My son’s family dog was staying the week with me while they were out of town. Bella knows me well as I visit her house often, and she has stayed with me for a few days several times. She is six years old, weighs about eight pounds and, although her breed-specific diet consists of regular dry food and water, she never ceases to believe that a handout is coming. She grabs an occasional crumb that falls from the table, but for the most part no one purposely gives her anything other than the designated food and occasional doggie treats.
On this Sunday, friends were visiting me from out-of-state. Before we left for Sunday morning church service, I secured Bella in the house and left the back door open so she could go in and out to potty and sun herself. When we came back home and she didn’t meet us at the door, I knew right away something was wrong. Tami, Haley, and I all called for her. No response. A quick glance at the gate and I could see that she had managed somehow to push the bricks out of the way and likely escaped under the gate. Apparently she became alarmed or angry that she was left alone and dug herself out of the back yard. How this little dog managed to move the bricks that were blocking the gate, I don’t know, but she was gone. We prayed.
Bella is a calm and cuddly companion. As soon as I sit down, she jumps on my lap to be stroked and then sleeps. She accompanies me on my walk each morning and sniffs out rocks and plants (and doo doo) along the way. At night, she snuggles close to sleep—I’m not sure whether she’s protecting me or thinks I’m protecting her. Does she just want to be close; or is she missing her family—especially the children? Probably the latter, and now she had escaped.
While my visitors prayed and walked around my neighborhood, I went to my son’s house to check the voice mail in hopes that someone had found Bella wandering around. There were several messages. One caller said they had seen the little dog from my house running down the street, but the next caller (Trisha) had great news. She had Bella in her house. Thank God for the phone number on her collar. Trisha gave me her address and I headed to her house. Bella had run almost 2 miles through rocks and sand, across a busy 4-lane road, and onto an unpaved road lined with million dollar houses.
Trisha opened the gate for me with Bella in her arms. She said she was letting her big dog out (he had probably seen Bella) when she saw this little dog looking through the gate. She went out to investigate and, seeing no other human being anywhere near, she picked Bella up and saw the phone number on her collar. She took her in the house, wiped the dust off of her, gave her water, and called that number and left a message. When she didn’t hear back from the message, she asked her husband to pick up some dog food and a bed for Bella—fully expecting her to become a member of their family. Bella was obviously lost and very thirsty. Trisha said Bella had been there for several hours which meant she dug herself out of my gate shortly after we left. She came willingly into my arms and snuggled on my shoulder as if to say, “Sorry.”
There was no better house for Bella to stop at than Trisha’s. She was an elderly lady who loved dogs and had already decided she would keep Bella if her owner did not call for her.
Back at my house, my visitors also gave Bella hugs to welcome her back home, then she settled down to nap in the gold chair–her favorite daytime sleeping place. We went to the kitchen to make dinner … and along came Bella dancing on her hind legs.
Bella’s one trait that exceeds them all is begging. It doesn’t matter if I think she’s sleeping, when the refrigerator door opens, she’s there—tail wagging and standing on her hind legs. When the cupboard opens, she’s there—tail wagging and prancing on her hind legs. When I sit down at the table to eat, she’s there—tail wagging and delicately balancing on her hind legs. Why? It’s as if she thinks, after six years, this might be the moment of breakthrough. This might be the time she’ll strike it rich and get a dainty morsel—a taste of something different from her regular food. She does not become discouraged when time after time she gets nothing. Next time, she’s there again. She doesn’t give up.
I call Bella the Eternal Optimist. And I’m reminded of Jesus’ words: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). Do not grow weary for in due season you will reap if you faint not (Gal. 6:9). Keep anticipating the rewards that come to those who eagerly wait (Psa. 27:14).
NOTE: Update: January 26, 2016, at the age of 10+ years, Bella did not wake up. She left her loving family behind. The children ages 9, 7, and 5 had her watchful eye from the time they were born. She has left her footprints on all of our hearts. “People who love God take good care of their animals” (Prov. 12:10).
First published in The Alabaster Box, 2010 (c) C. Yvonne Karl