The Little Red Bow

Judith C. Issette

© Copyright 2002 by Judith C. Issette


I remember when I first had thoughts of getting a pet. I had just spent three grueling years in nursing school and had begun a career of psychiatric nursing at the Veterans hospital. Finally, I was beginning to reap some rewards for all the hard work of school and state board. My life was looking pretty good at that point. I had a good job, my son had recovered from a near fatal accident, and married life was tolerable. There was only one issue that was causing my heart to ache, and I dreaded the thought of the coming event.

For the first time, one of my sons was leaving home. My oldest son had informed me that he had joined the service, and he would be leaving in a couple of months. I dreaded even the thought of being separated for the first time from my first-born. I knew the moment was coming that the apron strings were to be cut, and my son was on his way to becoming a man. I guess each parent has had to face that moment when the child they nurtured and loved for all those years decides to break away, and go out into the world. I certainly knew the time was coming, but I ignored it till the raw truth suddenly hit me full force. Of course, as any normal mother, all the worse scenarios of disaster were conjured up in my mind. What if there was a war? I had heard such horror stories about boot camp training. I had heard of boys being abused or worse. What if they sent him to some foreign country, and I never saw him again? Such terrible fears began to gnaw at my heart, even though I tried to ignore them.

I knew I had to do something to get my mind off the time that I would have to say goodbye to my child and let him go to be a man. I had wanted my own dog for many years. We had lots of dogs, but they were never really the type of dog I wanted. They were yard dogs and I needed a companion, especially since I had none at home. I wanted a small dog that could sit by me, or lie in my lap. I wanted one that would always be happy to see me and greet me when I came home. I liked the breed of Schnauzers and decided to search for a breeder in the paper. I had seen a black Schnauzer one time that really struck my fancy. So, I searched the local papers every week for any Schnauzers for sale.

I guess God knew I needed something special in my life because I found what I was looking for in the next couple of weeks. A lady not far from my home had several black Schnauzer puppies for sale. I called her immediately to reserve a puppy for me. She said they would be ready to be weaned in another few days. There is nothing sweeter than a baby, whether it is a human baby or an animal. Their little perfect bodies and their innocent newness to this world will always be an awesome sight and experience for me. I looked forward to the day when I could pick up my new little baby.

It was strange how that day occurred. It was like divine intervention, for the very day my son was leaving for the service was the day I was to pick up my new puppy. I was to experience a gut-wrenching loss, but gain something new and wonderful on that same day.

The dreaded day finally came. My son wouldn’t let me come to the bus station to say goodbye. I guess he knew I would probably make a fool of myself crying and I didn’t blame him. His daddy was going to take him as it should be. I think by far, his leaving was one of the major emotional moments of my life. It was hard to describe the fear and terror I felt in my heart when I held him in my arms for the last time. I knew it would a long time before I saw him again. I knew he would leave with the innocence of a child, and return to me with the worldly knowledge of a man. I tried to be brave in that moment, and control my emotions for him, but after he left and I saw that car driving away, I broke into heart wrenching sobs, and felt as if something was tearing my insides apart. Something surely was missing from my body for I could not feel such emptiness if I were whole.

The early morning was devastating for me, but I managed to get through it. God had given me something sweet to think of, and get my mind off my loss for a while. I was to go get my puppy today. I called and made arrangements with a friend to drive over with me to pick up my new dog. I had no idea at the time how that day would change my life forever, but as I look back, it was a turning point in my life. My sons were leaving me to venture out on their own, and I was getting a life long companion in their place.

When we arrived at the breeders, she took me to her den where I immediately saw a playpen full of little black balls of fur scampering around the pen. Their mother was beautiful, but to my amazement she was not black, but the salt and pepper variety. The puppies looked as if they had been adopted, and couldn‘t belong to her. The breeder laughed, and said the father was black. She explained that black pups would usually be dominant with that pairing.

I knew my puppy immediately for she had tied a big red bow around his neck. He was so cute, and was just a black ball of fur. You had to look closely to even see his black eyes. Everything about him was black. When I picked him up, he immediately started wiggling. I pulled him close to my chest, and held him there a few moments to quiet his fears. He seemed to relax as I talked to him softly, and stroked his soft fur. That moment was a special time of bonding for us both. He needed me as much as I needed him. Feeling him in my arms seem to sooth the hurt I had been feeling so passionately over my son's departure. That small ball of softness seemed to fill the void that felt like a gapping hole in my heart. I decided to name him Jock. He looked like he should be wearing one of those little Scottish tams with that black fur and red bow.

So, my life was changed with one little black ball of fur that did all the puppy things that puppies do. He was full of energy, and was constantly on the move when he was awake. Getting into things just like a little child, and always under my feet. I remember I used to wear long gowns to bed, and he loved to play underneath my gown. He would run in and out and nibble on my feet. He was so hyper most of the time he would really wear me out trying to keep up with him. The only way I could get him to sleep sometimes was to lay him on his back in my lap, and rub his tummy till he calmed down and went to sleep. That was always a special moment for me. It soothed my heart as much as it did his.

