After breakfast, Leah finished her prayer time by asking God to lift the heaviness from her heart and home.
Stepping out the front door, she looked both ways, still unable to identify the strange muffled, whimpering sounds she kept hearing. In the back yard, she found Mallory already sitting in her swing, staring morosely into space. Leah was sure the noise wasn’t coming from her little granddaughter, because Mallory was almost always silent. Silent and sad, Leah thought, her heart aching for the child.
Mallory had come to stay with them two months ago, shortly after the sudden, tragic death of their daughter-in-law. Paige had been a wonderful wife to their son Danny, and mother to Mallory. When Danny was deployed to Afghanistan, Paige and Mallory became especially close.
After the funeral, Danny stayed as long as possible, but had to return to duty last week. He managed a transfer to a base close by, but now Mallory was missing her Daddy too.
“Mal,” called Leah, “Come help find this strange noise I’m hearing.” Maybe it would catch her interest for a little while.
The slender little girl only shrugged slightly, but followed her grandmother around the house. Still seeing nothing out of the ordinary, Leah took Mallory’s hand. She led her for a walk around the block, pointing out the colorful spring blooms.
“Hey,” she spoke cheerfully, “Gramps will be home soon. Do you thing we might talk him into taking us to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets?”
At this, Mallory did smile a little. “I bet I can get him to do it,” she stated confidently.
Leah knew she was right. Bill adored their grieving little granddaughter. Both of them still had a hard time comprehending the undetected aneurism that so quickly took Paige’s life, leaving the gaping hole and emptiness in her family.
Just then, Mallory stopped. “I heard it then, Grandma. What could it be?” her little forehead wrinkled.
They circled the entire house again, but everything was quiet.
Interrupting their thoughts, Bill’s pickup turned into the drive. Mallory was off to meet him with her McDonalds’ suggestion.
Later, during the night, Leah thought she heard the sound again, but it always stopped before she could be sure.
Next morning, however, it was much louder, and persisted. Bill began to look around too, and a sleepy Mallory joined them outside.
“Grandma, something is moving under the bushes!” Mallory sounded a little frightened.
Stooping over, they all caught sight of them at once. In a burrowed-out space, between the thick lilac bush and the bricks, were three furry brown puppies. With eyes open but legs unsteady, they tumbled about, without leaving their familiar, safe place. Then Leah recognized the sound. They were whining in hunger.
Their plaintive cries were unrelenting now. Leah looked at Bill, wondering why some unknown mother dog had her puppies here, and where she had gone. Obviously though, she wasn’t around, and these babies were getting louder and louder.
“Gramps, why are they crying?” Mallory was beginning to whimper too, as the puppies’ high-pitched din increased.
“I think they are just hungry, Honey. We’ll get them some milk. We might even have to feed them from a bottle until they learn how to sip.”
“But where is their mommy?” Tears now streamed freely down her face.
“Well, Mal, maybe something happened to her. But, don’t worry; if she doesn’t come back, we’ll take care of them.” Bill held her close.
“Like and you and Grandma take care of me?” she sobbed.
Leah’s eyes met Bill’s, sharing the pain in her voice. Suddenly they were all crying together, with three puppies whining right along.
Praying for words, Leah said hoarsely, “Yes, Mal. It won’t be the same as their mommy, but we can give them lots of love.”
Mallory nodded solemnly as Bill handed her a wriggling puppy. With Leah and him carrying the other two, they walked together into the garage.
In the next weeks, they spent much time holding, feeding, and watching the small brown bundles grow and play. With a number of visits into the house, they progressed to the fenced back yard. Their mother never returned, but the puppies had loving care. Leah breathed a prayer of thanks for their healing effect, and for hope and laughter slowly returning.
With a lighter voice, Mallory told Danny on the phone, “Daddy, hurry home. You gotta see our puppies! You can help us take care of them.”
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