Chili Dawg’s Story

Last month, Shari (Dakota Dawg’s Woman), sent me a story that she wrote for Noah, my 4 year old. The first few times I read it to Noah, I cried before I was able to finish reading it to him, but we got through it each time.  She gave me permission to share it with you guys.

Chili Dawg’s Story

The day was quiet and peaceful and serene. Of course it was. The Father approached a group of dogs dozing in the sun near a large Catalpa tree. The tree was in full bloom, as always, and some of the dogs were asleep in the tree’s shade. As the Father approached the dogs, a few lazily opened an eye to glance at him.

The Father sat down in the grass under the Catalpa and began to pick apart sprigs of grass. The dogs roused themselves and became more alert. A Dalmatian looked at his companions and then at the Father and asked, “Is everything okay?”

“Well,” said the Father, “I have a need, and it will be difficult.”

“Ah,” said the Dalmatian.

“Go ahead and tell us,” said the Collie, sitting up.

The Father looked at all the dogs in the group before answering. “You know I’ve asked many of you, my companions, to help in earthly affairs over the millenia. I have a need now that is urgent and I cannot simply assign it to one of you. This is a need whose fulfillment must come as a gift.”

“Well, tell us what makes it so difficult,” said the Beagle.

“And urgent,” added the Scotty.

The Father smiled at them briefly, and then his brow creased with concern. “My friends, there is a young woman who has become discouraged and defeated. She has been injured and her injury has been devastating. She is not healing. Her spirit needs more than it is finding in her life. She has much love surrounding her, but she needs more. She needs one of you.”

The dogs looked at each other for a moment before the Poodle spoke. “Father,” she said, “we’ve done this before. Why is this different?”

“Because you won’t be coming back,” replied the Father. “Not right away. Not for a long time. I am asking for one of you to voluntarily give up your home here and live a natural life there. With her. With the family she will make. Her need is great enough to require your love and dedication for a natural lifetime. This will not be a quick trip.”

There was silence as the dogs considered what they had been told. The few who remained laying down now sat up, and many shifted their weight nervously as they thought of the implications of a giving up their place here and living for years with this woman whom they did not know. Finally, the Husky spoke. “It sounds like a lot of work,” she said.

The Father looked directly into her icy blue eyes and said, “Yes.”

“And it sounds like there is no guarantee that it will be easy,” said the Saint Bernard.

“No,” answered the Father.

Again there was silence. After a moment, the Father rose and turned to walk away, intending to allow the dogs to consider what he had said.


The Father stopped and paused before turning around. He knew who had spoken.

“Father, I just have one question.” The ruddy Golden Retriever stood but looked at the ground.

“Of course.”

The Golden looked at the Father and asked, “Will I be loved?”

The Father’s eyes crinkled as he smiled broadly. “Oh yes! Indeed, you will be loved beyond what you can imagine!”

The Golden paused. “Then I will go.”

The Father nodded slowly. “They will give you a name. I can show them whatever name you would like to be called. You are a beautiful, gentle soul and can choose a name to reflect your spirit.”

The Golden thoughtfully nodded. He sat back down and gazed off toward the river shining in the distance. A slight smile came over his face as he turned back to the Father. “Please tell them my name is Chili Dawg.”

Murmurs broke out among the other dogs. They had been sitting respectfully as the Golden and the Father talked, but now some of the murmurs turned to laughter.

“What?” asked the Father. “Why in the world would you want something like that? That sounds like something a Labrador would pick.”

The Labrador in the group laughed loudly and raised a paw in the air and waved it.

The Golden smilingly said, “Well, if this is to be my life, I want to enjoy it. I want to be loved, and I want to have fun. So I want a fun name.”

“Oh you will have love and fun both, Chili,” said the Father. He walked over to the Golden and squatted down to look him directly in the eye. He put his arms around the dog’s neck and buried his face in the ruff of his neck and whispered, “You’re a good boy.”

The Father stood up and looked at the group. He asked, “Do any of you have any questions?”

“Yes sir, I do,” said the Boxer. “Can I go with him?”

A look of thoughtful amusement crossed the Father’s face. “Hmm, two of you? Well…yes, but not just yet. Chili will give a great gift that will cost him a great sacrifice. This family will need you more then than now.”

