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Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. --King James Bible

Love's Footprints

--by Bonnie Rose, syndicated from holychit.org, Sep 19, 2016

My colleagues who know about Pet Grief said “Get a paw print from Stella before she dies.” 

Determined to honor her passing exactly right, I vowed “I will get that footprint.” 

Stella and Bartie's feet. Photo by Bonnie Rose.

So in the midst of inconclusive vet visits and internet searches for horrifying dog illnesses, I staggered over to a craft store to survey their Pet Memorial Products.  There I found The Pet Memorial Stepping Stone.  The picture on the box indicated you could cement a pristine footprint from your dog and decorate it with mosaic tiles. 

Perfect.  I got two. 

I came home and mixed the cement.  Then the task of convincing Stella to step in it... 

For days she had languished, almost too weak to walk.  One look at that wet cement coupled with her perception of my unholy intentions and she surged through the doggie door.  She snaked around the fruit trees in our back yard, avoiding me as I chirped and coaxed behind her with my vat of solidifying goo. 

The first batch hardened before I corralled her. 

Then batch number two, a stealth endeavor.  I mixed it in secret and held it behind my back.  I snuck up behind Stella, straddled her and aimed her paw at the wet cement.  Once again, my dying dog rallied.  Her willfulness surpassed my skillfulness.  The result showed signs of struggle and looked like a lunar crater. 

To preserve Stella’s comfort, I gave up.  She had no interest in creating a cherished keepsake; so no footprint for me. 

I added this to my list of disappointments…. 

A few days later, Stella passed away peacefully in my arms.  My husband and I drove her still body to the Santa Clara Valley Vet Clinic for cremation.  I stroked her everywhere.  I smelled her ears and held her paws. I wished I had that foot print.  But I didn’t.  Failure.  We said good-bye.  Forever.

Then the card arrived at my home.

Saraswati sandwiched between Vet Techs Josie (left) Megan (right). Photo by Sue Kabel

The Veterinary Techs had Xeroxed a Rainbow Bridge Poem and fastened it to a piece of construction paper.  To the left of the poem was a small patch of Stella’s red fur; and at the bottom right, an ink footprint. Stella’s footprint.

I stood in my living room.  I touched the footprint and I wept.

In that moment, I adopted the Vet Techs.

I baked to show my appreciation.  I brought them cake for every vet visit.  Sara needs her puppy shots?  Pumpkin Spice Cake.  Bartie has an ear infection?  That sounds like time for the Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake.

The baking has become a ritual.  So now, when I fail to bring cake, I hear about it... 

A few weeks ago Sara chased a squirrel into some underbrush and came out with a swollen eye.  It was a semi-emergency with no time for cake.  At the vet’s, Megan entered the exam room to help us restrain Sara.  In the midst of a tense procedure, the removal of a foxtail from Sara’s left eye, Megan assumed a look of indignation and asked, “Wait a minute… where’s the cake?” 

Then Josie, while preparing my bill said, “I’m sorry it’s taking me so long.  I’m a little weak because…. well, you know…. there’s no cake this time….”

They tease me and apologize immediately.  “You know we’re kidding, right?” they say. 

I tell them, “I will keep this lack-of-cake-joke alive as long as possible.” 

Silently I add, “Because it feels like family.  It feels like home.  It feels like love.  Love’s footprints.”

Love’s footprints…

I think of the card the Vet Techs made for me.  Was the footprint they provided just ink on a page or was it love that slayed me with tears and hope?  Do the Vet Techs even know what they did?  And are they Vet Techs or are they Bodhisattvas, awakened beings living in truth and devotion, creating connections and honoring what matters most?   

I believe they are enlightened beings.  If they are enlightened beings, then so are all beings who serve, holding hands, paws, retractors, thermometers, heartaches, and aspirations. 

This conspiracy of enlightened beings everywhere invites an even bigger picture.  What if a secret, sacred love waits patiently in everyone and everything?  And what if this love leaves footprints, evidence of its unfolding eternal care for all of us?

Savoring the energy of the eternal, I consider my own life and how love’s footprints left trace evidence.  Yes, I can see the footprints when I look. 

There was a path that began in a roller skating rink in 1940’s New York….  A boy named John skated over to a girl named Emily and asked, “Will you skate with me?”  The footprints led this boy and girl down a bridal path.  They married and created a family with four little girls.  They taught us to love music, education, and animals.   This love, these footprints led me to college in North Carolina where I met Debbie and Jeff.  Then the footprints stepped me back to New York where I met my husband, Hugh. He gave me a Cat for Christmas – Miranda – who reawakened my reverence for animals. 

family Christmas

Circa 1994 – Buster, Bonnie, Miranda, Santa, Audrey, Hugh and Guinea Pig Bob.

New footprints carried us to California, where we reunited with Debbie and Jeff.  They convinced us to get a Vizsla, even as I claimed “I don’t want a dog, they’re too much work.”   I was right.  Dogs are too much work, too heartbreaking, and yet the footprints knew better. 

They brought us Stella, who trampled my soul and broke my heart open with her beauty. 

More footprints.  Stella hiked thousands of miles beside me until finally her footprints, her love, led me to the moment when I stood in my living room crying about a sympathy card.  And Stella’s stubborn refusal, my failed attempts to cement her paw – this too was part of the footprints’ plan.

I didn’t get the footprint I wanted.

I got the footprint I needed. 

I got the footprint from the Vet Techs, the footprint that led me to a place beyond understanding.  I got the footprint that taught me about something unfathomable yet infinitely present. 

Perhaps we always get the footprints we need.  And perhaps the secret to a good life is less about forcing footprints.  That’s like trying to get a Vizsla to stick her paw in wet cement.  Instead of forcing, we can learn to see the invisible footprints, the abiding love that sustains and directs us now and always.    

Yes, the secret to a good life is to trust love’s footprints.   

First, we see the footprints we take for granted – the care of billions, (yes billions) of big-hearted people performing small acts of devotion.

We see how these humble footprints build connection, love, laughter, manna from heaven, sustenance – cake if you will. 

Then we see all footprints embraced by larger footprints – the footprints that shepherd our lives.  We may resist, avoid and ignore these footprints.  Yet the footprints stay on track.  They relentlessly lead us to the greater yet to be.  They shatter the illusion of insignificant moments as they guide us to an intimate infinite significance. 

So today, trust love.  Trust love’s footprints.  Let love’s footprints carry you on this journey called home, exactly where you are. 

Thoughts to Ponder:

Take some time to notice the people in your life who serve you in countless ways.

Notice how you serve others through simple acts of devotion. What is your “Kindness Footprint?”

Select a moment in your life. Now look backwards to notice all of the meant-to-be seemingly insignificant details that carried you there.

In moments of adversity, trust the invisible path that carries you home, exactly where you are.

 


Bonnie Rose is a minister with The Ventura Center for Spiritual Living. The above article is republished from her blog.       


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