We have a dog named Buddy (aka Bud Dog, aka Bud Man, aka Buddy Pup . . .) who developed a weird looking (and feeling) knot on his shoulder, but before the vet got ready to remove it, he tested our furry friend for heartworms . . . and got a big ole positive for his efforts. So before we could de-knot the dog we had to go through round one of treatment, followed by 30 days of kenneling, followed by surgery and a second treatment, followed by another 30 days of kenneling.
For the uninitiated, heartworm treatments require kenneling of the treated animal so they don’t run around getting all excited, causing the heartworms to break loose and act like a blood clot. And for those who haven’t thought this all the way through, that meant we had to walk Buddy every morning and every evening and every night before bed. That is, unless we wanted to clean up a mess.
I took the morning and before bed shift and my husband took the evening walk. I don’t know about his experience, but Buddy was possibly the most accommodating dog known to man when it was my turn. I’d open the kennel door, he’d walk up to me and stick his head through the leash, and then gently walk down the steps off the porch (where the kennel was located, so he wasn’t out in the weather and we could install a heat lamp for the cold nights). Then he’d drag me all over the yard and out into the field, looking for that “perfect” spot. Once said spot had been located (and it was never the same spot twice), he’d take care of business while I stood looking around because . . . I mean . . . what else am I gonna do?
One night, while standing in the cold and listening to the silence that surrounded me—and waiting for the Bud Man to head back to the porch—I looked up. I don’t know why I hadn’t done that before; maybe on this particular night, Buddy was taking a bit longer than usual, perhaps the night was a bit darker than most other nights, or the moon was shining just a bit brighter than I was accustomed to seeing. Whatever the reason, I looked up . . . and the sky was filled with stars.
Where we live the stars don’t have to compete with the street lights or the parking lot lights of some major retail outlet. The sky belongs to them and I was awe-struck by their infinite beauty. I found Orion’s belt which pointed the way to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky and a part of Canis Major, or The Greater Dog. He is the constant companion of Orion, the hunter, who was placed in the night sky by Diana, goddess of the hunt and the moon, as a way to ensure his immortality after her brother Apollo tricked her into killing him. The Greater Dog also chases Lepus the hare, who sits eternally beneath Orion as though he waits for the hunter to notice him. If you’re a fan of mythology, then you know every constellation has a story, and that night so many of them sprang from the recesses of my high school and college-aged brain to remind me of what I had learned so many years ago.
I stood that night, gazing in wonder at something that had been there all along, but which in the chaos of Life, I had forgotten. From that point on, I looked forward to our nightly walks because I knew what awaited me. There were nights when the clouds rolled in and Buddy and I walked in the rain . . . cloud-covered nights that often tied themselves together in what seemed to be an endless string of darkness. But then the clouds would part to reveal a sky sprinkled with pinpoints of light . . . just as it has always been, despite Nature’s attempt to hide their beauty.
Most of us have grown weary over the last two years . . . years filled with cloud-covered nights that seem to have hidden the good things of Life behind an endless string of challenges and tragedies. But somewhere, behind all those clouds, the stars are shining. Sometimes, all you have to do is look up, though there are nights it might take a while to find one. And sometimes—like now—you have to be patient, knowing they’ll reappear when the time is right. But whether or not we can see them, the stars are always there . . . just as they always have been . . . just as they always will be, despite all the clouds behind which they are often hidden. Here’s hoping that in the coming year we will continually look for the stars, focusing on them when we find them, and knowing they will return when Life hides them from our sight.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.