Remembering our sweet Annabelle, whom we buried by the pond just several days ago — one year after her passing…

I’d taken our sweet Annabelle to visit my friend and loving veterinarian Dr. Beth. She’d been acting unlike herself and was having difficulty going potty. She tried to be happy, but her obvious discomfort weighed heavy on my heart.

After assessing her briefly, Dr. Beth said they should do an exam, which would take a little while. “Do you have anything you need to do?” she asked me. “Any errands?”

I did. I had eggs to deliver and a package to mail at the post office. I could also pick up Allie from school, and together we’d return to get our Golden Girl.

I worried, as any mother would. And so I prayed, asking for Jesus’ peace for Annie, for her health — pleading with God to heal her — as well as for wisdom for my veterinarian friend.

After delivering eggs, I stopped at the post office to mail a book to a hurting cousin. “When God Doesn’t Fix It” by Laura Story is a wonderful testimony by one who has lived with the hard of life and has learned to trust God’s loving hand as He works in all things to make something beautiful.

After paying for the postage, I noticed a Salvation Army Angel Tree near the exit. Another woman was looking at the tags that hung on its branches — trying to choose an “Angel” to adopt. I stopped, too, to look. “How do you ever choose?” the woman said aloud.

“I know, it’s so hard. You want to adopt them all,” I replied as I scanned the names.

Then my eyes fell on one — and I knew. My heart hurt as I removed the tag from the tree and walked to my car. I drove to get Allie, and we returned together to the animal hospital to hear the news that I had feared.

We got our Girl in the van, and Allie and I cried the whole way home. We knew the time to let her go was near. Annabelle wouldn’t be with us this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Just shy of her 14th birthday, we knew we would have to say goodbye.

And I knew then why I’d felt prompted only a few weeks earlier to make the keepsake ornament that Bill had placed in my stocking last Christmas. Annie’s paw was imprinted in clay — her name and the year etched in, as well. This year it will hang on our tree, a reminder of our Angel Dog.

And soon, Allie and I will go shopping for our adopted “Angel” — buying her the items on her “Wish List.” And we’ll say a prayer for this Annabelle, whose Christmas we hope will be brighter because we picked her — this senior citizen with the same beautiful name as the Golden Retriever puppy chosen by Ian and Jacob in January 2004, named for the main character in their favorite Christmas movie “Annabelle’s Wish.” Our “Free To A Good Home” puppy was worth far more than her weight in gold.

Today, one week from her diagnosis, Annie’s ashes are contained in a beautiful box which we will bury next to our good dogs Jack and Hope and sweet kitties Mia and Beatrix Potter. The dog that our young boys said hello to all those years ago Allie said goodbye to on Friday, November 10th — a sacred moment between a girl and her friend as Allie whispered through weeping, “I’ll always love you.” This same puppy that Ian and Jacob welcomed to our home almost 14 years ago was the dog that welcomed Allie to her new home over five years ago now — with a wag of her tail and lots of healing kisses.

And me? I’ve learned a lot about life — both literally, as well as metaphorically — from a dog named Annabelle. Mostly, I’m learning a little more that, even when God doesn’t fix it, He’s still working in it — making beauty from ashes.

To grant consolation and joy to those who mourn… to dress them in beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of sadness, a garment of praise instead of a heavy, burdened spirit… that [God] may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)