Archive for March, 2011

Lost Dogs

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Last week I learned some very important life lessons from the ranch. I’d like to share them with you.

I’ve always prided myself on taking all the precautions and going above and beyond what most people would do to keep our animals safe on our property. Yes you could say type A, perfectionist and obsessive about their safety. I spent thousands of dollars when we built this farm five years ago to put non-climb wire with a board on top around the entire perimeter of our 50 acre ranch. And for the last few years I lived in this place of knowing our dogs could not escape this large yard I had created for them. They loved to run, chase squirrels and whatever else crossed their paths. I felt secure in my little bubble that they were safe. Well that bubble burst with a loud pop last Tuesday morning when some animal in our woods ran and all five of our little black and white Jack Russells ran after the critter. The animal had dug a hole under the wire fence and it knew to run out that escape hole. Unfortunately, the dogs were right on it’s tail and ran through the escape hole right after it. As I hurried after them calling (more like screaming) at the top of my lungs, I could hear their yips as they ran deeper into the woods hot on the trail of whatever they were chasing. Jack Russells are hunters after all, but of my five, really only two of them were authentic at it. The others just followed the pack. As I stood at the fence calling and calling with no result, Seth (the doberman who is way too big to go under the fence) and I could no longer hear them. I went from annoyed to angry pretty quickly. It was about 10 am and I had just lost all of my little dogs.

I had lost these same five a few weeks ago in the same manner when they went under the fence chasing four deer. They had all returned about 30 minutes apart within a total of 2 hours. So at this point, I was predicting their staggered return and although I was concerned, I wasn’t panicking.

About 30 minutes later, Sheba showed up and ran to me all happy and very dirty. I had no idea where she had come from since I was still standing near the hole they’d gone out and she hadn’t come back in that way. Obviously there was more than one hole they were coming in and out from. I took her and Seth to the wash rack and gave them both a bath. While I was doing that, Zoe arrived back at the barn with blood all over her. I brought her into the wash rack and bathed her looking for the source of the blood. It was easy to determine as the blood poured out of a tear in her ear. I tried bandaging it but that didn’t work and eventually it did stop bleeding. Her ear was split in two. After I put those three into their yard, I went back out to the race track where our woods start and continued to yell and honk the golf cart horn trying to help them find their way home. With hundreds of acres of woods behind us, I knew there was a good chance they could get lost or hurt out there. After about another hour of that with no results, I had to leave to go to the feed store. I left the field gate open hoping they would return on their own.

When I returned from buying feed, Tyler was back at the yard gate. I hoped that Candy and Puddles would be close behind. I was getting worried because they were not hunters and I wasn’t sure they would find their way home. Candy, after all, had done this before since she was lost when I adopted her as a stray 8 years ago. As the hours passed with no sight of them, I started to drive around the block every hour to see if they had come out of the woods anywhere. Still there was no sight of them. I ran off fliers and dropped one in each mail box of those on our street so anyone seeing the dogs would know where they lived. By dark I was panicked. My little dogs did not know how to spend the night in the woods. There were coyotes, wild hogs, bobcats and who knows what else. I was thankful at least that it wasn’t to be a cold night. Gary and I prayed continuously and I sent our prayer request to all those I knew. I looked at the two empty beds where they slept each night and I felt very sad, like a piece of me was missing.

As I lay in bed that night I thought about families whose children have been lost or stolen. I wondered how they could bear it. Although these two are only dogs, they are my family and we love them. I have never had children and my animals have filled that void. How much worse would it be to not know where your child is. To imagine all the horrors that they could encounter out on their own. I realized I had thought I was keeping them safe with my fencing and protected environment but I also had to admit, I had seen a few holes over the last few weeks but had not taken the steps to fill them in and maintain the ‘fortress’. I had gotten lazy about protecting them. I had just figured they wouldn’t go out the holes because they don’t dig. I had forgotten about the influence of the world outside their yard. There had been a warning to me when they had escaped chasing the deer a few weeks ago but I had ignored that warning. I thought about how many times in our lives we try to keep our children, our animals, our lives safe but we don’t always take the necessary steps to do just that. We find it easier to just go along with what everyone else is doing instead of listening to our own intuition and the voice of God. I’d been warned to take the necessary steps for their safety, but I hadn’t listened. And now, I was feeling guilty, scared and worried. I loved them both but Puddles was my favorite. I was feeling guilty because I was thinking if only Puddles would come home, I’d be okay with that. It was a long and restless night.

