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Little Brown Feathers

She was a dog-lover and didn’t own a bird, so where did they come from?

An artist's rendering of an issue of Weekly Reader with an angel pictured on it

Why did I have to lose my beloved beagle right before the holidays? This was supposed to be a joyful time of year, but without K.C. it was the most lonely.

I packed up his dog dish and leash, and remembered the Christmas five years ago, when a friend of mine first told me about the beagle she’d pulled from a shelter.

“You’ve never seen a smarter dog,” she said. “Or one more friendly.” He was full grown, and trained, with initials for a name. I’d always loved beagles, and with my son away at college and my longtime Sheltie companion gone, maybe it was time for me to adopt a new dog.

I agreed to meet this rescue of hers, but with no promises to take him off her hands.

As my friend probably could have predicted, K.C. came home with me that same afternoon. She lent me a crate for him to ride in, but he settled himself right in the passenger seat as if he’d been my loyal friend all his life.

He looked so gallant, his red collar standing out against his own soft, tawny brown markings—I couldn’t bring myself to ask this princely pup to sit in the back. All he needed was a golden crown to make him the picture of nobility.

I put K.C.’s favorite blanket in a box with the other things, and tucked it in the back of my closet. Our time together was too short, I thought. In the last few months, old age had taken its toll on him. Now at least I knew my little prince was safe at rest with the Prince of Peace in heaven.

Can’t I know that, Lord? Can’t I be sure he’s safe with you this Christmas and for all the Christmases to come? If I really believed it were so, I should have felt at least some of the joy of the season.

I hauled out the vacuum to distract myself with housework before my son Shawn arrived for a visit. Cleaning would be a cinch without K.C.’s fur everywhere.

I plugged in the cord and turned on the machine. The truth was, I’d have welcomed all the extra housework in the world to have K.C. back with me.

Back and forth I went, over all the floors. I paused near the big bay window in my kitchen—K.C.’s favorite spot to nap while the sun streamed in. Now it was just a cold and lonely window. I stopped the vacuum just below it and bent down to examine three tiny objects on the floor.

Feathers? The vacuum can handle that, I thought, but as they were sucked up the tube I heard myself gasp. They were brown feathers, the exact same color as K.C.’s soft, tawny markings. What an odd coincidence.

By the time Shawn arrived, my kitchen floor had never been cleaner. We settled in at the counter, sipping cups of Russian tea. “What will you do without your little prince this Christmas?” Shawn said. “I can still picture him napping by the bay window.”

We both turned to look as if expecting to miraculously see K.C. It had started to snow and we watched the fluffy flakes drift to the ground.

“Hey, Mom,” Shawn said, bending down, “did you get a bird?” He scooped up a few tiny brown feathers from the floor. They were that same tawny brown as the feathers I’d vacuumed up earlier. Not too dark, and with just a hint of auburn undertones. The exact color of K.C.’s markings.

Was K.C. shedding feathers from heaven? The image made me smile, but I kept it to myself. Shawn would really worry if he knew I was entertaining such wild ideas.

“I don’t know where they’re coming from,” I said, and left it at that.

“Maybe they’re from K.C.,” Shawn said. “Maybe he’s got wings the same color as his markings!” I almost started crying.

There were no more feathers after that. I didn’t need them. My regal pooch had brought me enough joy to last that Christmas and all the Christmases to come.

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