Alice Young’s Prayer Prompt for November 6th, entitled God is Enough, took me back some 30 years to a July evening at our home in Port Tobacco. The events remain clear; the learnings vivid.
Chico and his brother, Ben, came to live with Sherie and me and our three elementary school age children. They were eight-week old liter mates given as Christmas presents in the middle of the cold and snow of an Omaha, Nebraska winter. Ben grew up, Chico never did. Chico remained a puppy. He could never be quiet or sit still. He had two reactions, either role in it or bark at it. He followed everyone, everywhere unless it meant going outside his yard which he was afraid to do. He loved to play tug with any kind of old rag and retrieve thrown balls. His was a life of perpetual activity.
Ben died at the age of thirteen in early in 1989. In mid-July, Chico suffered a stroke during the night. We did what we could to make him comfortable, fully expected he would be dead by morning. Somehow he survived. We were certain that the veterinarian would recommend putting him “to sleep." I cradled Chico in my arms and we drove to the doctor’s office in nearby LaPlata. I had never had a special bond with Chico— his brother Ben was more "my dog." Even so I found tears coming as I held him. He was so helpless, so trusting. The doctor said “let’s wait.” Wait! Just look at him! But Chico was family, and we could not bring ourselves to make a decision to end his life.
Within hours signs of life did begin to reappear. He tried to get up and then to walk. First, he simply staggered in big circles, like a person who dizzy from spinning around. He bounced off walls and furniture falling with virtually each step. He had to learn to eat and drink all over out of the side of his mouth. He remained mute. What could the future hold for such a distorted body and damaged neurological system? But Chico tried, and tried, and tried, again and again, and yet again.
Chico always wanted to be where his people were. One evening I forgot to carry him downstairs to our family room when I went down to read. I heard a noise from the direction of the steps. There on the landing between the first floor and the basement was Chico. He had summoned his courage and supporting himself against the stairway wall had negotiated the first flight of steps. I sat motionless fearing that he would fall. But he didn't. He made it all the way. Then haltingly, but proudly, and in a gentle counter-clockwise arc he hobbled to where I was sitting and laid down at my feet.
Several nights later, after I carried Chico outside for his bathroom essentials, he disappeared. We searched and searched, but no Chico. Where could a crippled, deaf and, almost blind fourteen-year old dog who was afraid of his shadow be? Midnight came and still no Chico. Had he had another stroke, or just gone off into the woods to die? As I walked along the ivy-covered hillside in back of our house one last time, I noticed something I had missed before. The soft green leaves had been disturbed. The beam of my flashlight moved slowly through the darkness down the hill looking for other signs. Yes, there were other broken leaves. Then about twenty feet further down I spotted something that made my heart jump. It was a pair of eyes. There was Chico laying at the bottom of the hill apparently unharmed but unable to get up and certainly not able to climb the hill back up to the house. As I climbed down toward him, he tried to get up but could not. He was covered with burrs and dirt but otherwise in good shape. I cradled him in my arms and climbed the hill again. Hugging him over and over, I found myself' saying "thank you Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you"! Deep joy flooded over me. Sherie met me at the door. I stood Chico on the kitchen floor, he looked at us with his bright eyes from his tiled head, then circled around our large oval kitchen table to try to get to his water bowl which had been directly in front of him.
The evening's routine bathroom trip had been quite an ordeal. As I lay in bed, I thought about what had happened. It occurred to me that what I had felt was somehow related to the great joy that Luke speaks of when the lost are found in Chapter 15 of his gospel. Then it dawned on me, God had just shown me again the story of God’s great love and grace. Like Chico, we fall into places where we can no longer see the way, but our Lord is always coming for us—each of us—wherever we are. The beam of God’s light and the warmth of God’s embrace cuts through the anxieties and grief of this world—the pandemics and political campaigns, the animosities and isolation. God comes to our side picks us up and carries us back home. Our only act is to let God do what God is—love.