I was sitting on our front porch one morning recently, thinking back over the summer. If you've been reading along with this blog for a while, you know that I am a "summer" girl. I love the sunshine, blue skies, and any possible time I can spend enjoying the water. The past summer was certainly full of sunshine, a record breaker for the Seattle area...no complaints from me!
Summer seemed to end with a vengeance...a mighty rain and wind storm several weekends ago. We lost power for a day and a half here and friends were out for even longer periods of time. Normally, I would be a little depressed to see summer go, but this year I have to admit I was ready to move on. Why? Well, this past summer had some tough times...barely keeping my head above water. I can't go into detail about most of them, but there is one that I will share.
As some of you know, we have a dog named Oakley...half Golden Retriever, half yellow Lab. From the day our son brought him home, Oakley has been a wonderful pet. As a puppy, he only had one "accident" in our house, and the only thing he ever chewed was the rope handle woven around a glass sea ball. He quickly learned simple commands and made "friends" with our neighbors and their dogs...including a neighbor's beagle pup, Henry. Henry was a little older and Oakley loved to follow him, roll around with him, and tear apart dog toys together! Fortunately, Oakley was loved by all our neighbors and we never had to worry if we left him outside when we had to leave for a few hours. If he got bored at our house, he just wandered to one of the neighbors on either side, was welcomed in, and given a doggie treat. When we came home, we would call and he would come bounding back...happy we were home.
This arrangement worked well for the first four years of Oakley's life...until we moved a quarter mile down the road. When we moved in, Oakley would stay in the yard as long as we were home. If we left for a while, however, Oakley would wander back to the old neighborhood...partially swimming his way, partially walking through yards, and even on the road. That was the concerning part, because there is no sidewalk on the lake side of the street. We tried tying him up outside on a dog run when we left for a few hours, but he always seemed to manage to get stuck or get off the leash somehow. Our old neighbors graciously brought him home if Oakley didn't wander back on his own or we would drive up the road and pick him up. (I know some of you are probably thinking we are bad pet owners, but in our defense, our dogs have always been able to have some freedom and wander about the yard...especially when we lived on 5 acres).
After a year or two of being in our new location, Oakley wandered up the street less and less, and we became more lax about tying him on the dog run. He always had a collar on with our name, address, and two phone numbers, plus he was micro-chipped.
In August, it came time for our driveway to be resurfaced with black top, so big machines were brought in to dig up the existing surface. Oakley hates the sound of big equipment! Once my husband builder took him in the truck to a job site on the other side of the lake and up a road, and while there decided to do a little trenching of the driveway with his machinery. He didn't realize Oakley had jumped out of the truck and taken off until he finished his work. Very concerned, he called me and I jumped in my car to drive to the jobsite, looking for Oakley all along the way. Not finding him, I returned home and made calls to the Animal shelter and local veterinarians to report him missing. I was just getting ready to make a flyer, when who should come swimming along the shoreline but...Oakley!
One of the days the big equipment operators were at work, I was home with the door open to the deck to get some breeze. Oakley was laying on his bed out on the porch and was very content. I was working on a cake in the kitchen when I glanced outside and saw that clouds had moved in. The sky looked rather ominous, like a storm was moving in. Glancing out on the porch, Oakley was still there so I wasn't worried. I heard thunder rolling in and I again looked for Oakley, who had now moved into the living room. Knowing Oakley hates thunder, I was glad he was inside. I forgot the door to the deck was open and went back to my cake decorating. When I finished the cake a while later, the storm had passed and I looked around for Oakley. He was gone, but I wasn't too worried. I figured he had just gone up the road and would be back soon, now that the thunder had stopped and the big equipment operators were done for the day.
Night came and our son Drew drove up the road to our old neighborhood, calling for Oakley. He usually came bounding up the neighbor's driveway, but not this time. Sometimes our old neighbors invited Oakley in and I just hoped that was the case since it was too late to call. Waking in the morning, I was sure Oakley would be back home...but he wasn't. I threw on my tennis shoes and began jogging up the road, calling for him. I stopped at a couple neighbors houses but no one had seen him the day before. Now I was worried! I ran the other direction toward the public beach, calling his name, but no Oakley.
Reluctantly, I returned home and called the two local veterinarians to notify them and emailed a photo. I called the Animal shelter in Everett, got a recording, and drove over there to see if anyone had brought Oakley in. I kept thinking surely someone would call us since he had his ID collar on! He was not at the shelter either, so I filed a report and promised to send in a photo once I got home. The day was warm and sunny and I walked through the front porch to open the sliding door, glanced at Oakley's bed and noticed something beside it on the far side...yep, his collar with the ID tag. Knowing one of our sons would sometimes take off his collar to give him a good scratch, I knew that's what had happened. Now, I really felt sick to my stomach, knowing his only ID was the micro chip that was not visible.
We made flyers and posted them in local grocery stores and mini marts/gas stations. Getting ready to post them up and down the road on power poles, the rain started up again so we decided to wait until the next morning to post them outside. We posted his information on a lost dog website too. I kept praying...hoping...that Oakley would be found. Several friends also prayed along with us.
We left for Plain on Friday night, knowing our oldest son was home in case Oakley returned . He promised to post more flyers around Lake Stevens. The next morning, as I was working in my shop, a woman called, said she had seen the flyer, and informed me of a lost dog page for our county on facebook. Promising her I would post a picture as soon as I could take a break, I continued working...feeling pretty discouraged. Our younger son was out of town and I dreaded telling him Oakley was missing. He and Oakley have such a bond.
The store was busy and I was just getting ready to post on the lost dog facebook page when I received a phone call. A man said he thought he had our dog! An acquaintance of his had found him the day he went missing two days before, but couldn't keep him any longer. I told the man our son would call for directions to his house and be there within a few minutes. When the gentleman opened his door, Drew said Oakley came bounding out, barking and wagging his tail like crazy!
I was so happy...and so thankful! I texted our neighbors and friends to let them know he was found! Driving home that evening, we too had a joyful reunion with Oakley.
Thinking back on the whole experience, I wondered if this was just a small glimpse of how Jesus goes after his lost sheep. As it says in Luke 15,
Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. ’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
I love this picture of Jesus...pursuing the lost ones from his fold and rejoicing when they return. C.S. Lewis often spoke of the Holy Spirit as the "hound of Heaven"...searching, sniffing out the wandering ones, beckoning them home. I think we as believers get complacent sometimes, forgetting that God can and often does use us, if we are willing, to befriend and come alongside the lost ones we know.
I know these situations don't always end this way. I am so grateful that Oakley was found and is back with us at home. Oh, that we would continue to pray for and seek after those who have wandered from the fold of faith.
Have a wonderful weekend! Warmly, Gracia