A gust of wind, an eagle and an old dog.

It was a typical December—grey skies, colder air, barren trees. Also typical was the office rush—moving orders across our desks, sending apples to remote places far beyond the view outside. Yet, something was quite different. Angel, our devoted family dog was facing her final days.

Years ago, she came to us as a puppy. We had just moved from the city—to the country—and Angel, several months into her life—had only known a kennel. We adopted one another. To be truthful, I was never the dog person my kids and husband were. Yet, Angel never treated me with anything less than her full devotion.

Angel grew up with the kids and then watched them get older and busy with their lives. She had to wonder about them and their absence, but as a loyal mate, she remained faithful to my husband and me. Angel never pushed herself on me even though she probably missed those early days with the kids, and those hearty dog hugs.

The years had changed our family, as they had changed Angel. She walked slower, slept more, and followed us quietly. Her eyes were not as bright and those dark pools seemed to hold a hint of a deeper sadness. Angel and I shared a few of those looks. We both had lost the family we loved. Yet, only I knew they weren’t gone, they were just on their own now.

It was on that December day when Angel could no longer walk and was beyond the help of her vet that we could only comfort her for whatever days remained. She seemed happiest on her familiar pad in the garage beneath our office. Since I had more freedom to run and check on her, Angel and I shared some quiet time. I learned to give those doggy hugs—perhaps a bit too late.

I’d talk and she’d listen. Angel heard me retell our family stories. She licked my hand when she sensed I missed the times gone by. I guess I hadn't realized how much a dog could care. She raised her head to search my eyes, and I spoke the words I'd never said before, “I love you girl, you were so good to us.”

Throughout the day and the one thereafter, I would return to my spot near her side. I’d pet and talk softly, gently caressing the fur that my kids had once buried their faces. As I was about to go check on her again, I stopped at the window and gazed out at the steel grey surroundings.

Suddenly a strong wind banged the door downstairs, rattling it in a way I had never heard before. Then I saw an amazing sight. An eagle swooped directly over our cabin, so close I could see his eyes. Then with broad, powerful strokes he flew down into the valley towards the sea.

I ran downstairs to check Angel but I had a sense she had died. This side of Heaven I won’t know exactly what happened. But something special took place in that strong gust of wind with an eagle flying low over our home, and then heading out to sea. It seemed as if Angel was soaring away. That scene is forever etched in my mind. Those final days with Angel showed me that dogs have a heart that loves deeper than I ever knew. Dogs can be a blessing from God.

God also showed me something I had missed, that His love is as unconditional as Angel's love had been--but the difference is that God's love is everlasting. Celebrating Christmas will always bring me memories of a wind gust, an eagle, and Angel. It also reminds me anew of my Savior who offers me an amazing gift: unconditional love and the promise of whatever I lose now, can one day be mine again.

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