26: When Hope Found Me at the Beach

26: When Hope Found Me at the Beach

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

When Hope Found Me at the Beach

Dogs are miracles with paws.

~Attributed to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

The clouds were as murky and gray as my thoughts. Brooding about life and deeply preoccupied, I collected some things and pointed my car toward the ocean. I trusted the beach to make everything clearer for me, and I wanted a dramatic, solitary view. On a dismal weekday like this I hoped to find everything I needed at the jetty at Fort Stevens.

I drove for miles without seeing a car before I finally pulled into the parking lot. I was the only person there. Note that I said the only “person.” I was, however, not alone. A ragged dog looked hopeful as I parked. Ears up, eyes searching, he looked expectant, wanting to recognize me.

Hoping.

A stiff, steady wind whipped the beach grass, and the rail thin dog hunched against the cold. There wasn’t enough meat on his bones to block the chill. He limped slowly toward me. I stepped out of my old Cadillac, and he picked up his pace to greet me. A battle waged in his soft brown eyes, a war between despair and optimism.

A battle was going on inside me, too. My drive had been full of murky thoughts and dark emotions. But I wasn’t going to share my darkness, and it looked like too many people had already snubbed this wayfarer—I reached out to the dog, and he came to me.

I looked closer; his feet were swollen and the insides of his thighs were chapped and pink from salt water and wind. His elbow was scraped and covered with fresh blood.

I walked toward the lookout, my destination, to watch the waves break against the great rocks. He followed. There were three short flights of stairs. I took them slowly; he climbed beside me haltingly, limping.

I searched the horizon beyond the violent waves for answers. He stood quietly at my side. The harsh wind whipped the surf into froth. My long hair blew wraithlike; his fur tossed wildly.

I slowly descended the stairs, and he kept pace. I headed for the shelter of my car, and he followed, stopping only to sniff at a trashcan, but he found no food. I turned and saw him trying to eat the sharp-edged beach grass.

I looked at him and called out “Hope!”

It was my grandfather’s name.

The dog came. I opened my passenger door, pushed the seat forward, and invited him in. He hesitated, wagged his tail, and stepped in gingerly. Then he stepped back out. He kept looking around, like there was someone still expected, like my car was the wrong car.

But there was no other car.

He stepped in and out half a dozen times, each time staying longer. When a white-haired man walked by my car on the way to the lookout, Hope growled a warning. “Good protective dog, ma’am,” the retiree said.

“He’s not my dog,” I answered.

We chatted and he said coyotes lived in the park, and the fresh blood on Hope’s elbow would be like a magnet. I had to do something, so I invited Hope into the car, and shut the door. I rested my hand against the back of the passenger seat to keep it from flopping back and scaring him. The kindly man followed me in his truck. I made it about twenty feet before Hope decided to claw his way out of the car. I stopped and opened the door and he hopped out. But how could I leave him?

I couldn’t.

We coaxed Hope back into the car. More determined, I drove off and just let him claw the door. I opened the window, and drove faster. Hey, my car was old anyway. Hope relaxed enough to curl up on the floor and rest.

Going through Astoria, he sat up. He faced me, and I spoke gently. He studied me, and I rested my hand against the back of the passenger seat. Then he quietly lowered his chin into the crook of my elbow, sighed, and closed his eyes. In moments he was asleep.

All that remains to be said is that I found Hope at the beach one day.

More accurately, Hope found me.

The truth is, he rescued me as much as I rescued him. I can’t say what would have happened that day if Hope hadn’t been there to meet me, but I can tell you my beach bag didn’t have a towel and a sand bucket in it.

I believe God sends us what we need. If a person had tried to talk to me on that dark day, there’s no way I would’ve listened or turned aside from my self-destructive path. But to suddenly be presented with an innocent dog in dire straits? That was a call I could never turn away from.

I’ve heard people discuss whether angels have wings or not. I think it’s a matter of dressing for the occasion. I’m of the opinion they appear from time to time on stone bruised feet—with doggy breath. And I promise you, one angel rested his chin in the crook of a deeply depressed person’s arm—at just the right time.

~Christy A. Caballero

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