Does God Care About Lost Dogs?

Does God Care About Lost Dogs?

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Does God Care About
Lost Dogs?

The bitter cold weather had forced the large red dog to curl into a tighter ball, tucking his nose under his big, muddy feet. Old Red lived outside Larry’s Barber Shop, sleeping on a small scrap of carpeting. The mongrel dog had panted through a hot summer, watching hopefully as the children came out of the small grocery store that adjoined the barber shop. Many shared their treats with him. On Valentine’s Day, someone left a handful of candy hearts on Old Red’s carpet.

Old Red once had a buddy—a scrawny black dog. Constant companions, they slept curled together. During a cold spell the smaller dog disappeared. Old Red mourned his friend by keeping his usually wagging tail motionless. As friends stooped to pat him, Old Red wouldn’t even look up.

Someone dumped a puppy out one day, and Old Red immediately adopted him. He followed the puppy around like a mother hen. During the cold nights, Old Red shared his carpet with the frisky puppy, letting him sleep against the wall. Old Red slept on the cold outside.

Soon that puppy disappeared too, and the old dog was alone again.

I would have taken him home in a minute. Any homeless dog or cat could win my instant friendship—all it took was one hopeful look. But my husband had explained time and again that we simply could not take in stray animals. I knew he was right, but sometimes my heart forgot. With great determination I tried to steel myself against looking into the eyes of any stray, hungry dog or cat. Old Red never looked hungry, though, so I decided it was all right to form a relationship with him.

One day I found out by accident from the barber’s wife that her husband was feeding the dog daily. “He won’t even buy cheap food,” she laughed. “He buys the most expensive there is.”

I stopped by the barber shop to tell Larry how grateful I was that he was feeding the dog. He brushed aside my thanks and insisted the dog meant nothing to him. “I’m thinking of having him taken off,” Larry mumbled gruffly.

He didn’t fool me a bit.

During a snowstorm Old Red disappeared. I haunted the barber shop. “Larry, where can he be?” I’d ask.

“I’m glad he’s gone. He was a bother, and it was getting expensive feeding him.” Larry continued to cut a customer’s hair, not looking at me.

Later, his wife told me that Larry had driven for miles looking for the dog.

On the third day the dog reappeared. I ran to him and patted his head. The big, dirty tail didn’t flop once. He didn’t even raise his head. I felt his nose: hot and dry. Bursting into the barber shop, I hollered, “Larry, Old Red’s sick!”

Larry continued cutting a customer’s hair. “I know. Won’t eat.”

“Where do you think he’s been?”

“I can’t prove it, but I think someone at the shopping center complained and he was hauled off. Did you see his feet? Looks like he’s been walking for days to get back.”

I lowered my voice. “Let him inside, Larry.”

The customers seemed to be enjoying our conversation.

“I can’t do that. This is a place of business.”

I left the shop, and for hours I tried to get someone involved in helping Old Red. The Humane Society said they’d take the dog, but they were an hour’s drive across Atlanta, and I had no idea how to get there. Anyway, no one would adopt a sick dog, and they’d put him to sleep. A vet I phoned said right away that he didn’t take charity cases. The police, fire department, and manager of the shopping center could offer no help. None of my friends were interested.

I knew I was about to bring Old Red home despite my husband’s rules about strays. I hadn’t brought an animal home in a long time.

As I fixed supper that night I said very little. My husband finally asked grimly, “Do you want me to go look at that dog with you?” Translated, this meant: “I’ll get involved a little bit. But we cannot keep the dog.”

I ran to the attic and got a large box and a blanket. Grabbing some aspirin and an antibiotic one of the children had been taking, then warming some milk, I finally announced, “I’m ready.” We piled our four children in the car and started for the shopping center. Snow covered the ground. Hold on, Old Red. We’re coming.

As we entered the shopping center, all my hopes faded. He was gone. “Oh, he’s gone off to die,” I moaned. We drove around and looked and called, but the dog didn’t come.

The next day I took the boys in for a haircut. Old Red was back! But he looked worse than ever. After feeling his hot nose, I ran into the barber shop. “Larry, the dog is going to die right in front of your shop.”

Larry liked to tease me—even about this. He didn’t look up. “Think he’s already dead. Haven’t seen him move all morning.”

“Larry,” I screamed, “you’ve got to do something!”

I left the barber shop with a heavy heart. It took all my willpower not to put Old Red in our car. He seemed resigned to his fate. I was almost in tears. One of my twins kept asking me something as we sat in our car. He repeated his question for the third time.

“Does God care about lost dogs, Mama?”

I knew I had to answer Jeremy even though God seemed far away. I felt a little guilty, too, because I never thought about bothering God with this. “Yes, Jeremy, God cares about all his creatures.” I was afraid of his next question.

“Then let’s ask him to make Old Red well. Can we do that, Mama?”

“Of course, Jeremy,” I answered, somewhat exasperated. What else could I say to a five-year-old?

Jeremy bowed his head, folded his hands, shut his eyes and said, “God, I want to ask you to make Old Red well again. And please . . . send a little boy to love him. Amen.”

Jeremy waited patiently for my prayer. I felt like explaining to him that animals were suffering everywhere. But I prayed, “Dear Lord, thank you for caring about all your creatures. Please send someone to care about Old Red. Please hurry.”

Jon added his prayer to ours, and I backed out of the parking place. I was crying now, but Jeremy and Jon didn’t seem to notice. Jeremy let down the window and called out cheerfully, “Bye, Old Red. You’re gonna be okay. Someone’s coming to get you.”

The tired old dog raised his head slightly as we drove off.

Two days later Larry called. “Guess what?” he said.

I was afraid to ask.

“Your dog’s well.”

“What . . . how . . .”

There was unmistakable excitement in Larry’s voice. “Yesterday a vet came in to have his hair cut, and I asked him to take a look at the dog—’cause you were about to drive me crazy. He gave Old Red a shot, and he’s all well.”

Weeks passed, and Old Red continued to live outside the barber shop. I sometimes wondered if he ever noticed the dogs that came to the stores with families. Dogs often leaned out of car windows and barked at Old Red, or just looked at him. Old Red didn’t pay any attention.

Jeremy continued to talk about the someone whom God would send to love Old Red.

One day we rode by the barber shop and Old Red was gone. I went in and asked Larry where he was.

Larry started grinning as soon as I came in. “Strangest thing happened yesterday. This lady brought her little boy in for a haircut. I didn’t know them. New in this area. She asked about the dog. Her little boy had a fit over him. When I told her he didn’t belong to anyone, she took him home with her.”

“Larry, don’t tease me.”

“I’m not teasing. I’ll give you her telephone number. I got it. She was going to take the dog to the vet for shots and a bath. Man, you should have seen Old Red sitting up in the front seat of that Buick. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was grinning. Happiest dog I’ve ever seen.”

I walked out of the barber shop quickly. I didn’t want Larry to see me crying.

Marion Bond West

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