How fortunate are we who find ourselves among earthly angels. Little did I know that on June 19, 1992 I would be blessed with an angel, well-disguised in a ragged, brownish mess of fur. She walked with head bent low and tail firmly tucked. Her eyes were lifeless, seemingly without soul. She fooled me then, such as angels are apt to do on occasion. It keeps us on our toes. Misty wanted no part of life with us, she wanted no part of life period...or so we thought. We brought her home in hopes of offering her an enjoyable and fulfilling retirement from the dog race track but she hid in the darkest corner of the dining room and wouldn't surface unless out of necessity. Not just for days mind you but for weeks and weeks. We did everything but stand on our heads and sing show tunes to help her yet she wanted no part of us. I remember how we coaxed her outside to play ball. Not knowing it would be a problem Fred threw the ball over-handed to see if she would catch it. Instead she hit the ground on her belly and cowered. We had a lot of work to do and eventually it would take over six months for the real changes to occur. Angels know how to bring out the best in us and in the meantime Misty Blue was just getting started.
Eventually Misty ventured into our bedroom and discovered a safe haven in a small area between our bed and the wall. Misty's insecurities were many but she found solace in soft fuzzy things. She kept a never-ending supply of our towels, blankets, slippers, throw rugs, and other assorted soft items in a pile in our bedroom. She did no damage, she simply borrowed them in quiet fashion for reasons only she understood. Earth angels can be quite secretive.
We thought perhaps Misty Blue needed a playmate. Greyhounds are used to being with other dogs and it didn't appear that she was handling her new life as an only dog very well. Angels have a way of helping animals find new homes - enter Luci, a loving and endearing cocker spaniel. These two became fast friends and Luci had no mercy on Misty Blue. She taught her to have fun and it was great to see Misty Blue enjoying her new companion. Luci had a "just do it" attitude and was eventually dubbed The Sarge. But regardless of Luci's take-charge attitude, Misty Blue would still not come out of the bedroom on her own. She wouldn't join us in the evening for a little time together or even come to the dinner table to see if she could mooch a bite or two. Don't let anyone tell you an earth angel can't be stubborn!
Months went by and out of frustration and desperation we tried animal behaviorists, one-on-one obedience classes, we attempted to socialize her at meet-and-greets to promote greyhound adoption etc. and nothing helped. The more we tried the worse she got. And then one day it hit me. I was trying to make Misty Blue into the kind of dog she wasn't meant to be. Approximately six months after adopting Misty Blue, in a fit of total frustration I said to her, "The hell with it Misty Blue. I'm just going to have to accept you as you are." And this is exactly when everything, and I mean EVERYthing began to change because unknown to me the real lesson in love was about to unfold. An angel on earth can't be rushed.
Shortly after this extremely frustrating day, we witnessed what felt like a miracle but was really just an earth angel doing her thing. As we were watching television Misty Blue walked into the living room and without fanfare promptly laid down on the floor in front of us. This is when I noticed it...the life within her eyes. Finally there was life and soul amidst the mystery in her eyes. But...where had it come from? I was in awe as this also brought with it something Misty Blue would offer up to me the rest of her short life and beyond. On many occasions afterward Misty Blue would lay on the floor and stare directly at me. This was not an alpha dog issue where I was being challenged, this was something much, much more. It was during these extraordinarily intense moments that from across the room I would lock eyes with her and in a near instant she would let me into her world and I could feel the pulse of her very soul. There is no describing this experience except to say that it was like having something totally unfamiliar yet incredibly beautiful wash over me. Sometimes I would break the stare and ask her what she was trying to say to me but her eyes never wavered. Instead she remained steadfast, inviting me back into her world. Angels touch our lives long before we realize we've been touched.
Life now took on a whole new meaning for Misty Blue and for us. Our acceptance of her "as is" took the pressure off and she began to thrive on the freedom that comes from being loved with no strings attached. Misty's inner beauty emerged in synch with her outer beauty. At times she held her ears horizontal with the top of her head, reminding me of the Flying Nun. But it was when those unruly ears were back flat against her head, exposing all her vulnerabilities, that her face was most disarmingly beautiful. She began enjoying her daily walks and she loved wearing her pretty red coat in the winter. Her fur went from ragged and brown to sleek, shiny blue. Her big, green/yellow eyes were lethal and with one look I was putty in her paws. She'd finally learned how to give and receive love and it was a beautiful feeling for both my husband and myself. Nothing is warmer than the love of an angel on earth.
