Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

Finders Keepers

Goodness is about character — integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.

~Dennis Prager

When my daughters reached the third and fourth grades, I occasionally allowed them to walk to and from school alone, if the weather permitted. It was a short distance, so I knew they were safe and no trouble would befall them.

One warm spring day, a small friend followed them home after school. This friend was different from any other friend they had brought home. She had short stumpy legs and long floppy ears, with a fawn-colored coat and tiny freckles sprinkled across her muzzle. She was the cutest puppy I had ever seen.

When my husband got home that evening, he recognized the breed — a beagle puppy, not more than twelve weeks old, he guessed. She took to him right away and after dinner climbed into his lap to watch TV. By now the girls were both begging me to keep her.

She had no collar or identifying marks of any sort. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about running an ad in the lost-and-found but I really didn’t want to. It would break the kids’ hearts if someone should show up. Besides, her owners should have watched her more closely, I rationalized.

By the end of the week she was part of our family. She was very intelligent and good with the girls. This was a good idea, I thought. It was time the girls took responsibility for another life so they would learn the nurturing skills they’d need if they decided to become mommies when they grew up.

The following week something told me to check the lost-and-found section in the local paper. One particular ad jumped out at me and my heart pounded with fear at what I read. Someone was pleading for the return of a lost beagle puppy in the vicinity of our grade school. They sounded desperate. My hand shook. I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone.

Instead, I pretended I hadn’t seen the ad. I quickly tucked the paper away in the closet and continued with my dusting. I never said a word about it to the kids or my husband.

By now we had named the puppy. She looked like a Molly, so that was what we called her. She followed the girls everywhere they went. When they went outside, she was one step behind them. When they did chores, she was there to lend a hand (or should I say, paw).

Homework proved a challenge with her around. More than once the teacher was given a homework page that the dog had chewed on. Each teacher was understanding and the girls were allowed to make it up. Life was definitely not the same at the Campbell household.

There was only one problem with this otherwise perfect picture: my conscience was bothering me. I knew in my heart I had to call that number and see if our Molly was the puppy they were desperately seeking.

It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Finally, with sweaty palms, I lifted the receiver and dialed. Secretly I was praying no one would answer, but someone did. The voice on the other end was that of a young woman. After describing the dog to her in detail, she wanted to come right over.

Within minutes she was at my door. I had been sitting at the kitchen table, head cradled in my hands, asking God for a miracle. Molly sat at my feet the whole time, looking up at me with those big puppy-dog eyes — eyes the color of milk chocolate. She seemed to sense something was wrong.

A thousand thoughts crossed my mind before the woman rang the bell. I could pretend I wasn’t home or tell her, “I’m sorry, you have the wrong address.” But it was too late; the bell rang and Molly was barking. I opened the door, forcing myself to face my fear.

One look at Molly and the woman’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Here, Lucy,” she called. “Come to Mamma, girl.” Molly (Lucy) instantly obeyed, wagging her tail in delight at the sound of the woman’s voice. Obviously she belonged to the woman.

Tears stung at the back of my eyelids and threatened to spill over at any moment. I felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. I wanted to grab Molly and run. Instead I smiled faintly and asked her to please come in.

The woman had already bent over and scooped Molly up into her arms. She awkwardly opened her purse and stretched out a twenty-dollar bill toward me.

“For your trouble,” she offered.

“Oh, I couldn’t.” I shook my head in protest. “She’s been such a joy to have around, I should be paying you.” With that she laughed and hugged Molly tighter to her bosom as if she were a lost child and not a dog.

Molly licked her face and squirmed with delight. I knew it was time for them to go home. Opening the door to let the mout, I noticed a little girl sitting in the front seat of the van. When the child saw the puppy, a smile as bright as a firecracker on the Fourth of July exploded across her face.

My glance turned to a small wheelchair strapped to the back of the van. The woman saw me look at the chair and offered an explanation without my asking. Molly (Lucy) was given to the child to promote emotional healing after a car accident had left her crippled for life.

When the puppy disappeared from the yard, the little girl had gone into a deep depression, refusing to come out of the shell she was in. Molly (Lucy) was their only hope their daughter would recover emotionally and mentally.

“She formed a special bond with the puppy and Lucy gave her a reason to live,” her mother explained.

Suddenly I felt very guilty and selfish. God has blessed me with so much, I thought. My heart went out to this family that had been through such a terrible time. As they pulled out of the drive, the smile on my face was genuine. I knew I had done the right thing — that puppy was exactly where she belonged.

~Leona Campbell

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