By Devin O’Branagan
This is the second installment of my series about animal-related miracles (read the first installment here). These events happened to a good friend of mine, a British man who wishes to remain anonymous to preserve privacy of the family involved. His letter to me is reprinted here in its entirety, with his permission.
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I finally got to read your Tails column, and think it’s time I shared something with you, a story of my own that I’ve shared with very few other people in the world.
These days, I normally describe myself as a spiritual man, rather than an outright religious one (I have objections to organised religion, but that’s a different matter). I was trained as a scientist and am logically inclined, and so for the longest time I was the most aggressive sceptic out there. I wouldn’t believe you if you told me it was raining unless you could show me a wet umbrella.
That changed, not overnight, but largely as a result of one particular incident in my mid teens, just before I joined the army. I think I’ve mentioned before that my father took over the running of a small (300+ head, about 80 acres) sheep farm, more or less as a retirement project. I could tell you a thousand stories of the few years I spent there, but that would take all day.
Our nearest neighbour (with the exception of an elderly couple that had bought a small corner of one field to build their retirement home on) was an old farmer, we’ll call him Tom, who lived by himself on a few acres about two miles away. His only companion was Bessie, an equally ancient Border Collie, a long-since-retired sheepdog.
I was driving past the lane that led to his house on some errand or another when I noticed Bessie was sitting at the end of the lane. Not barking, not really even moving at all, just sitting. It was so rare to see the dog without the master that I slowed down to see where Tom was, just to make sure he wasn’t mowing the hedgerow or something.
As I passed, Bessie barked, just once, and turned to trot down the lane back towards the house. I’ve had dogs all my life, I know when a dog is trying to tell me something, so I turned down the road and followed her. She led me past the house, round the back of the yard and to a large shed (more a good sized barn), where I could hear a tractor running.
Thinking this must be where Tom was, I stopped, got out of my own truck and went over to the shed, dragging open one of the doors and thinking it was odd that Tom would have closed them so tight, it wasn’t that cold a day.
I found Tom, face down on the floor next to his running tractor, where he’d unscrewed the exhaust pipe so it was pumping out diesel fumes onto his face.
I was still a young man, so suicide never even crossed my mind, I just assumed that Tom had been working on his tractor and had got overwhelmed by the fumes. I picked up Tom and ran for it, kicking open both halves of the door as I ran, and laying out Tom in the yard.
He started breathing again almost immediately, and aside from turning him over so he could cough out great clumps of black soot from his lungs, all I had to do was wait for the ambulance to arrive once I’d called them.
While I was waiting, I looked around the yard, eventually spotting a small square stone embedded in a patch of freshly turned dirt. It read “Bessie – we’ll meet again some sunny day” and gave dates.
Bessie had passed away three days before.
Because it was an “industrial accident,” the Health and Safety people got involved (I told them I had gone to visit Tom to return his lawnmower rather than try to explain about a ghost dog), and then the police tried to prosecute me for driving on a provisional license (like a learner’s permit) without a qualified driver in the passenger seat, and so on, so it was almost two weeks before I got to see Tom again, in the Geriatrics ward at the local hospital.
I spoke to one of the doctors there. Depression, they said. Tom has suffered from it for years, ever since his wife died and his kids had moved away decades ago. Losing his old dog was the final straw. Lucky I came along when I did, they said. An attempted suicide is more often a cry for help than a deliberate attempt to end a life, they said.
When Tom and I finally got a moment alone, I told him about Bessie, expecting at any moment to get shouted at for telling lies and ghost stories to an old man. Tom listened carefully, in silence, before closing his eyes so I wouldn’t see his tears. “Thank you,” he said. “It seems Bessie wants me to go on living, at least for a bit longer.”
A few weeks after that, Tom’s youngest daughter and her husband moved in. A month after that, they announced that they were expecting a baby.
Tom lived for another two years and got to see his big old house filled with love and laughter (and more dogs) again before passing of natural causes. I was serving at the time, so couldn’t attend his funeral, but when I got home, I moved Bessie’s memorial stone to be by Tom’s, in the graveyard of the local church. Wherever they are now, I like to think that they are together.
And that’s why I describe myself as a spiritual man. I was trained as a scientist, true enough, but I’ve seen too much and done too much to think that everything out there can be explained away with dry old facts and figures. I’ve met people (normal, rational people like yourself) with similar stories to tell, and I had more experiences that I simply can’t explain. There is another world out there, one that has rules that I just don’t understand, and honestly, that scares me. Anyway, just wanted to share this with you.
Warmest regards, as always,
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I am honored my friend shared this with me, and thrilled he allowed me to share it with you. There is so much wonder and mystery in creation, if we are open to receive it!
Copyright © 2014 – Devin O’Branagan – All Rights Reserved
Devin O’Branagan is a bestselling author who writes novels about uncommon heroes. Her genres include fiction about dogs and cats, comic romance, paranormal romance, and paranormal thrillers. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America, the Cat Writers’ Association, and many of her writing projects support animal rescue. Her books have been published by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books in English, Heyne Verlag in German, and Dogan Egmont in Turkish. They may be found in print, eBook, and audio formats. Visit her website at DevinWrites.com, and check her out on Facebook and Twitter.