Found, but never lost
Whoosh! As the garage door came up, out they blew in a whirlwind like a Haboob off the Sahara. I knew it was coming. They had been in the pen all day; they needed to let loose, a canine herd.
My wife Barb rescues dogs, more specifically golden doodles. Of course, we can’t have one or two…or even half a dozen. Let’s just make it seven since the kids’ dogs were home while they were all on vacation. Almost a quarter ton of fur and slobber!
By the time I got the car parked and come out to wrangle them under control, three have disappeared. We live on twenty acres on the edge of farm land and they apparently decided to go out exploring. It is not all that unusual. Typically, they return quickly after burning off some energy. Not that night.
As the sun dropped below the horizon, the cold set in and the mist turned to rain. A miserable night was unfolding. I was worried that Jake, the alpha, had taken the other two on a journey they were not capable of, not in that weather. With a mixture of concern and anger, I jumped back into the car and headed down the driveway.
For two days, my life consisted of driving in ever expanding circles vainly looking for any sign of them. I contacted vet clinics, animal shelters, the police and churches. I put out flyers.
No luck. No sign of three dogs. They must have headed up into Bays Mountain Park. Soaking wet. Freezing weather. Bears and coyotes. They had little chance of their survival. My anguish deepened as time ticked by.
In one last desperate attempt to lead them home, I climb the hill behind the house. It is a quiet night. From my perch I whistle and call their names while I shine a flashlight up into the bare tree branches as a beacon. I quarter the horizon, stopping in each direction to repeat the process. For over an hour, I incite all the dogs in the valley to howl and bark. My neighbors must hate my guts. I have become a human lighthouse trying to guide my pups to safety. I fail.
I can think of nothing left to do. They won’t last the night exposed to the elements. If someone had found them, surely I would have heard. I have lost hope.
I slept fitfully and woke despondent. I checked Facebook notifications without optimism. At the end of the comment list is a note from Ty. He had picked them up when he returned from vacation. He forgot to tell me.
I am relieved. I am thankful. I am angry. I am exhausted.
My reality was one of anguish and sorrow. They had disappeared. I had run through a dozen terrible scenarios. They were suffering. They were alone. They were dead. And, it was my fault. I second guess everything I had done. It was the world I felt viscerally. It was as real to me as anything I had experienced and yet it was not the “real,” reality.
The world in which they lived was nothing like my own. It was warm and safe. They were with someone who loved and cared for them. That was their reality, and it could not have been different than the one I experienced.
How could two diametrically opposed “realities” exist simultaneously? How could they be lost and safe at the same time?
Of course, the simple explanation is that I am an idiot (the veracity of that statement is really the topic of another column). Barb had told me, among a plethora of other instructions, that Ty would pick the dogs up when he got home. I don’t do details. I had created a world of my own imagination, but it was real to me.
In my attempt to reconcile what had happened, I had an epiphany. Sometimes the physical world we experience is not true, tangible but not real. Duality exists.
I finally understand something that has eluded me. If, as my faith tells me, I am always within God’s embrace, destined for salvation, how could I, or any human, suffer so much? How could someone who has so many failings, done so many wrong things, still be worthy of that salvation. How could I be secure in God’s love while simultaneously committing sins in world of distress?
The dogs were always safe, as are we in God’s eyes. However, in my heart they were lost as am I so very often. In the end we have never been outside of the grasp of someone who truly loves us.
I have also seen the true nature of this community revealed. There were hundreds of reposts of my plea for assistance on Facebook. More overwhelming was the number of people who altered their routine and gave up their time to search for the dogs. Friends and strangers alike participated. It was an overwhelming display of love and caring. I am grateful beyond words.
Now I know what God’s grace looks like.