If you're looking for a story with a happy ending, then this is the place for you! But like any good ending, this ending must first require a beginning and a middle, and some Life Lessons (*LL*) too. This story is about our dog Poco Bear.
Ryan and I adopted Poco Bear from a shelter on April 12, 2007. Poco had been at the shelter for nearly two months, a few more days more and he would've been put to sleep. Poco (that's what we call him for short) was an impulsive decision 100%. Financial advisors council that impulse buys should be avoided like the plague and are often a waste of money. But I think impulse buys with four legs are an exception to the rule (I have a sister-in-law who would agree). Poco is the smartest and best sixty-something impulse buy we've ever made. Our interest in Poco has doubled with each year we are graced with. He reminds me of the vast amount of God's love each and every day. *LL* See Psalm 37:4 (try your Bible please).
Fast Forward 5+ Years
My husband, our boys (Poco and our fat cat Ike), and myself moved from rural Eastern Oregon to Chattanooga, Tennessee so I can continue my education (I like to call it "chasing dreams and degrees").
We were born and raised in the NorthWest; most of our family and friends are there, and in case y'all (said with a Southern accent) haven't noticed, TN is very different than OR. Unfortunately Ryan had to fly back to Oregon for business, which means it has just been me and the boys in this foreign land for a while now. In this time that I've had alone with the boys, I have drawn exponentially closer to Poco Bear (the Lord too, now that I think about it). Now that Poco is man of the house, he does not let me out of his sight for more than 5 minutes. He'll even follow me from one end of the house to the other just to stay close. It can get annoying at times, but most of the time I appreciate his protectiveness and loyalty. Between he, the other folks that live on the 30+ acreage, and the Lord, I feel very safe here. *LL* Psalm 91 (that's in the Old Testament in your Bible).
The evening before last, I left our abode @ 5:45pm to have dinner with some new friends. Prior to my leaving, Poco insisted on being outside. The temperature had lowered, his dishes were full, and he spent most of the day inside, so I caved. I've left Poco outside while I'm gone many times before. The acreage that is at our disposal allows him plenty of space to roam if he so choose, but he rarely does. He mostly just lies by my pick up or where my pick up parks. This was also the case in Oregon.
But for whatever reason, this evening was different. I have different theories but to save words I'm going to blame the thunder and lighting that was popping up all around our residence.
It was 9:15pm by the time I came home from dinner and running errands. Usually Poco greats me before I'm done parking my rig. But he was nowhere to be found. I called and whistled, prayed, checked all his usual places, prayed, and nothing. Darkness set in quickly, preventing me to throughly check the woods that we are surrounded by. I drove up and down our lane, nothing. Ike even helped. No Poco Bear. Plenty of lightning.
All the animal shelters were closed by this point, so I spoke with the emergency shelter operator who took my information. I called dispatch for our local police department, and between sobs, she took my information. I called the microchip hotline and updated my contact information with them (by the way, if you don't have that for your dog(s), yesterday would be a good time to get it. Here is the website.) I drove the neighboring neighborhoods again... and somewhere between all this (the order of things is fuzzy) I started texting people to "please pray". Then I posted this on my facebook:
I got very little sleep last night. My ears kept tricking me into thinking I heard a Poco sound or his knock at the door. I'm very thankful for my many friends and family who were consistently encouraging me and lifting up my dog in prayer. A special thanks to Nancy and Jordan, who refused to let me forget the kind of God I serve, the God that is love (1 John 4:16)."please please please pray. I came home from going to dinner and Poco Bear (my dog) is gone. He did not have his collar on. He's old and lighting is striking outside which he doesn't care for. Please pray that he comes home asap. I'm trying really hard to trust that he's ok and will come back. Please pray. i don't know what else to do."
Dawn took too long to come this morning, and shortly after it did, I was outside walking the woods and streets, calling Poco's name. This is where the "What if.." and the "If only.." started playing like tracks on an album inside me head... "What if he drowned in the pond..." or worse "What is someone thinks they're doing a good thing by rescuing him and keeping him?"
"If only I would have kept him inside...." or "If only I would make him wear his collar at all times...."
