Before you read this know that it is not meant to be a sad story.
It’s just a regular story.
A regular story about a regular dog.
A few weeks ago I lost my dog.
He must have struck out on an adventure in the wee hours of the morning and never came home.
That happens sometimes when you live in the middle of nowhere.
Animals just disappear into the great nothing and you never know what fate has taken them.
It’s a gloomy situation, calling for something, and searching for something, and waiting for something only to realize that that something has just vanished.
I have to say, I’m not surprised that life with my dog would end this way.
He was always a source of mystery, appearing years ago as a floppy-eared puppy, hidden in the weeds like Baby Moses without a basket, gangly and terrified.
At the time I already had a little weenie dog. She was the one who found him. Her barking alerted me in such a way that I ventured over convinced she had happened upon a coiled snake.
Instead, a bony, blond canine stared up at me with cow-like brown eyes.
I noticed quickly that he had been ruthlessly tortured.
Wounds striped his back as if he had been lashed, round burns the size of a cigarette lighter littered areas of his hunkered frame, and his neck bore a deep gash all the way around it as if he had been held captive with a sharp wire.
He flinched away when I tried to touch him, but after some coaxing he warily approached an offering of Ol’ Roy dog food.
Soon he perked up and played with all the other animals, trusting every kind but humans.
He had a sweet disposition, but still, even after a week at our home, he was still a bit “psycho.”
So, I humorously gave him the name “Norman” after the famous owner of the Bate’s Motel.
It seemed to suit him.
Through patience, Norman blossomed, always following in behind me, daring to nudge the backs of my legs with his nose.
I never knew Norman to not have a grin across his goofy face, usually with his blue-speckled tongue dangling from one side of his mouth.
But, the pain was also there in a sense of “fight or flight” veiled behind his eyes.
He became confident enough that I could pet him, he even coveted the contact, and eventually after a long while both my son and I could playfully wrestle with him.
Always he met me at my car, peeking his heavy frame just inside the opening of my door.
He’d even, on occasions, stiffly let other family members lightly touch him along his broad horse-head of a nose.
Norman was hugely lovable and kind, with the gentlest of natures, sitting contently watching squirrels play in the yard, or slowly escorting deer in a non-confrontational manner off our property.
He was a perfect pet.
But still, I pondered to know his story.
Where did he come from?
Who had inflicted his wounds?
How did he make it to my home?
I wondered if he had had the ability to communicate with me would he have told me these things.
Would he have wanted to open up the emotional trauma that stayed with him long after the physical trauma had healed?
Would I have forced him to be honest with me and argued with him that whatever it was he was feeling needed to be done-with and gotten-over?
Would I have convinced him his fear was unjustified?
Would I have told him that his lack of trust came from a lack of faith and therefore he could “pray it all away”?
Would I have insisted that the only way to be a loyal dog was to be like every other dog?
Or would I have just turned to him and said, “It’s okay. No matter what happened, you are still a very good boy.”
Sometimes that’s all any of us want to hear, that in spite of everything evil in the world, there is a Master that accepts us just as we are.
Maybe at some point, He has even called us good.
Norman never let anyone, not even me, touch the back of his neck were that jagged cord had been wrapped.
It was the breaking point of his strength.
Some scars are just too deep and too damaged to even have the tips of them grazed.
Even though healthy fur grew over it, that part of him was wild and painful and belonged to a dark past.
I respected him for that, I could even relate.
As crazy as it sounds often when I looked at Norman, sitting on our front porch, lost in his own thoughts, or perhaps fast asleep dreaming about rabbits, Hebrews 13:2 would float around in my peripheral vision and thump me lightly on the head.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for in doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels and did not know it.”
I do not think Norman was an angel, but to me he was busily being useful to God.
That is quite angelic.
We do not know what scars people carry around with them or how quickly they will come and go in our lives.
We don’t know why they shy away, or keep to themselves, or only smile from across a room.
We only know that in all things we should strive to be hospitable.
Because, well, you never know.
Like the one grand task of a dog, we can just be present when others need us, making sure they know they are not alone, with no judgement and sometimes with no words.
In return, we may even be given a higher kind of love, the kind of love that comes like a treasure in the weeds, or in the thumping of a tail.
Fleeting, but powerful.
We may even find joy through pain, seeing God create good in what man conceived as bad.
Just like He did with Norman, the World’s Greatest Dumped Dog.
And there is nothing sad about that.