In the morning, I looked outside hopeful that I would see two little dogs waiting by the yard, but they weren’t there. We attached fliers to the STOP signs on all the roads around our property. I started cruising the roads again. I put fliers in all the feed stores, HITS, and the Kwik King’s. I headed to the pound to give them a picture of the two and give them their micro chip numbers so if anyone turned them in they could call me immediately. As I drove down Hwy. 27 my phone rang. It was Gary. “Do you believe in miracles?” he asked me. “Absolutely”, I answered.

“Puddles is home!” he informed me, “I came out of the house and there she was sitting at the gate to the yard”. I cannot describe the overwhelming joy I felt. Tears started pouring down my face as I thanked God for being so merciful. I had begged Him to show Puddles the way home. She had survived one night in the forest and had found her way back home. I was sure Candy would be close behind her but I continued onto the pound to report her still missing just in case. As I toured the pound and looked into the faces of all those hopeful dogs I felt so bad that their owners didn’t want them or hadn’t come to claim them. Candy was not there and she had not been reported as found. On my way home, I placed more fliers in feed stores, tack stores and Publix, hoping someone would pick her up, see a flier and call me.

When I got home I was so excited to see Puddles. She seemed a little distant and disoriented but was happy to be back. She gave kisses and rolled over looking for my love. I wondered when I had started taking these guys for granted. I wondered when I’d started to live so much in the future and all my grand plans that I’d stopped appreciating each moment I shared with them. I wondered when I had stopped living every moment to the fullest and enjoying the here and now with each of them and the horses and my husband. Now is really all we can ever be sure of. I finally understood that life could change in a moment and that we should live in such a way that there are no regrets. God has given us this moment and we never know what will come next. As I make my plans, God directs my steps. Finally, I understood how to truly appreciate each and every moment of my life. I knew I should call my elderly parents more often. I needed to stay in phone contact with friends and other family. In this day of texting and emails everything has become so impersonal. But any moment could be the last one you have to spend with a loved one. I wondered if Candy knew I loved her.

Just after feeding that Wednesday night I got a phone call from a person down the road. He told me he’d seen Candy at 5:30 that morning on someone’s lawn near his home. Even though it was twelve hours later, I jumped in the truck and headed to where he’d seen her and called and called but she was nowhere to be found. I drove back home in the dark not knowing if someone had picked her up or if she had gone back into the woods still trying to make her way home. She was obviously disoriented and lost. I realized that by keeping them in my protected bubble I had not prepared them for life outside their yard. They didn’t know how to find their way home. I decided then that I would start taking them for walks down the road and around the neighborhood so they would learn how to find their way home if this ever happened again. I think it was the not knowing that was so disturbing. Had Candy been picked up and was enjoying herself in someone’s home? Was she still lost in the woods and trying to find her way back? Was she lying dead somewhere in the woods? We kept praying for her safety and health and return. So many people were praying for her that I knew God was listening. But fear was in my heart.