“Sacrifice?” asked Chili.

“Yes, Chili. Gifts this special cost a great deal. Surely you know that.”

“Yes,” said Chili. “I do. But what does this mean for me?”

The Father walked back to Chili and put his hand on Chili’s head. “You will take away her pain with your love and acceptance. But you will know pain as well. You will live as an ordinary dog and you will have extraordinary love. When your time is done, you will die from a perfectly ordinary disease. You will be released from your pain, and that release will again cause great pain to this woman, to her family. Then you,” he said, nodding to the Boxer, “will help them heal.”

The group of dogs murmured again. “But Father, “said the Greyhound, “when does this ever end?”

“Yes,” said the Pug, “if we heal a human heart, but then their heart breaks again when we leave, when does it end?”

“Well,” said the Father, “I have made the human heart with the capacity to break and heal this way over and over again. The best thing I ever did when I made them was to give them the ability to persevere and take chances, even when things seem bleak. They find their strength in this breaking and mending. This is how I demonstrate my love through them.  My heart breaks when they leave me, but it is always an open heart, waiting to be healed with their return. When one of you leaves them and their heart breaks, there is another waiting to show them how to love and heal again. Their capacity in this is endless, as is my love.”

“I understand,” said the Boxer. “I will be needed, so I will wait here until you tell me to go help Chili.”

“Thank you,” Chili Dawg said to the Boxer. “I have a feeling that I will need you more than I can imagine right now.”

“Well Chili, you’d better get ready to go. There is a man down there who doesn’t know he is expecting you. He has a wife who doesn’t know she needs you. She won’t be thrilled to see you, Chili, but she will come around. And you will be amazed at how fiercely she will come to love you. And the children, too.”

“Children?” asked Chili and the Boxer together.

“Oh yes!” said the Father. “Didn’t I tell you there will be children one day? Would it have made a difference, Chili?”

“I would have volunteered sooner, had I known I would get children,” Chili said. His big tail swung broadly with happiness.

“Then let’s get you there so you can get to work. And you, my Boxer friend, won’t have long to wait. Now, let’s go.”

Chili walked over to the the Boxer and they touched noses for a moment in goodbye. The Boxer sat down under the tree, prepared to wait as long as was necessary. Chili turned and left, ready to begin his new life as a perfectly ordinary, extraordinary dog. And on earth, a family had no idea of the gift that was about to come to them.

Thank you, Shari, for writing this for us.  It means so very much to my family.


14 thoughts on “Chili Dawg’s Story”

  1. We think it is one of the most beautiful things we have ever read!!! Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us.

  2. So beautiful! How hard it is to explain these things to a 4 year old. Shari – what a gift you have given! Profound thanks.

    Judy and Baby

  3. Wow. This is “straight from the heart” ~ from one heart to another.
    Thank you Shari – so beautiful.
    Joanne & Lylee

  4. Wow, I’m humbled that you folks like this little story so much. It isn’t terribly deep, but as I told Jenna, I wrote this for her family and knew no one would need convincing that our dogs must have special roles to fill at times. Jenna needed Chili. Chili came. Simple as that.

    With all of the losses lately, I’ve thought a lot (an understatement) about the point of it all. Rather than be discouraged, I chose to believe that the Rainbow Bridge might have another side, and on that side our dogs wait for us to be ready for them. Why not?


  5. Just to be clear: When I say the story was not terribly deep, I mean that it was never written to inspire philosophical questions. It was written for folks who need no convincing that Chili Dawg had a purpose and carried it out nobly. I don’t want anyone to construe what I said to mean that Jenna doesn’t read deep stuff. She’s a smart cookie with intelligent kids, and I have no doubt she could debate philosophy with anyone. Noah, too. He’s way smarter than I am. I’m sure he wins every argument.


  6. What an amazing and wonderful way to tell Chili’s story. Very beautiful, tender, simple to read but presents life as we know it.

    Thanks for sharing, the chauffeur

  7. Oh my goodness. I too should have read this after work as I am sitting hear in tears! Beautiful, meaningful, lovely, helpful, so much more. I also think it would make a wonderful children’s book about love and loss. Thank you for writing it, Shari, and thank you for sharing it, Jenna. I imagine it will enable Noah to work thru this loss in a very meaningful way.

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