Hey everyone! My daughter-in-law and I drove out to Houston with the ATS bellerinas to have some vacay time with my daughter and the ATS Beau Czars, (those would be my four grands for any new visitors.) In other words, writing opportunities are just not happening at the moment. But, that’s cool. I’ve wanted to share this story with y’all anyway. I put it up at my place and it has gotten quite a conversation started. I hope y’all enjoy, too…
By the time I finished praying, it was later than usual. I hated the idea of missing my morning kayak ride on Lake Providence, but it seemed like the smart thing to do. As much as I love starting the day on the water, the sun was climbing higher in the sky and my mind was already making a list of everything that needed to be accomplished before it set again. It made much more sense to head to the shower, but I felt strongly drawn to the dock, almost compelled.
And that’s how I came to be paddling down the lake yesterday, mid-morning. My usual custom is to the give the aged cypress trees lining the banks a very healthy berth because snakes can and have been known to fall out of them into the boats of unsuspecting souls. If this were ever to happen to me I feel sure I would try to walk on water. However, with the sun already bearing down, I was hugging the tree line a tad closer than normal yesterday in hopes of catching their projected shade. Had I not, I may not have heard that first whimper.
It was a hoarse whimper, to be sure, and it took me a second to locate the source but once I did, I found a wrenching sight.
A foot or so from the lake bank, a small white dog was balancing on the knot of several cypress knees and crying for all he was worth. Behind him was the remains of an old sea wall from which he had undoubtedly fallen. As I took in the scene, the puppy’s wails grew louder and he turned and scratched at the sea wall, almost as if to say, “See, I can’t get back up!” Indeed, regardless of how high he stretched, his reach fell about two feet shy of the wall and there was no way he could gather his feet under himself to jump.
Clearly, his problem had now become my problem and I didn’t like where things headed at all. The puppy wasn’t stranded in someone’s yard. That would’ve been too easy. He was in what I call alligator land, a swampy run of lake-bank where the brush is not only overgrown, it’s probably home to every species of snake in Louisiana. And we have several.
To go after that puppy was going to require me to maneuver around the rusty, nail-studded remains of an ancient dock and under the overhanging vines that wove itself around drooping limbs. (I’m offering you a quick pic here. I wasn’t in the “documentation” mode, but I did snap this even though it doesn’t do the scene justice. You can’t really see the depth between the tree, vines, and lank-bank. You’ll have to trust me. It was nasty.) I briefly tried to cajole him into swimming towards me. (I see you rolling your eyes, but desperation can make you do dumb things.) The puppy wailed even louder. “Not on your life, lady—I’m not getting in that water!”
I will be honest here and admit that, Jesus as my witness, it did cross my mind to ask, “What would Red and Carey do?” Red is my BFF and Carey is my daughter-in-law, and they are both the type of dog lovers that I felt sure wouldn’t be hesitating. In my defense, my thought process may sound lengthy but it really took me only seconds to convince myself that, sigh, I was going in.
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2: 12
It wasn’t easy and I probably prayed much harder in the next few minutes than I had earlier that morning, “Oh, God, puullleeeassse don’t let a snake fall in this kayak, please, please, please, please…”, but I finally got close enough to the frantic puppy— whose cries had risen in proportion to my nearness. I don’t know what I expected but I can tell you that I wasn’t prepared for him to be so out of his mind scared that he would try and bite me as I reached for him.
“What?” I thought to myself, “I’m trying to rescue you. Work with me, puppy!”
The more I called them, the more they went from me. Hosea 11.2
Now, the thing about a puppy balanced on cypress knees is that it can’t be, balanced that is. It was fairly easy to distract him with one hand long enough to snatch him up by the nape of the neck and deposit him in the kayak with the other.
Grateful he was not. The drenching wet sack of bones sat in front of me and growled, barked and bared his puppy teeth with as much aggression as he could muster. We’re talking zero appreciation.
