I’ll give you this—a dog has an impressive sense of smell. They have tens of thousands more receptors than we do, even two different passageways that separate the air they breathe from the air they smell. By some accounts, they can sniff out a teaspoon of sugar in the amount of water it takes to fill two Olympic-sized pools. Or, according to James Walker, former Director of the Sensory Research Institute, if smell were sight, what we can see at 1/3 mile, a dog can see at 3,000 miles.
But the facts still don’t negate the miracle.
It was one of those astonishing answers to prayer that I couldn’t really see happening. One of those—I-can’t-see-any-way-you-can-fix-this, Lord situations, but I’m going to ask anyway, and hope.
We were visiting our son and daughter-in-law at the Virginia home they had moved to just two weeks earlier. It was a brilliant, sunshine on pumpkins morning. My daughter-in-law and I decided to walk the dog, a young, exuberant, white German shepherd, on a trail they had discovered the week before.
We followed the sidewalk along a busy four-lane highway for about ¾ of a mile before veering off into the woods where there were miles of the horse-riding trails, rivers and pastures that characterize the verdant Virginia countryside.
Trusting her dog’s obedience (or at least his separation anxiety) Betsy let him off leash. He ran ahead of us then circled back before bounding off again along the trail. Birds called. The river rumbled. A few rusty leaves floated down in autumnal glory as we walked deeper into the woods.
The dog disappeared around a bend. We called; he bounded back. Deeper, farther into the woods. The dog disappeared around another bend. We called. We called again. And again. I gave my four-finger whistle (the one I used to impress my eighth–grade boys when all else failed in study hall). No dog.
We tracked his prints for about a half-mile before losing them. So what do you do? We are miles from home. We don’t know where the trail empties out. Should we stay? One stay? Keep going forward? Both retreat?
Betsy backtracked to the point of tracks last seen. I stared across the river at a far meadow where some deer were fleeing out of the woods as though suddenly flushed.
“Lord, this is a glorious day you’ve set before us. We’ve come to enjoy it, to enjoy you with our children this weekend. But if that dog’s gone, it’s all shot. Everyone will be bummed, mad, sad. I can’t see any good thing in this. Please bring that dog home safe.
I looked around. There was a river on one side and woods and meadows as far as my eye could see. “I don’t know how you can though.” (I had the nerve to say to the Creator of the universe.)
Backtracking, I caught up with Betsy, and we decided to call the guys who were working on the house.
Bob picked up on the second ring. “Bob,” I said, “We’ve lost the dog.”
Before Bob could speak, I heard uproarious barking in the background. “The dog’s here,” Bob said. “He soaking wet and jumping all over.”
For an instant I thought God made up a dog—our dog was gone so he “puffed” one there into existence for me. Ha! What does it matter!—he answered my prayer. Apparently, the dog had managed to cross a river, cross a busy road, and find its way to a house it had only lived in for two weeks—miles away.
A weekend redeemed. A time with children and grandchild to relish in the beauty, peace, blessings of God.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”
Sometimes I don’t really believe that. I think it belongs to the Elijahs, George Muellers and “special” people of God.
But it belongs to me.
These days I’m praying for “a forgotten man”—someone, somewhere—jail, pit, POW camp, ISIS hold-out—who thinks God and everyone else has forgotten them. The God of Elijah is our God—and he is a “ very present help in time of need.” He can help them.
Our lost dog isn’t high on the scale of importance, but the answer to that prayer has given me confidence to pray other prayers for “very present help in time of need”. If it catches your heart—join with me in praying for “a forgotten man (woman).”
A fall day in South Carolina is like a spring day in Vermont—one rejoices in the cool brisk, the other in the warm calm. We all know the feeling. Rejoice! and Blessings today!