Lilo, the Guide Dog Puppy With the Sixth Sense

If we've spent time with animals in our lives we know all the love that is there for us. What a wonderful gift they are! Here is a story about Lilo that has been shared with me. It is one of fifty stories in Heartbeats, True Stories of Love.

I raise guide dog puppies for the blind, and a puppy-in-training is allowed to go anywhere a guide dog can go, so when I got the call that my mother had had a stroke and was in the hospital in Dallas, "Lilo" (the only puppy I had raised who had not met my mom) and I left quickly for the plane trip to Dallas.

When I entered the hospital with my dad, I received the normal reaction I always get when people see a puppy-in-training: smiles from everyone. The doctors, nurses, receptionist and orderlies all smiled, no they grinned at us, and, everyone came running to pet the puppy. While doing this volunteer work, I have noticed that it always seems to lighten people's hearts to see a beautiful and well-behaved puppy in the training process.

On this night though, we needed to hurry, so we were quickly ushered upstairs to Mom's room. She lay in a bed covered with a mesh canopy, which was secured for her own protection. Mom was startled when we entered the room and fell to the edge of the mesh. There was another patient in the room, but Lilo went directly to my mom and started licking her arm through the mesh. Lilo usually does not lick, so this was a curious response.

The nurse undid the canopy so we could hold Mom's hand. When she did, Lilo put her paws up on the side of the bed and systematically licked her entire arm. My mom did not recognize me at that moment, but she put her arms around the dog and tried to speak. We guess she was saying, "puppy, puppy, puppy," but just "pha" sounds came out, as she had lost speech with her stroke. I was touched but quite bewildered. How could Lilo possibly have known which person was my mother? She did not even look in the direction of the other person in the room before making a beeline for my mother.

After this very thorough greeting, Lilo decided even a more close-up approach was needed. I was surprised because after all the training I had given her for the last year (the rule is always to have four feet on the floor), she tried to get up on the bed with Mom. I stopped her three times, when the nurse turned to me.

"Oh, goodness," she said. "That would be the best thing for your mom, so do please let her get up."

Up she went. That is when she really did her best work. She lay down next to Mom with her belly facing up and snuggled her neck up to my mom's neck. We fixed Mom's arm so she had it around the puppy, and for the next thirty minutes or so, our little world was perfect. Peace and love surrounded all of us while I showed Mom some important family pictures of Dad and her with my kids, which I had grabbed while trying to hurry out of the house to get to the airport. I thought this was a good alternative to conversation, as she had lost her speaking ability with the stroke. Mom was happy. Dog was happy. Dad was happy. I was happy. The nurse had tears in her eyes.

Finally the time came to say our goodbyes. The nurse had to put the mesh canopy back up, so we waved to Mom through the mesh and told her we would see her the next morning. This was when Lilo decided one more kiss was imperative, and pulled against the leash. I let her go. Again she went back to Mom's bed, put her paws up on the side of the bed and kissed her one more time up and down her arm through the mesh. I heard Mom sort of giggle.

That was the last time I saw my mother alive. The hospital called early the next morning to tell us she had had a massive stroke and passed away. I take great comfort in the fact that some of her last moments were spent with Dad and me, and especially with such a compassionate puppy, who somehow knew what my dying mother needed most: unconditional love.

Heartbeats, True Stories of Love is available on Amazon as an e book and paperback. The stories are uplifting and inspiring. They remind us of the importance of love.