By Thursday morning and still no Candy my optimism was starting to waiver. I had canceled all visitors to the ranch. The other dogs were restricted to the yard while we worked on boarding up all the holes around the 50 acre perimeter. Something that should have been done weeks ago. I couldn’t help thinking it was like “shutting the barn door after the horse had run out”. I was equally begging God for her safe return and praising Him for bringing her home. I wanted to harden my heart and tell myself I didn’t care what happened to her just so the pain and fear would stop. I had posted fliers everywhere, called the pound and the Humane Society and I didn’t know what else I could do. Then around 4pm I received a phone call. My heart jumped with hope. But the lady who called just informed me that she had seen Candy on the side of the road in the same area as the other man at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon. She was heading to the HITS show and had wondered why she was out there all alone. I asked her why she didn’t pick her up and her reply was she didn’t want to get attached to any more animals. I understood her emotions but I wondered why someone seeing a lost little dog wouldn’t pick her up to keep her safe and take her to the pound. Any owner having lost a dog will always check the pound first. But the lady had left her there and when she returned two hours later she said she didn’t see her again. This time I took the golf cart around the neighborhood honking the horn hoping she was still hiding in the bushes somewhere. I got calls from people who offered to come out and help me search. It was so amazing the kindness of strangers when I asked them to keep an eye out for her. As I drove around I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 18:12-13 “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish”. If I could never give up on finding Candy, how much more determination does God have to save all of those who are lost? I gained a totally new perspective on the urgency of helping those who are lost to see the light. But darkness came again and still we had not found Candy.

I will admit by Friday morning I was filled with fear. Candy, it seemed wasn’t coming home. I was finally in that place, where as they say “the rubber meets the road” in my faith. My heart said God was big enough to do this and “All things are possible”. But my head was telling me after four days, the chances of her coming home were slim. I had done everything that I could and now it was up to God. I happened to watch Creflo Dollar that morning on TV as he talked about fear. He taught that when you have fear about one area of your life it is because you’ve stopped believing God for that area of your life. I had to think for a moment about why I was feeling so fearful. I did believe God could bring Candy home after all that was easy for Him, but the fear was because there was a question in my heart, “Did I truly believe God would do this for me?” This was what was causing the fear. I immediately prayed to stop the torment of the enemy on my mind and the fear lifted. I told God I did believe He would do this for me and I knew in order to move this mountain, I had to truly believe in my heart…….and so I did. I meditated for the rest of the day on scripture Mark 11:22-24 “if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Friday evening just after feeding as it was getting dark, my cell phone rang. “I think I have your dog” said the voice at the other end of the line. I started to cry from the relief and joy of her words. She gave me directions, Gary and I drove the five miles to their home and I held my breath as we got out of the truck. In her arms was my sweet Candy. As I took her into my arms, she covered my face in kisses. She too seemed disoriented and shocked but she was so happy to be back with her mom. The couple told us the story of how Candy came to be with them. She had traveled down our road to the far end about two miles. When their grandson had gotten off the school bus on Wednesday afternoon, Candy had followed him home but it was on the intersecting road and we had not put fliers down that road. I had not imagined she would have gone so far. Candy had then been taken to the grandmother’s home. When she had driven back over to see her daughter and was returning home, she finally saw the flier I had put on the stop sign at 115th and CR 326. That was Friday night and she’d called me right away. So in truth, Candy had only spent one night in the woods and had been well looked after since then. We brought her home, removed a couple of ticks, gave her a bath since she was full of fleas and watched her reunite with her children. (She is the mother of the other four JR dogs we have).

Candy & Puddles

Once our little family was safe again in the house that night, we knelt down and thanked God for bringing her safely home. And in my heart I felt a soft voice asking me “Why did you doubt Me?” I knew that this lesson from our ranch would stay with me whenever other storms headed our way in the future.

The next morning, I started teaching myself how to stay “present” in each moment and to enjoy the day as it unfolded and to praise God for it! I had learned that the safety of my world was only by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus. And I learned that all the ‘head knowledge’ I had from sitting in church each week was not the faith that the bible speaks of. I learned that my personal relationship with Jesus and my ‘heart knowledge’ is really what makes the difference. God hears our prayers and if you really believe in your heart, without doubt, He will move mountains.

Blessings to all from our family,
Gary & Trish
Candy, Puddles, Tyler, Zoe, Sheba, Seth