The next two years flew by with our bond growing stronger every day. As the curator of my heart Misty Blue bestowed on me a lifetime of lessons and memories. She taught me the importance of accepting not only what I couldn't change but what I shouldn't change as well. In turn she was not concerned with the choices I'd made in my life. She could have cared less about my religious beliefs, career objectives or past mistakes. When I was ill she would cuddle up close and act as my heating blanket. If I felt down she would dole out kisses and offer quiet companionship. When I tried to quit smoking she wouldn't utter a "woof" of disapproval when I just had to have one more. In my deepest depression she was my saving grace. Like a true angel she administered to my needs, oftentimes knowing what I needed when I didn't have a clue. And all along she continued to give me the deep and intense eye contact that allowed me to experience a part of her world that was shut off to others...she shared with me her soul.
Right before she turned
five years old it was discovered that Misty Blue was dying. She remained stoic and
brave as for the next eleven months she battled a combination of diseases that would ultimately take
her earthly life. One day in particular she was feeling bad, more so than usual, and I
knew her time was drawing near. I just didn't know when or how. Misty saved me the
pain of making the dreaded decision by making it for me. It was the look I'd been told about
many times. People said that I'd know when it was time because she would give me a
look unlike any other. They were right. Misty gave me the one-of-a-kind look that told
me she was so very tired and she needed me to let her go.
Misty Blue and I spent our last day together on August 19, 1996. I stayed close, read poetry to her and massaged every inch of her ailing body over and over. Her tired heart was beating hard as it needed oxygen which her body was barely producing. Her eyes told me that there comes a time when all angels on earth must go Home.
There was no easy way to go through this. There was no right or wrong way. All we could do was follow our hearts. Fred and I took Misty Blue on her last car ride, toward a pain-free eternity. I genuinely respected Fred's decision in how he was going to say his good-byes and he did so with heart-wrenching tears. He was then blessed with the beautiful memory of Misty Blue looking at him with those all-knowing angelic eyes. I took her inside the vet's office where she was given one final checkup. I have no idea how she found the strength but Misty was determined to take her journey standing and I was not about to diminish her pride by asking her to do otherwise. We put a blanket on the floor under her feet and I bent down and held her silky, soft blue face in my left hand and hugged her body with my right. It was time.
I tried with all my might to pass on to Misty Blue every single ounce of love I had for her and when the needle entered her leg she relaxed against my body and we both slid gently to the floor together. My voice was the last voice she heard and my touch was the last touch she felt. Her eyes closed and her earthly body was quiet but her spirit was alive and free. How do I know? Because on that day, at that very moment, I felt what had only come from those times in the past when she and I had locked eyes...I could feel the pulse of her soul flow through my very being. What she had shared with me in her earthly life was the lasting gift she gave to me once again as her spirit left her body. She shared with me her soul. My angel on earth had become an angel in Heaven.
Our private sharing of this rite of passage was our gift to each other...a part of our everlasting bond. It was not about putting her to "sleep" nor about euthanasia. It was about life - eternal life, the next part of her journey. It was about doing for her what she so selflessly did for us. Misty Blue never had to trust us, she never had to love us...but she did. She could have easily held onto all her fears and never given us a chance but earth angels don't work that way. Misty fought her fears so that she could love and be loved. She sacrificed her heart for us and when it was time for her to leave this earth we did the same for her. We had to put aside our heartache in order to give her what she so desperately needed and deserved, a life free of pain and illness. We owed her that much.
Misty Blue...her sweet blue face, sprinkled with a shimmer of white is a permanent photograph in my mind. Her birth name, Tivoli Blue Mist, is but a faded memory and although she was born a racing dog, destined to grace the track with great speed and agility, it was not meant to be. Misty Blue's destiny took a sharp turn, sending her to us with such an impact that our lives were forever changed. That's how it is with earth angels.
By Terri Onorato
*Portrait Of An Angel Website*
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