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Waiting at the Door

2006-01-23 00:00

  By Barbara J. Crocker

  My grandmother became a widow in 1970. Shortly after that, we went to the animal shelter to pick out a puppy to keep her company. Grandma decided on a little terrier that had a reddish-brown spot above each eye. Because of these spots, the dog was p romptly named Penny.

  Grandma and Penny quickly became very attached to each other, but that attachment grew much stronger about three years later when Grandma had a stroke. Grandma could no longer work, so when she came home from the hospital, she and Penny were constant companions.

  After her stroke, it became a real problem for Grandma to let Penny in and out because the door was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. So a mechanism using a rope and pulley was installed from the back door to a handle at the top of the stairs. Grandma just had to pull the handle to open and close the door. If the store was out of Penny's favorite dog food, Grandma would make one of us cook Penny browned beef with diced potatoes in it. I can remember teasing my grandmother that she loved that dog better than she loved her family.

  As the years passed, Grandma and Penny became inseparable. Grandma's old house could be filled to the brim with people, but if Grandma went to take her nap, Penny walked along beside her and stayed by her side until she awoke. As Penny aged, she could no longer jump up on the bed to lay next to Grandma, so she laid on the rug beside the bed. If Grandma went into the bathroom, Penny would hobble along beside her, wait outside the door and accompany her back to the bed or chair. Grandma never went anywhere without her faithful companion by her side.

  The time came when both my grandmother and Penny's health were failing fast. Penny couldn't get around very well, and Grandma had been hospitalized several times. My uncle and I lived with Grandma, so Penny was never left alone, even when Grandma was in the hospital. During these times, Penny sat at the window looking out for the car bringing Grandma home and would excitedly wait at the door when Grandma came through it. Each homecoming was a grand reunion between the two.

  On Christmas Day in 1985, Grandma was again taken to the hospital. Penny, as usual, sat watching out the window for the car bringing Grandma home. Two mornings later when the dog woke up, she couldn't seem to work out the stiffness in her hips as she usually did. The same morning, she began having seizures. At age fifteen, we knew it was time. My mother and aunt took her to the veterinarian and stayed with her until the end.

  Now the big dilemma was whether to tell Grandma while she was still in the hospital or wait. The decision was made to tell her while she was in the hospital because when we pulled up at the house, the first thing Grandma would look for was her beloved Penny watching out the window and then happily greeting her at the door. Grandma shed some tears but said she knew that it had to be done so Penny wouldn't suffer.

  That night while still in the hospital, Grandma had a massive heart attack. The doctors frantically worked on her but could not revive her. After fifteen years of loving companionship, Grandma and Penny passed away within a few hours of each other. God had it all worked out – Penny was waiting at door when Grandma came Home.

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