Her voice was tremulous, as she tried to choke back the tears that were just beginning to fall.
“It’s Gladys…I think she’s dead.”
The tears came in earnest as she led me downstairs to her beloved chinchilla’s cage. I saw that her hands were shaking and my heart started pounding as I spotted Gladys lying limp and unmoving. Once I got close, I could see that she was breathing, but it was labored and shallow.
“She’s still breathing?” New hope entered Julia’s voice and she reached inside to gather Gladys against her chest. Gladys’ eyes opened slowly, as she responded to Julia’s familiar touch. She tried to take a drink from her water bottle but the effort seemed to be too much for her.
Her eyes closed again, while my daughter’s locked onto mine, silently pleading for me to do something, anything to save the pet she loved so much.
Doug arrived home within minutes and we decided to take Gladys to our local vet. Julia spent the short ride holding Gladys, stroking her soft fur, relieved that she was still breathing.
However, the doctor refused to even see her, leaving the receptionist to explain that he does not deal with exotic pets. Regretfully, she gave us the name and address of a veterinarian who was 45 minutes away.
My husband immediately said that he would take Julia and Gladys while I went to pick up our son from track practice.
They headed south as soon as we got home.
Doug called with the sad news about an hour later. Gladys had stopped breathing just as they entered the vet’s office. There was nothing they could do, but they were very sweet to the devastated girl before them. They lovingly wrapped Gladys in a blue towel and placed her back in Julia’s arms for the drive back home.
“She had a good life,” she quietly told her daddy as they drove along the highway. He agreed and assured her he was proud of the way she had taken such good care of Gladys for the past three years.
Once they got home, we walked around the yard in search of a good place for Gladys’ burial. Julia chose a spot on the side of the house, underneath a flowered bush. Then she went inside, unable to watch as Doug began the sad job of digging into the earth.
Once he was finished, we all walked outside with Gladys. With tears streaming down her face, Julia placed Gladys inside and gave her a final, loving pat. She stood, arms crossed, watching as Doug covered the hole. Later, she placed a memorial stone on top.
The tears streamed all that night. Julia did not want to go to bed, so we allowed her to stay in the living room, watching TV.
In the middle of the night, her daddy got up to be with her. They passed the rest of the long night together. They didn’t talk much, but they didn’t need to. Sometimes, all you need is your daddy’s presence to know that even though you are sad, it’s going to be all right.
I thank God that Julia has a daddy who cares about all that concerns her…who is always willing to go the extra mile on her behalf…who repeatedly demonstrates to his daughter the selfless, extravagant, protecting love of her Heavenly Father. His steady, strong, and calm presence is always a soothing balm in any stressful situation for all of us.
I am also thankful for a a wondrously creative God who made lions, tigers, giraffes, and turtles… and a furry, lovable little chinchilla named Gladys, who brought a world of joy to my sweet girl, who has always had such a tender heart for all animals.
The following day, Julia posted this quote on her Facebook page: “To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk disappointment. To try is to risk failure, but these risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”