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The following true story originally appeared in In Dogs We Trust: Stories of Unconditional Love, Inspiration, and Sacrifice.
Butterflies in the Rain, by Brandy Arnold
The shelter had named her “Beauty” and she most certainly was. The day I met her, she was crouched in the furthest end of her kennel at the shelter. How could someone abandon a dog so stunningly beautiful? The shelter didn’t agree with her, she was terrified, trembling, trying to make herself as small as possible.
That’s the one.
All my plans of finding a smallish, short-haired dog flew swiftly out the window. I knew immediately, despite the fact that she wouldn’t make eye contact, or greet me, and shirked away from my touch. I needed to save her.
She spent the entire ride home trembling on the floorboard of the car, cramming her 50-pound body into the tiny space designed for a pair of feet and not much else. I decided in that 15-minute ride home to rename her Molly. A song came through the radio at that exact moment, the most perfect possible moment of confirmation – Nirvana’s Kiss Molly’s Lips. And with that, I promised that I would kiss Molly’s lips, every single day of the rest of her life. And I did. And she, mine.
The first few months of pet-parenthood were amazing – that very special kind of amazing you get when you bring a 6-month old, never-before-trained, teething puppy into your home. I replaced miles of baseboards after she graciously chewed them off the walls for me. I replaced wall-to-wall carpeting with wall-to-wall tile when she decided she loved the backyard far too much to potty there. At times it seemed as if she were thriving on a diet of shoes alone! I learned to sleep comfortably on a tiny sliver of my queen sized bed while Molly managed to spread her 50-lbs over the remainder.
I realized quickly that the most state-of-the-art sound machine couldn’t compete with the soothing sounds of her gentle snore and that no medicine in the world could heal like her soft chin resting on my leg.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home for most of my career – aside from a few years in the corporate world where the absolute highlight of my life was the ecstatic, fur-flying, windmill-tail greeting I’d get from Molly at the end of each day.
While working at home one summer day, Molly was particularly persistent about going outside.
And coming right back in.
And going right back out.
And then coming right back in.
Normally in these moments, I’d just prop the back door open and give her free-reign. But on this August day in Florida, as my air conditioner struggled to keep the house a few degrees below sweltering, that wasn’t an option. I let her outside, shut the door, and went back to work. Moments later I heard a frighteningly wicked bark from her that I’d never heard before. I ran outside in time to see the blur of a tall teenaged boy as he crested the top of the fence and darted through an adjacent yard.
About an hour later, a police officer came to the door and issued a summons. Molly had bitten the boy, right on the backside. It didn’t matter to officers that he had been trespassing into my fenced-in yard. For two weeks, she was to remain indoors at all times, aside from the three times a day I could take her outside tethered to me by a 6-foot leash to go to the bathroom. She couldn’t be walked, she couldn’t bask in the sun, she couldn’t chase squirrels. And, she had to be evaluated by an animal control officer who would determine if she was ‘vicious.’
If it ever happens again, they told me, she’ll likely have to be put down.
While the county punished her, I hugged her extra tight and thanked her for protecting me.
Just as Molly’s house-arrest was coming to an end, that teenaged boy would be returning to jail for robbing another neighbor at knife-point.
Molly had appointed herself my protector. Of course, she was usually protecting me from squirrels. And in return, she only wanted love, belly rubs, and the occasional windows-down ride around town dribbling drool down the entire passenger side of my car.
Through 13 years of good times and bad, joy and sadness, milestones and speed bumps, illness and injury, it was Molly who was always by my side. Every morning began with the swipe of her black and pink dotted tongue across my cheek. Every night ended with her by my side, a part of her warm body touching me, if even just a paw stretched across the mattress to rest upon my ankle.
She had aged so gracefully, had never lost her vibrant spirit. When she started slowing down, sleeping in, hesitating to jump onto the bed at night, her joints arthritic from years of bounding down the stairs and leaping high into the air for a favorite stuffed toy, I would lie beside her, stroking those velvety ears with tears in my eyes at the mere thought of someday being without her, silently begging for more time.
Her seemingly perfect health and effervescent smile had kept the cancer growing inside of her a secret.
I lost my sweet Molly, my Molly Bear, my best good buddy, 1 year, 10 months, and 23 days ago. I wonder if I’ll ever stop counting the time since she’s been gone, the same way I counted her birthdays.
It was the one and only time I’d ever come home from the veterinarian’s office without her. As I stood outside my front door, afraid to go inside, resisting the finality of it all, rain fell from the sky, mixing with the tears on my cheeks.
In times of intense sorrow, she was the one that always comforted me. How would I survive losing her, without her?
I made my way to the back porch and collapsed into a chair, looking out at her yard, where no less than a thousand of her chew bones were still buried. I was absolutely lost. That’s when I spotted a Monarch butterfly, vivid and beautiful against the afternoon’s dreary sky, fluttering about as if this were a warm, sunny day.
Butterflies don’t fly in the rain.
As the days turned to weeks, then months, it seemed that butterfly was always around me. Whether I was alone at home, at a park with friends, or sipping coffee at an outdoor café, there she was. In times of intense pain or sorrow, extreme happiness or joy, I’d always secretly give a quick glance around to find her. She was always there, even as Spring rains became Summer heat waves, and as Fall leaves finally fell to the ground in the icy cold of Winter.
When the quietness of Molly’s absence was too deafening and the emptiness too heavy to bear, I decided it was time to find another dog, to once again fill my life with love and laughter and drool and fur.
I struggled with the decision. Was it too soon? Would it be a disservice to Molly? Would I secretly wish the new dog was her? Could I possibly love another dog as much?
I’d always found comfort in running my fingers through Molly’s long, thick fur. It was my only criteria for a new furry friend. The butterfly danced around me as I nervously made the call to adopt a young Golden Retriever from a few towns over. As I made the hour and a half drive, I hoped I was doing the right thing, that the butterfly’s appearance was my “sign” that it was ok, but began to doubt myself as I got closer to the house where I would be picking her up.
When I finally arrived and anxiously approached the front door, there it was – my butterfly. One hundred and four miles away from home, she was dancing around in the nighttime sky.
Butterflies don’t fly at night.
In Dogs We Trust: Tales of Unconditional Love, Inspiration, and Sacrifice is an anthology collection of true and touching stories from renowned authors, pet parents, poets, and animal activists from around the country. Curated by Veteran Traveler Lon Hodge who, alongside his service dog, Gander, travel the country educating and advocating for both service dogs and for veterans.
The book can be purchased by clicking here.
All proceeds benefit service dog and veteran charities.