive.
Outdoors in the sunshine, with the help of compassionate and skilled hands, we loved our dog the last way that we could. And at a time when we desperately needed a piece of home, we were unbelievably blessed with it.
Our vet was from Anchorage.
Yeah, of all the clinics in Maryville, Tennessee, the one we chose was owned by an Alaskan. Upon arrival, we felt the ambiance of "home," that familiar, laid-back, pay-us-later, Pacific Northwest feel. Still, we never would have guessed that our vet would tell us she was from Anchorage.
Let me tell you, friends: the One Whose Arms Hold Me? He cares about the things we care about about. As I looked upon the huge Alaska map displayed in the waiting area, I realized once again, that this God who placed the capacity to love in our hearts, even to crazy-love furry creatures, passionately loves us and cares about our details.