As Jock grew up, he became more and more special to me. He was a beautiful dog. His hair was glossy black and sleek. He was a muscular dog and seemed to hold himself with great pride. Many people would often comment on how gorgeous he was. We were inseparable when I was home. Wherever I was, he was by my side. Always showing his love for me with a bark, or jumping up and down in greeting when I came home from work. He was always happy to see me, and loved me no matter what. I’ve often wondered why human beings couldn’t have such relationships with each other. To be happy and love unconditionally was too simple I guess for such a complicated world. As time passed, Jock and I grew more and more dependent on each other for our well-being.

I knew Jock looked to me as his mother. I was the one he depended on to provide his food and water, protect him and love him. I gave him all those things and he gave me so much in return. I have often said he was my “little Valium” for he could sooth me with his touch. I could sit and stroke his fur, and some of the sadness or pain I might be feeling at the time would ebb away with his touch. He was therapeutic to my soul, and always would be in the times ahead.

Jock and I weathered some violent storms in my walk in life. He was there for me when my marriage broke apart. He sat by my side when I was weeping tears of sadness. He couldn’t speak, but he would lay him head on my lap as if to say, “It’ll be okay, Mom. Don’t cry.” Although he knew only silence, I knew he was sad for me and wanted to help. And he did help me, more than anyone could ever realize in those hard times. I clung to him when I had no one else to cling to. Sometimes, knowing that he depended on me was the only reason I chose to stay on this earth.

As with anyone’s life, we all experience good and hard times. Jock was with me through them all. We had grown old together. We were both a little slower and had some gray in our hair now, but our devotion to each other had not diminished at all. He was beginning to know the pain of old age, and I knew his days were numbered. I dreaded the day that my best friend would leave me. I had promised him long ago that I would care for him until the end.

Even as I write these words, I sob with the sorrowful tears of a promise that was broken to my old friend. I try to tell myself how it was destiny that parted me from my sweet Jock, but it doesn’t help the guilt I feel for a promise broken. Sometimes, our lives are changed in the blink of an eye. The decisions we make in one crucial moment can sometimes haunt us for a lifetime. I made a decision to leave my precious Jock behind because I thought it would be best for him when my marriage broke up for a second time. I felt it would be a hardship for him to be taken out of his environment at this time of his life.

How I would regret that moment for the rest of my life. How I would grieve over that decision. I failed my best friend who had depended on me. One who had trusted me to take care of him forever. Would I ever be able to forgive myself? Even to this day, the thoughts of my Jock dying without me brings tears of sadness and regret of not being there to help him gently from this world.

When I wrote the poem “The Little Red Bow,” I tried to work through my feelings of grief for Jock. I know some people may read that poem and think or say, “Well, it was only a dog.” But for me, he was not just a dog; he had been my best friend for fourteen years. We had a bond that could not be broken, even in death. Jock was all the things a best friend could be, and I hope like most best friends that he has forgiven me for letting him down that one time. I hope maybe some day; I can forgive myself as he has surely forgiven me, and truly lay him down to sleep.

I know my Jock waits for me in Heaven. I know he is happy and healthy again with the energy of his youth as he runs through the green grasses and chases the butterflies. I know that he waits for me, and that someday we will be together once more. That someday, I will see my little black and furry dog with “The Little Red Bow.” Maybe then, my tears will be... no more.

                     The Little Red Bow

                           Remember the first day that we met?

                          You had a little red bow around your neck.

                         You waddled & scampered all over the place

                           With nary a clue of who you’d just met.

                              Such joy I felt when I first saw

                              My little, black and furry dog.

                               I knew when I saw you

                                What your purpose be.

                               God had sent you to me

                                 In my time of need.

                                He knew I needed you

                                  To be my friend.

                                Loving and accepting,

                               And helping me to mend.

                            We walked a path so long and sad.

                              You were always by my side

                             Each and every step of the way,

                             Never too tired to run and play.

                               We saw the years go past,

                               And our hair grow gray.

                               We moved more slowly

                                As we began to age.

                              I had promised to hold you,

                               Till God took you away.

                              But, something had happened

                                That I could not stay.

                                  I left you behind,

                               For I thought it was right.

                             Not knowing…that never again

                               Would you be in my sight.

                             You knew I had left you all alone.

                              To never again see the one,

                                Who gave you strength,

                                And made you strong.

                                  Without my love,

                               Your strength did leave,

                                 And sickness came

                                To take you from me.

                                 I know my little dog

                                  Has forgiven me,

                                But with too many tears

                                 I continue to grieve.

                               Each day… I pray to God

                               That I will find the strength

                               To finally forgive myself,

                              And lay you down to sleep.

                            God holds you in his arms for now,

                            But I know someday that I will see.

                             My little black, and furry dog...

                           With the little red bow waiting for me.

                               ~Till then, my sweet Jock~

                                  Judith C. Issette

                                 November 8, 2001

I currently reside in North Carolina with my husband and little dog, Toby. I am a retired registered nurse, but my real passion is writing. In the past couple of years, I have had a real desire to share some of my stories with others. I have always written poems in the past to cope with some traumatic events in my life, but have begun to venture off into short stories. All my stories are based on the poems I have written. They tell the story of what inspired me to write the poem in the first place. I hope some of you can relate to some of my poems and stories and find comfort in my words.

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