Cheddar, the rescue cat, and Cuddles, the rescue cocker spaniel, sat for hours with me by my godmother Helen's bed. 

cuddlesandcheddar1At the age of 97, Helen had come to live with and love us and she adored dogs. We wanted a senior dog for her, since Helen was a senior. It was love at first sight, when we found a nine-year-old dog through a rescue group in our state of Oregon. Helen named her Cuddles.

Cheddar showed up at our door and decided he wanted to stay. We did not need another animal since we already had six dogs, two cats, and five horses. After checking with our local humane society's missing animals' list, we advertised to see if someone had lost Cheddar.

One day, as Helen, who was then 98, went for an outing down the road in her wheelchair with Cuddles on a leash beside her. Cheddar joined them. He followed that wheelchair from then on, going on all their walks. That was the final sales pitch. Cheddar made himself family.

By the time Helen was 100, she had just ridden a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a lifelong dream. She lived her last years of life with our family and was now on hospice and in her last days.

cuddlesandcheddar2The nurse had been there to see Helen this morning and said death would likely occur in the next couple of days. Helen had been sleeping and unresponsive for 36 hours. Prior to that, she'd had a stroke, which left her unable to look to her left or move that side.

The caregiver decided to take a walk with Cuddles. I sat next to Helen and talked on the phone with my family. I suddenly said, "I have to go." When they asked why, I was not able to explain it. I just had the feeling that I needed to hang up.

I began talking again to Helen, telling her that soon she would see her husband, my parents, who were her best friends, and God. As I was chatting away, Cheddar stood at the door and began meowing. He was looking up above the door window. His meowing got louder and louder.

I continued to chat with Helen, wondering if Cuddles was back from her walk and at the door. But no one was there. While I talked to Helen, I glanced over at her and had to stifle a scream. Her eyes were open, as wide as saucers. She looked to her left, which she had been unable to do because of her stroke. She focused on the same spot Cheddar was looking at.

When I regained some composure, I said, "Helen, what do you see?"

She looked down beside me on the floor and then into my eyes. I told her that I loved her. She took her last breath.

Right then, the caregiver came running into the room. She said, "Mary, guess what? I was walking back here, and the sky and clouds turned the most beautiful shades of colour. The site was more beautiful than I've ever seen in my life. And I smelled a sweet smell pass by."

The caregiver stopped talking as soon as she realized that Helen had died. Later, she said that she had lost her faith long ago, but this experience had brought her right back into the love of God.

The neighbour's son was out at the barn. When he went inside, he described to his mother the same colours in the sky. At the time, neither of the caregiver or my neighbour's son knew what was going on with Helen.

In thinking about Helen's gaze, I believe she was looking at God and the ones who had come to welcome her to eternal life. When she looked down to the floor next to me, I'm pretty sure she saw my dog, which had died a few months earlier. The dog had come to Helen, too!

Later, when we were trying to figure out how to incorporate Helen's pets into our huge brood, my friend said, "Mary, whatever happens, you cannot let that cat go. You all shared an experience unlike any other. And he saw God!"

Cheddar and Cuddles remain part of our furry family today. My husband, family, and I are the grateful recipients of all the love and joy these two bring us.


The Rev. Mary Piper and her family share their lives with a variable number of rescued dogs, cats, five horses, and other rescued animals. She is an Episcopal priest and a hospice chaplain. Her story, "A Moose Messenger" is featured in ANGEL ANIMALS BOOK OF INSPIRATION by Allen and Linda Anderson.



This story appeared in and I am very grateful to Rev Mary Piper for giving me permission to include her story on this website.


Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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