(Published Fresh Ink 2007)
Like all animal lovers, we’ve always thought of our dogs, Barney and Muffin, as members of the family. Almost nine years ago, Muffin arrived in our yard and six months later, Barney joined him. Both had roamed the area for months before adopting us. The
vet guessed that each was approximately two years old at the time and were part Chow.
Muffin, however, had short legs, long golden hair and the face of a lion cub while Barney appeared to also have Setter
genes, with his long legs and reddish-brown coat. Perhaps it was their shared
Chow heritage that bonded them immediately.
Muffin was relatively healthy,
just leery of strangers, but Barney was in terrible shape. He had obviously been
mistreated, and he ran with his left leg held up. It took months to gain his
trust. He was clearly afraid of being hurt again.
Our entire neighborhood was relieved when they saw him settle-in at our place.
No one had been able to get close enough to help him.
Flash forward eight years. As we did several times a year, we took Muffin
and Barney to be washed and trimmed in a neighboring town five miles away. My husband dropped me off at my hairdresser
for the same purpose. One hour later he walked into the beauty shop, his face
ashen and told me that Barney had escaped from the dog-grooming place. As usual,
both dogs had been placed in the same large cage, waiting their turn to be washed. Apparently,
after Muffin was taken out, the latch hadn’t closed, and Barney suddenly realized he could get out. He bounded through the shop and hit the front door so hard, it opened, and he was free. They had chased him, first on foot and then by car, until they lost sight of him. (Remember this was a dog that had eluded people for months eight years earlier.)
Everyone began searching and praying for him. After a few days, our hope
began to wane. It was the not knowing that was so hard. We placed ads in two papers and on the Internet. We
posted flyers in the area and talked to everyone we met on the street and in the stores throughout the town. One of the blessings of this stressful time was the people we met.
The camaraderie of animal lovers is wonderful to experience. Strangers
became instant concerned friends. One woman took it upon herself to make copies
of our flyers and distribute them herself. (We received a Christmas card from
her ten months later asking how Barney and Muffin were doing.) We visited the
Humane Society every day where again we met kind, compassionate people who understood our feelings about our poor lost dog.
As we talked
to people, we heard several encouraging stories of animals that had found their way home after long periods of time. One woman knew of a family that had lost their dog while camping more than fifty miles
away from their home. To reach the campsite, you have to drive through a mountain
pass and up 5000 feet to the high desert of California and then out into the wilderness.
They were very upset when they had to go back home without their beloved pet.
Three months later, he showed up on their doorstep. We appreciated hearing
the stories, but they sounded more like miracles than reality and as each day passed, we became more resigned to never seeing
Nine days later at the Humane Society, a dog matching Barney’s description appeared on their “dead on arrival”
list. The driver who had picked up the dog was not available, so we went to the area and talked to several children. They carefully studied the picture of our beautiful dog and decided that it was Barney
that had been hit by a car. The Humane Society promised to show Barney’s
picture to the driver the following morning and call us to confirm. Our hearts
we took Muffin for his walk, feeling sad and a bit disoriented, because neither of us could believe that our dear dog was
dead. I kept thinking about all the times I had hugged him and promised that
no one would ever hurt him again, that he was safe with us. And now….
We went to bed, emotionally exhausted.
The next morning around 6:30 a.m., my husband opened the back door to let
And there sat Barney on the back stoop, tail wagging! Sometime during the night, he had arrived and patiently waited for us to open the door. It took him over a week, but a dog that had never been farther than a few blocks from our house had walked
five miles through a metropolitan area of houses, businesses and heavy traffic to find his way back to us. He didn’t appear to be particularly hungry or thirsty and looked none the worse for wear, just very
happy to see us. After enduring much shouting, hugging and tears, he went to
his favorite spot in the living room and lay down. Muffin followed and licked
him all over. His friend was back.
I spent the next few hours calling everyone.
The people at the grooming shop clapped and cheered when they heard the words, “Barney’s home.” The manager quietly said, “Our whole church was praying for him.”
For the rest of our lives, when difficulties arise, we will remind one another
that miracles do happen, that God does move in mysterious ways—that Barney found his way home.