[OC] An old blacksmith was working in his shop...

when there was a terrible accident. The fire in his forge had gone out of control and set fire to the shop. The blacksmith nearly lost his life. He was bedridden for many months and relied on the help of his children and grandchildren to feed him, bathe him, and take care of all of his needs. Eventually he was able to get back on his feet, though his outlook on life had turned quite grim. He was now able to take care of himself, but he had lost much of his strength and dexterity from the injuries he sustained and he was unable to practice his trade. He fell into a deep depression and he spent most of his days sitting at home in front of the fireplace gazing into the flames, longing for the days when his strong hands could grasp a hammer and strike a hot piece of iron, slowly forging it into a beautiful piece of work.

One evening when the old man was sitting in front of the fire, he heard a knock at the door. It was his granddaughter, whom he hadn't seen in many months. She had overheard her father talking to her mother about how her grandfather was slowly slipping away into depression and hopelessness and she wanted to help. To the old man's surprise, she had brought him a puppy. "I thought that since you're always here all by yourself that you might want someone you keep you company," the granddaughter said. The old man's eyes welled up with tears and the little puppy instantly jumped into his arms and began licking the tears from his face. The old man and his granddaughter spent the next several hours sitting on the floor of his house watching the puppy chase around a rubber ball, bouncing, jumping, panting, and licking. In that short time, the old man had made complete turnaround from being sad, lonely, and hopeless, to smiling from ear to ear, full of joy with his new-found companion. As the hours grew late and the puppy grew tired, the granddaughter said "Well Opa, I'm glad you like your puppy, but it's late and I should be heading home. By the way, what are you going to call him?" "Life," said the old man, "because he has given me a new meaning and joy to mine." The granddaughter kissed her grandfather on the cheek, wished him goodnight, and she left.

Many years passed and all the while, the old man and his little dog were inseparable. Everywhere the old man went, Life was always with him whether it was the post office, the grocery store, and even when the old man went to the barber shop, the little dog would sit patiently until the last hair on the old man’s head had been cut . The granddaughter would often come to visit to see how her grandfather and the dog were doing, and she was always glad to see that her grandfather was still happy. But at night, the old man would still sit in front of the fireplace with Life on his lap, gazing into the fireplace as flames cast dancing shadows across the room and he fell asleep to thoughts of his old smithing days.

One morning as the old man was getting the morning newspaper from the front porch, Life sprinted past him through the front door because he had spotted a squirrel across the street. Before the little dog could catch up with his prey, a speeding car struck the poor animal. The car came to a screeching halt and the old man hobbled as quickly as his old legs could carry them to his precious companion who lay whimpering on the side of the road. The little dog was alive but badly injured. The man who was driving the car got out to apologize to the old man, but his regrets went unnoticed by the weeping old man who only wanted to tend to his injured dog. Life’s two hind legs appeared limp and broken and the dog panted and whimpered as the old man carried him back into the house. The old man knew that his dog’s injuries required medical attention but because he was out of work, he wasn’t able to afford a veterinarian. Determined, the old man did the only thing he knew how to do. He found some of his old blacksmithing tools and scrap metal from his garage and proceeded to start a fire in his fireplace. His hands lacked the strength and precision they once had but eventually, he was able to forge a crude set of brackets that would hold the dog’s legs in place as his injuries healed. The old man tended to dog’s every need until eventually, Life was able to stand up on his own and soon enough, the dog could walk, and after a few more weeks, he could even manage a awkward, limping run. Unfortunately, the old blacksmith’s craftsmanship was lacking due to his own previous injuries and the braces that he had forged would often break when the dog ran too quickly, so the old man found himself back at the fireplace with his tools forging replacement parts for his little dog’s leg braces. It was tiresome, difficult work with his old frail hands, but he was determined to give his dog the best life that he could, so he kept at it.

One day, as the old man was forging a new set of parts for his dog’s leg braces, an ember jumped from the fireplace, catching the carpet on fire. The old man couldn’t get to the kitchen quickly enough to get a pail of water to put the fire out and tragically, the old blacksmith and his dog both perished as the house was engulfed in flames.

The next day, the granddaughter and her father came to where the old blacksmith’s house once stood and they began to search through the ashes and rubble for anything they could salvage as a keepsake of their lost loved one. “You know,” said the girl to her father, “I’m really happy that grandpa’s last years were as joyful as they were. Even though he was really sad that he couldn’t make a living as a blacksmith anymore, he really did seem happy after I brought him that puppy.” “Yes dear,” said the father. The daughter continued, “But isn’t it sad how his house was burnt down when he was making one of those leg braces for his dog?” The father looked down and picked up a small piece of metal from the ashes and said “That’s one of Life’s little iron knees.”

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