*LL* Isn't Satan good at that? The guilt trips. The blame games. These types of trips/games have never been fun, but yet I go there and do that too often. I've found that this is where memorizing Bible verses is key. God's promises are like changing the station on Pandora. We don't have to listen to that garbage, there's plenty of truth just a prayer away. (Encouraging text messages from friends also really help as it turns out!!! You know who you are, thank you!)**
By 7:30am I was walking back to the house. Discouraged doesn't properly describe the weight of my heart at that time. *I'm having a really hard time remembering the order of everything* After searching outside, I came inside and did a quick google search and found this article (especially #2) and read these suggestions about making a flier and noted all the suggestions that came in via Facebook or text. Then I made a simple flier on Microsoft Word and posted it on Facebook and asked people to share it. I have the best friends/family; they shared the photo quickly. Next I headed back to the neighborhoods with fliers. A contractor and dog lover who has been working on the property, took time out of his day to help me for a while. He too has been blessed by Poco.
Then I came back to the house again to regroup and decided to stuff envelopes with fliers to send to local veterinaries. I called each veterinary's office and let them know I was sending the flier and asked if they would write a quick note down and post it on their board until my flier arrived.
**LL** Some of the veterinary office staff were extremely kind and compassionate. Others were not (I've been guilty of this too). I would often start sobbing mid sentence while talking to these people. It was a powerful lesson for me. I realize they probably get those type of calls every day, but I was experiencing a heart brake (plus sleep deprivation). See Hebrews 13:2 (try looking it up in several versions). The even more powerful lesson was turning the Hebrews 13:2 concept back on the unkind receptionists... I don't know what's going on in their lives, that they wouldn't be courteous to someone who has just lost their dog. ***Tons of power and goodness in that Bible verse. **
I passed out dozens of fliers, and can not properly tell of all the encounters I had today because of the shear volume, but I would just like to say that God's hand was in it all.
So at some point I decided that I would go to the three major animal shelters in the Chattanooga area and that I would take the back roads to get there, which as it turns out allowed more flier distribution. It was scenic and time consuming, which is what my brain and heart needed. Songs came on the radio like "The Hurt and the Healer" by Mercy Me, which was such a gift. My phone was jingling often from texts, emails, and calls, which was also a gift (most of which I will respond to tomorrow or the next day).
In the middle of all this.... In the middle of traffic, in the thick of the heat of the day, in the depths of my heart ache, in the movement of people joined together through facebook over a lost dog, with a pile of fliers in the passenger seat.... the Holy Spirit reminded me of these verses:
"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep! Count on it - There's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.
Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it - that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God." - Luke 15:4-15 (MSG)As if I needed another reason to cry. Driving down the freeway now unsafe from blurry vision, I scream aloud,
"How. How do you do it? This hurts so bad!!! I don't know how you do it. How do you handle all the pain you must experience from knowing your kids are lost times a gazillion."My answer to my question didn't come until later in the day (and for you it won't come until the end of the story).
What Selfishness Looks Like
I finally got to the Humane Society in Chattanooga and was immediately hit by the wave of an awful odor that I don't even know how to describe. The windows were sealed shut, in attempt to keep the hot humid air out I'm sure, but I think it just kept the awfulness in. The smells, the heat, and the animals crying was once again the perfect combination for a sob fest. As it turns out, even cute Vans sunglasses don't hide tear downpours.
This was dog hell and my dog doesn't belong. No dog does, or any animal for that matter. I rescued Poco from such a hell once already.
I tried my best not to breathe while waiting in line, which was hard because the rest of the day was spent trying to just breathe. In order for the paperwork to be considered complete I had to walk through the kennels to make sure Poco wasn't already there. I was look for someone who was carrying a leash and talk to them.
Each kennel that I passed by my heart broke more, by the time I get to a human with a leash, I literally couldn't speak. My pathetic attempt at apologizing for not speaking and sobbing uncontrollably just made it worse. And for some reason I felt compelled to somehow convey to this human that I'm not crazy, which also just made it worse. Finally a second human with a leash comes, I hold a picture of Poco, and the she says, "It's okay. Just follow me. St. Bernard's are hard to miss, this shouldn't take long." She was right, but I was there long enough to gain an incredible amount of respect for anyone who works or volunteers at such a place. That place needs more love and attention.
Repeat this ugly sob routine, which consists of details that I'm purposely admitting, for two more shelters and that sums up a good junk of my afternoon.
Just as I was leaving the third shelter, I got a phone call from a stranger who had shared the flier on Facebook (where she had got it from, I do not know) who had a friend who's grandparents might have seen Poco this morning across the street from there house. Confusing I know. But the best news I've heard. The caller wanted to make sure I hadn't found Poco before messaging her friend for more information. I was very paranoid about giving strangers certain details, but I gave her my information and anticipated a phone call back.
