32: Lost and Found

32: Lost and Found

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Lost and Found

Miracles happen to those who believe in them.

~Bernard Berenson

When it comes to being brave, my grand-dog Nessie is no prizewinner. She lets the cat have first dibs at all table scraps. She’s never once barked at the postman. Squirrels have taken over her back yard because she dares not chase them up a tree.

Loud noises are what scare Nessie most. She trembles whenever a truck backfires. She goes nuts during thunderstorms. And she’s terrified of fireworks. Knowing that Nessie hates Independence Day, my son James and his wife Natalie are always careful to keep her safely inside the house during the firecracker-crazy days of early July.

But one year, assuming that fireworks season was over after the Fourth had passed, they left her outside in the fenced back yard when they went to dinner with friends. Big mistake. They returned home to find spent bottle rockets littering the street beside their house. Nessie, who wasn’t wearing her collar and ID tag, was gone. Their black dog had disappeared into the black, black night.

It would take a miracle to bring her home.

James called his dad and me before sunup the next morning to tell us the sad news. “Can you come help us look for her?” he asked. Of course we could.

On foot, on bicycle and by car, we searched the area in an ever-widening circle. We talked to friends. We talked to strangers. We hung posters on telephone poles and placed a LOST DOG ad in the newspaper. Nessie’s picture was posted and shared countless times on Facebook. We checked daily with the kind folks at the animal shelter to see if a dog matching Nessie’s description had been turned in. Every time James received a phone call from someone saying they’d spotted a scared-looking black dog with no collar, we followed the lead. All to no avail.

Days passed. And Nessie did not come home.

Inevitably, the what-if’s began. What if she’d been hit by a car and flung into a ditch where no one but the buzzards would ever find her? What if she couldn’t find food and water and was wasting away? What if she had a new owner who thought it okay to chain a dog to a tree in the hot sun? There was no end to the horrible possibilities that sprang from our tortured imaginations. When we tried to talk ourselves into believing that a nice family had found Nessie and taken her into their loving home, we failed.

It was after midnight, more than a week after Nessie went missing, when James’s phone rang. The caller said he’d been feeding a very friendly and very hungry black dog for a couple of days.

“Female?” James asked.

“Yep.”

“About fifty pounds?”

“Looks to be.”

“Ummmm,” James stammered, his heart beating hard. “Does she, by any chance, have four white feet and a white tip on her tail?”

“She does.”

“Don’t get too excited,” James told Natalie. “This guy lives clear on the other side of the county. We didn’t even put up signs that far away. And we’ve had our hopes dashed too many times.”

But this time was different. The dog was, indeed, Nessie. Who was overjoyed to see James and Natalie when they pulled into her rescuer’s driveway. The happy outcome that so many people had hoped and prayed for had finally come to pass.

But how?

Nessie wasn’t traffic-savvy. Why hadn’t she been hit by a car the very night she escaped into the darkness? How could she have travelled more than ten miles and crossed dozens of busy streets and not have a scratch on her? Her coat wasn’t matted or dirty. Her ribs weren’t showing. How had a dog who’d been pampered all her life managed to find food and water and shelter for more than a week?

And what about the man who found her? He wouldn’t have known that the dog who appeared on his front porch was someone’s beloved pet unless his buddy had stopped by that evening. A buddy who happened to have seen a LOST DOG poster only because he’d run out of gas and spotted the poster while walking to a service station. A buddy who just happened to have a pen in his pocket when someone or something whispered to him that he ought to scribble the phone number down on his hand.

It was after midnight when Nessie’s rescuer made the phone call. What if he’d decided it was too late and that he should wait until morning to call? Would Nessie have headed on down the busy highway in the pitch black dark, trying to make her way back to James and Natalie?

Some folks who have heard this story just shrug and shake their heads. Some contend that we simply got lucky. Others theorize that the stars somehow happened to be lined up just right the night Nessie was found. But we know better.

We know that nothing short of a miracle brought our dear, sweet Nessie home.

~Jennie Ivey

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