Searching for Awe-Filled Moments and Finding Them With My Dog

This is a picture of Gunner on the day he went back to the surgeon to make sure his luxated hip was indeed firmly back in place.

I chose my word for 2023 in early fall last year, or should I say my word chose me during a trip to South Dakota. That trip was an encounter with the divine that left me speechless, in awe, and full of wonder at what existed around me. I live in an old farmhouse surrounded by one- hundred acres of farm land that also leaves me in awe on many occasions – but what I experienced in South Dakota was profound in some otherworldly way that I wanted to hold onto, while stretching my edges into the mystical and spiritual. So I made awe my word for 2023, confident that whatever it was that I was after would make itself known.


Then, in early November, before the New Year even arrived, awe made its first impactful appearance.


It was a rainy Tuesday morning. I was emotionally exhausted from a class I had completed. It required a deep dive into self-awareness of my personal shame, including my shame triggers and the ways they show up in my professional and personal life. At the same time, there was the additional emotional toll of walking beside a loved one as they navigated the court system to rectify past decisions made while in the grips of a disease that holds a stigma and shit storm of shame all its own.


I was slow rising on this dreary Tuesday morning, blowing off my morning walk and opting for a little longer time in bed. My husband had a delivery to make in a town about an hour away, so he left early that morning with the hopes he’d be back before our workday generally started. He’d only been gone maybe twenty minutes when he called to let me know that “a deer had fallen out of the sky and landed on his truck.”


I left the house to meet my husband. We transferred the hydraulic cylinder he was delivering over to my Jeep, while the officer wrote up the report and the woman driving the rollback loaded his truck onto the rollback’s bed. After listening to stories about how bad the consequences of a deer landing on your windshield can be, we counted our blessings, thanked God things weren’t worse, delivered the cylinder and returned home.


My two dogs always meet me at the back door, barking, wagging their tails, excited to greet me. But this time only Perry was at the back door. Gunner lay at the end of the hall, spread- eagle on the hardwood floor, whimpering, immobile. I rushed to his side and tried to lift him, but he couldn’t move.


Gunner is my work buddy, my writing buddy, my walking buddy—my shadow, and my best friend. Wherever I go, he is with me, always looking at me with his kind and loving eyes. Needless to say, I broke down in tears. Dwayne was out in his shop and I called him to come in. He arrived in two seconds flat, never even ending the call.


Dwayne lifted Gunner and carried him over to his Tempur-Pedic dog bed while I called the vet.


Later that afternoon the vet told us that Gunner had a luxated (dislocated) hip and also a tumor in his spleen. Surgery could repair his hip, but we would need to keep in mind his age as we considered all the possibilities regarding the tumor. We discussed options and costs and Gunner’s well-being and quality of life, all while he lay in the x-ray trough watching us with his sweet eyes.


Surgery was scheduled for his hip the following Saturday morning with a veterinarian who specializes in orthopedics. Meanwhile, Dwayne and I would be Gunner’s caregivers – and paws. We pulled him across the floor in his dog bed so he could always be with us (like he always was prior to his injury). We fed him in his dog bed, though unlike his usual demeanor he wasn’t really interested in eating. And we carried him outside to pee. It was a lot of work, but by Wednesday evening Gunner was trying to hobble around on his own.


Then Thursday morning he grumbled at me when I went to lift him to take him out to pee. I told him fine. I knew it was cold out. He could lay there a little longer. I proceeded to walk with Perry to the back door. Extra little clicks came from behind me on the hallway floor, and I turned around to see Gunner walking down the hallway, upright, bearing weight on all four legs.


I screamed for Dwayne, who was in the shower, to come quick, while watching Gunner continue out the backdoor, down the back steps, over to my nearest plant, lift his luxated leg and pee! I’ve never been so happy to see Gunner peeing on my plants!


Dwayne and I videoed Gunner with our cell phones, while calling to him and enticing him to walk to each of us, like a new parent does to their child as they take their first steps.


I sent the video to the vet, who had me recap the last 48-hours, and said it wasn’t highly unlikely that with the pain meds Gunner could have somehow popped the hip back in place. Still, he cautioned me that the hip could also pop back out of place, so I needed to discuss next steps with the surgeon.


An appointment was made for the surgeon to see Gunner, and meanwhile I informed my Mom and my friends of Gunner’s miraculous event. I told my mom, “I didn’t even pray for this.” To which Mom said, “I did.”


That afternoon the surgeon took more x-rays and confirmed Gunner’s hip was back in place. She showed me the before and after x-rays, and commented that Gunner had the most endearing face. I told her that I didn’t know if I needed to praise Jesus for this or if this was something that was common. She said that I should always praise Jesus, then proceeded to remind me that the tumor was still visible in Gunner’s spleen on the x-ray, but for now we would celebrate this moment with Gunner.


I’m still celebrating that moment and the additional moments I have with Gunner on our walks, and while I’m working and happen to look up to catch him staring at me. I’m even celebrating when he lifts his leg and pees on my plants.


What awe-filled moments are you celebrating? And just out of curiosity, are they moments you prayed for or somehow brought into being?