She was just a tiny creamy-butter colored ball of fluff, a Yellow Lab/Cocker mix, when I brought her home from the local Humane Society. Without even thinking, the first time I addressed her I said, “Come on, Buttercup, let’s get you outside to teach you some manners.” So, “Buttercup” it was.
Now, eight years later (in my 30th year of singleness when I’d finally come to terms with Buttercup’s being the only “significant other” in my life), we were off to our weekly visit at the hospital. She was a specially-trained “service dog” focusing on in-hospital patient care.
This particular Thursday, we were running late. With Buttercup’s identifying “jacket” on, we sped around the corner about two minutes late for our appointment with Pat, the Volunteer Coordinator. She met us at the door to her office, playfully tapping her watch.
“Sorry,” I said. “Buttercup took a little longer than usual putting on her makeup.”
We laughed together, and she and Buttercup did their usual kissy-kissy.
“I’ve got somebody special for you today,” she told us as we walked down the hall. “He had a really bad auto accident with some head trauma; been out of his coma only a couple of days. He’s doing remarkably well, but feels the accident was his fault, and could use some cheering up. Frankly, we’re afraid his depression is going to slow his recovery.” Buttercup tilted her head, seeming to concentrate on every word. I could almost see her nod thoughtfully.
The patient was sleeping; the only sound was the soft breath of the building’s air conditioner. Buttercup looked him over, then nosed under his hand lying on the spread. Startled awake, he glanced down at his hand and found Buttercup. She licked and he petted. He looked to see who she was with and found me trying to stay unobtrusive.
“Hi,” he said with a croak. “Who is this?”
“I’m Rebecca,” I told him, “and this is Buttercup. Can we visit a while?”
He smiled. “This is kinda Biblical,” he remarked.
“Buttercup?” I asked, bewildered.
“No-—my name is Isaac. Are you familiar with the Bible story of Isaac and Rebecca?”
“Oh, that….” I had been raised in Sunday School and church; but disappointments and life had crowded out any conscious following of the faith I’d been taught. “Yeah.” I hoped that would extinguish that particular conversational spark.
He caught on, fortunately. We simply visited for a while; he told me of his car accident, I shared a few Buttercup stories with him, and I promised to come back—-“All right, before next Thursday,” I told him.
I couldn’t get that visit out of my mind. When I had a spare moment, I dusted off the Bible that had been tucked away in the corner of my closet. It took some time of thumbing through unfamiliar pages, but I finally found the story of Isaac and Rebecca, which turned out to be a love story. Interesting; so this guy’s name was Isaac; mine, Rebecca.
The story stayed with me. Then on Monday I remembered I had promised Isaac I would try to be back before my regular Thursday visiting day. I checked the clock-—4:45-—and figured I could get Buttercup ready, buzz over to the hospital for a few minutes, then run through Mickey D’s for take-home chicken nuggets for me and a plain burger patty for Buttercup. It was a plan.
Until…Isaac. Buttercup seemed to be leading the way this trip: she hurried ahead of me into Isaac’s room and went straight to his side. With both hands, he held her face close to his and murmured to her. Weirdly, she seemed to be murmuring back!
“So, Rebecca, did you look up the Bible story?”
“Ye-e-s,” I replied carefully.
“You probably won’t believe this, but I gave God a test today. I didn’t know you were coming, of course. So I asked God to send you here before 6 tonight. If that happened, and if Buttercup came to me before you did, I would know.”
“Know what?” I asked, my stomach fluttering.
“First, that I am to talk with you about being a Christian. Then, well…” he finally had the grace to look embarrassed, “we might have other Isaac-Rebecca things to discuss.”
Buttercup nudged me into the chair close to the bed. Then she sighed hugely, jumped up on the foot of the bed and curled into her sleeping position.
I guess the drive-thru at Mickey D’s could wait….
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