It’s not often a young boy’s dog dies twice in the same day. I felt sorry for him, just five years old, bowing his feathery yellow bowl-cut hair over the little retriever pup in his hands. They were both the same shade of yellow, the boy and his dog, like they were color-coded to be together. For a little while it was hard to argue that whoever colored them yellow didn’t have a plan for them. That was the consensus that seemed to have dominated until a few minutes ago.
The story was this – Little Billy had gotten his dog, Skip, yes, those are their names, I double-checked and three other reporters and a little boy’s mother couldn’t all be screwing with me. They were playing in the yard as happy as can be when Billy gets the idea that what would be even more fun than playing catch with his dog would be playing catch with his dog. Skip didn’t seem to mind it at first, who doesn’t like to fly in the air knowing your little boy will be there to break your fall?Unfortunately, Billy’s attention was not terribly far above average for a five-year-old, and neither were his motor skills, and eventually something didn’t go as planned and Skip was on the pavement.
Billy’s father Bob showed me a picture of the accident. He couldn’t explain in terribly satisfactory terms why he thought taking a picture would be a helpful thing to do at that moment, but after what happened next you couldn’t argue with the serendipity of it all. I don’t want to gross you out with the details suffice to say the angle of Skip’s head was not something a dog who was going to survive would be able to manage.
So before I arrived, Billy was crying over the dog and the scene was probably much like now, minus all the reporters. Nobody saw exactly what happened next, but Billy’s mom Doris insisted she heard her son mumble a prayer, and suddenly Skip was standing on his lap licking his face. Doris called her mother, who called the pastor, who called the press, who arrived en masse.
Doris, with some help from her pastor, explained the miracle she had witnessed. It was no small matter when God proved his love in the real world by forgiving the error of a child. I saw the next part. I have the privilege of working for a small newspaper that would rather get the truth than beat another newspaper to the headline, and I wasn’t going to beat the television news crowd anyway.
It took a full thirty minutes before Bob called Billy over from a ways away. As Billy ran toward him, Skip fell out of his hands and ended up between his foot and the curb. This was not the same as falling from high in the air, but when Skip yowled and rushed away he blundered into the wheel of a news truck that was just backing up.
Now I watched as Billy hung his head over the little dog’s body. I had the sense that this was all a stunt that had gone horribly wrong. Maybe with some Photoshop and an overzealous pastor they could fabricate a story like this. Even if it did happen like they said, it’s really not so unbelievable that even with his head bent at a strange angle a healthy young dog could recover. At least compared with divine intervention. It was too bad that in the end poor Skip died anyway. Now his body was thoroughly mangled and Billy was shouting every prayer he knew, and singing church songs when he couldn’t think of any more prayers. The pastor came over and helped him read some Bible verses. I’d never been much of a believer, but it was hard even for me to watch.
I did watch, though. Now that Skip was dead again it wasn’t much of a story, insofar as it was ever a story to begin with, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Red-faced and teary-eyed, Billy sang a stammering rendition of “The B-I-B-L-E” to Skip. I was beginning to feel less like a reporter and more like a tasteless gawker. Billy took one tiny hand and mashed it across his face. Without cleaning it he pet the little dog’s body. That’s when it happened.
Standing where I was I got a front-row seat to the unimaginable. Before my eyes, Skip’s crushed foot righted itself. Then his flattened ribs inflated and his ears perked up. Skip stood on his haunches and licked the salty tears off of Billy’s face. I stood and watched as Billy’s eyes grew wide and the smile returned to his face. Billy picked Skip up and squealed with joy. Everything was righted once more, he was forgiven again. Billy stood to his feet and, in one jubilant motion, he threw his dog in the air.