An hour passes (it's around 4 or 5pm by now) and I talk to her again and talk to two other people who all put me on the same street. Part of me was excited but the other part was thinking, "this could be a horror movie scene" but since I had trusted my day to the Lord, I had faith that he would protect me.
I couldn't find the street on mapquest or google, so I asked the employees that work where I live where the street is. They helped me find it on a map; and to my relief, one of them offered to go with me.
Facebook, It's What You Make of It
We get in my pick up and head west. 3 miles pass and we think we missed it. Thank goodness for smart phones. We continue going forward and both say out loud, "There's no way Poco went this far". We get to the street and I take a 4th call who also suggests the very street I'm now parked on. I knock each door and show the flier, tell the story. Until finally an elderly couple confirm the Poco sighting from this morning. They also saw him this afternoon headed east on Apison Pike. They told me, "Don't bother going down the rest of this street. We'll tell them for you. You hurry and go down Apison Pike."
And so that's what we did. It's hot. I'm tired. But willing to do this every day for years if I have to. I've never known this kind of commitment for a four legged creature... and possibly any creature... ever.
I drive slow with my flashers. Windows down. Air conditioner all the way up. And I shout above the roar of the rig, and the bugs, and my doubts, and my pride, "Poco.... Poco..." (thank goodness I didn't name him Marko Polo).
Then we hear, "Hey! Wait!".
We look towards the shout. I throw the rig in reverse and drive in all the lanes on the highway. My passenger is concerned, possible scared. And then we see him, my baby, God's creature and source of countless blessings, our Poco Bear.
Like a Movie Scene
Covered in dirt and grass and leaves and bugs, Poco sees me. He is barely walking, but somehow running. I stop my pick up and with out parking it, I'm out the door and running toward my no longer lost dog. I fall to my knees and praise the Lord and hold my arms wide open to embrace my dog and my Lord. Poco buried his face in my chest, like he so often does. And I burry my everything in him and Him.
I get up and tell Poco to "never do that again". Then I walk to the man that slowed us down and I hug him and thank him. I ask "How long has he been here?"
"When I heard you yelling, I looked up, and all of a sudden the dog was here. I didn't even know he was here. I keep dog food out in the field, for animals that might need it." **Hebrews 13:2**
The Ending (Well Kinda)
I brought Poco home at about 7:30pm, his entire back end was stiffer than I've ever seen it. I fed and watered him. He instantly ate a gallon of food and drank lots of water. He has some raw spots on his hind legs from running/walking.
Although Poco was exhausted, I decided to take him to Petco, so I could give him a good bath and make sure he didn't have any ticks. It was 8pm by the time I got done creating and sharing a new picture to update everyone with the good news on Facebook. It was 8:30pm by the time I got to Petco (which closes at 9pm). The staff went above and beyond their job duty, to make sure we were ok. I had been there earlier in the day (you guessed it) sobbing with a flier; I think they were just as excited as me (well almost) to see Poco safe and sound. There are not words (especially this late) to express the customer service that was so graciously bestowed on myself and my dog. I will for as long as I live here, shop at the Petco on Gunbarrel Rd in Chattanooga for all my pet needs.
Poco was so exhausted, he could barely stand. **LL** Isn't that how we are, when we let the Lord finds us and enters our hearts? Filthy, beat up, exhausted, just barely able to stand, thirsty, hungry, but yet thankful and relieved. I've been there before. I visit that place all too often.
And I've been the women who looses a coin, like in Luke 15.
Today I got a tiny, itty bitty, glimpse of what it's like to be the Shepherd frantically searching for his lost sheep (lost souls). I experienced what love can accomplish through strangers who are willing vessels. Today I discovered a love that I didn't know existed.
So How the Pain?
Choosing love, is worth it all.
A place where a God who is love (1 John 4:16b) is celebrated. <In words, in pictures, in testimonies etc...>
I'm realizing it's important that we encourage one another with how we see God working in our lives. It seems like there's lots of places for prayer requests but not so much for praises. He does answer prayer! And people need to know that!!!
Ok so I've created an open group on Facebook called "God's Not Dead, but Very Much Alive"
Please invite your friends.
Use hash tag #GNDBVMA on Twitter.
To all of you who prayed and helped my find Poco Bear in 24 hours, THANK YOU. I hope to somehow "reward" each of you some day.
God is love,