I had no choice but to ignore him as I tried to get back out of swampy land and point the kayak towards home. My guest meanwhile crawled to the front of the kayak and buried his face as far in the hull as he possibly could.
As I paddled, I talked to him in that voice we use with babies and puppies. His response– trying to wedge himself further into the hull. And so, I began to sing over him. This is not a soothing noise for most people, but for my new friend, it seemed to work better. At least he quit whimpering.
I sang, paddled, and thought of an Old Testament verse that pictures my God singing likewise over me.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Some twenty minutes later as we neared the dock I realized that the next immediate problem was my beloved Dixie Belle. She was already barking, being as how she is notoriously uncomfortable with my early morning kayak rides, but now I was returning with a soaking wet puppy that looked more like a possum. I whispered a prayer for assistance. The last thing I needed was for the puppy to go overboard to get away from Dixie. For once, Dixie complied when I quieted her. Imagine that.
The puppy was less cooperative. When it became obvious that he wasn’t budging from the haven he had found without burying his teeth in my hands, I gave up and pulled the kayak and the puppy onto the dock, up my back yard, and parked it under the oak tree. I spent the next few minutes doing more of the soothing voice thing. I got nothing, although Mercy had turned to face me at least. His eyes were getting oh, so heavy, suggesting that the sole thing he wanted after his ordeal was a good long nap. So, I took some dog food, poured a little water in a bowl, and put the nourishment near enough that he wouldn’t have far to venture should he choose to eat once I was out of the picture. Then I went inside to shower and start my day.
I thought about Mercy the entire time I was getting dressed. That’s what I had named him, because nothing, nothing other than m-e-r-c-y could have prompted me to go where I did to rescue him. And yes, I do know Mercy sounds like a girl’s name. It can’t be helped. Mercy named himself.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…Titus 3.
By the time I was through with my extreme makeover, I had decided that Mercy had come to me because Dixie is getting older than I want to think about and this puppy would carry on with me and always remind me of God’s mercy. Sound neat? I thought so, too, which is why I was surprised when I slipped back out to check on Mercy and he had disappeared. A bite of food was gone and so was Mercy.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17: 17-18
I thought about Mercy a lot yesterday. I looked for him on my trips uptown and back, hoping I wouldn’t find him in the road. I thought he was gone for good.
And then, ironically, around the same time I rescued him yesterday, Mercy showed up on my back porch again this morning. He was still whimpering and literally covered in fleas. Granted, he may have been covered in fleas yesterday but you may remember that I wasn’t able to examine him before he made his great escape.
Mercy was only slightly more willing to make nice today. He still nipped at me, but without quite as much aggression. Slowly, I earned his trust enough to feed him—which was a scene in itself. Mercy refused all food at first but once I pried his mouth open and put a finger dripping with the liquid from a can of dog food on his tongue, we made some progress. Mercy licked his lips and looked at me with something approaching appreciation, or at the very least, less distrust. It wasn’t long before he was allowing me to run my hands over his coat. From there, he found himself getting dipped for fleas and forced to undergo an ear rinse with Dixie’s ear mite meds. Once again, Mercy opted for a nap after all the drama.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but Mercy is still with us tonight. If any neighbors are reading this and you’re missing a beautiful little yellow lab, or if you know someone who is, give me a call. You can pick him up or I’ll bring Mercy home.
Until then, I want to continue to listen as Mercy talks to me about God’s love and how He came for me when I was lost and without hope in this world. I’ll let Mercy remind me of how I was willing to accept the eternal redemption God offered, but anything more made me uneasy.
I knew He had given me a new name and a permanent home, and I knew His Word said I could have ongoing love and nourishment but I couldn’t figure out how to take Him up on it. And frankly, I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to, so I would come and go instead, trying to get my needs met without giving up my freedom.
I can’t love Mercy the way I want to if he runs away. But I will love him more than he can even imagine should he decide to stay.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life. John 3.16
Update: Mercy has been with us for a week now and it looks like he has decided to stay.