I really wish I was here to tell you Elsa is back safe and sound, and all is right with our world once again. But I think it's already apparent that I'm not. We just don't know. We keep looking, keep spreading the word, but we know nothing. And that's hard... The not knowing.
I feel like I've been bombarded by messages about the lost this week. When I opened Our Daily Bread to read the message for Thursday, it was entitled 'Lost Ones', and the message was about the heart of Jesus Christ, "[who came] to find and carry back the stray children to their Father and His."
It seems like there have been a lot of songs on the radio this weekend as well, Christian and secular, about being lost, or gone, or missing someone. I'm pretty sure this has more to do with the passing of 9/11 rather than my lost puppy. But they get to me just the same.
I also had to plan the music for our church service this Sunday, and we had a special missionary speaker, who talked about... you guessed it... reaching out to the lost.
Like I said, the not knowing is hard, and it makes it hard to know how to feel. It gives me a deeper understanding for those who desperately search to find lost loved ones, whether they know they are alive, don't know, or do know that they have died. Whatever the case, it is always important to find them. Anyhow, our situation helps me to understand that kind of sadness.
And for the most part, sadness is what I feel. But every once in awhile I feel a little bit jilted. Why did such a sweet, loveable, perfect puppy unexpectedly fall into our lives if she was only going to be taken away again a few months later?
Then I think about our little rescue operation a couple months back, to save a dog who is obviously living out the last days of his life...
Back in July, I was driving home from work one evening (my extremely part-time side-gig) and Mr. Blue Eyes and I were talking on the phone. (I KNOW. Bad Farmer Gal. Talking on the phone and driving. Yada, yada, yada... Shame on me.) He told me that he thought that Keeper might not be with us anymore.
(Backstory: Keeper is his parents' dog, who we inherited when we moved onto the farm. He is very sweet, although homicidal to cats, and is pretty much now completely deaf. He's old. He's waning. I would be surprised if he makes it through this winter. BUT, even though he's been going downhill for awhile, he hadn't been dying.)
At first we both thought, "Hmmmmm. Well, he's old. Maybe he just went off and died somewhere." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, as I just mentioned, he's old, but he's not dying. It just didn't seem quite possible. So, I asked Mr. Blue Eyes when he had seen him last. He said that the day before, he and his dad had been out fencing along the dredge ditch, and his dad told Keeper, "Don't you go down there," (meaning the dredge ditch). "You won't get out again."
As soon as Mr. Blue Eyes uttered the sentence, we both knew.
He was in the dredge ditch.
My stomach sank.
It was getting late, almost dark, and it would be another half hour or so before I got home. Mr. Blue Eyes was alone with the kids, so he couldn't do anything until I returned. He got them to bed, and once I arrived, he headed to the ditch to look, and he found Keeper right away, laying in the water at the bottom. He was alive, but barely.
(Lesson time, boys and girls: Around here, a 'dredge ditch' is a drainage ditch for the fields, winter runoff, rain, etc... Pretty much every type of precipitation and water flow. They're usually steep, about twenty feet deep, and filled with mucky water. Sometimes they're very full, like in the springtime. Sometimes they only have a foot or two. It just depends on the time of year.)
He came up and got me, we got a rope and a horse halter, and headed out to get him. We figured we would put the horse halter around his body like a harness, and Mr. Blue Eyes would try to push him from the bottom while I tried to pull from the top. Mr. Blue Eyes climbed down and got the halter on him, then tried to lift him out of the water. Keeper, who I'm sure was delirious and miserable (he had been down there for about a day and a half), tried to bite at him. Since he's about an 80# dog, was pretty much helpless to get himself up, and the bottom half of the ditch was almost straight up and down, it wasn't a good situation. And the halter kept slipping off him anyway.
We tried at this for a bit, then Mr. Blue Eyes asked if I would come down to the bottom to try to get the halter tight around his body. And now, I should mention a few things... 1) It was dark, but we did have moonlight. And a flashlight. Until it got dropped into the water. 2) The mosquitos were bighting like CRAZY. 3) I was still wearing my nice work clothes and sandals. 4) To get to the ditch, we had to shimmy through the tall grass and weeds to get under the electric horse fence, which was on. 5) The grass was very wet and slippery. 6) Last summer, I got a nasty case of poison ivy, and am paranoid to go into any kind of brush or grassy/weedy area, lest I get it again. 7) I'm a germophobe.
SO, I wasn't so keen on the idea of slithering under the electric horse fence, through the wet and weedy grass, down a very steep slope into a mucky pool of water, in the dark night while our children lay sleeping in the house. BUT, a life was at stake. And when I have to, I can put all that other stuff aside.
So down into the ditch I went!
I got about halfway, then freaked out because the remaining half was almost straight down, and I had visions of myself bobsledding down the wet grass and right into the water below. I perched on a slippery ledge while contemplating my options, with Elsa right there beside me in the grass, encouraging me on. (Sob.) Luckily, my chivalrous husband, who fully understands all my phobias and loves me anyway, climbed up and braced himself to help me down with some semblence of control. I eased down to Keeper and my foot landed in a nice pool of mucky, green, slimy drainage water.
This was not the best night of my life.
I got the halter on him as securely as I could, then headed back to the top. We tried again... Mr. Blue Eyes pushing from the bottom, me pulling from the top, Keeper biting and struggling against our efforts. We made headway of about a few feet, but then he would slide right back down.
It wasn't working.
And at this point, we questioned whether or not he was even going to survive the whole ordeal.
We considered 'putting him down' (i.e. shooting him, to be quite honest) there in the ditch. But I felt strongly that it just wasn't right for him to die there. And I couldn't imagine telling Mr. Blue Eyes' dad that we shot his dog and left him in the bottom of a ditch. It just didn't sit right.
But one thing was blatantly clear. We needed more help. There was just no way the two of us were going to get him out on our own. So I called our brother-in-law to come over. On the phone, we quickly talked about how we could get him out of there. He said he would bring over his Ranger, which is kind of like a four-wheeler crossed with a golf cart. I decided we would make a sling out of some soft rugs that I had and rope. While we waited for our brother-in-law to arrive, I made the sling.
From then on, it actually went quite smoothly. We all drove out to the ditch in the Ranger. Mr. Blue Eyes climbed down, put Keeper in the sling, and helped from below. Our brother-in-law eased the ranger forward gently, while I stood in between to call out directions. Keeper was up and out of that ditch in just a minute or two.
We expected him to not be able to walk, but to our surprise, he stood up and stumbled back to the house. He took a couple potty breaks, ate some supper, and went to lie down in the grass. Again, we were unsure whether or not he would make it through the night, but at least he was out of that ditch. The next morning, I saw him lying in the grass, taking big, deep, abnormal breaths, and thought for sure he was dying. I walked out to bring him some breakfast, and as soon as he smelled the food, he popped up and ate it!
After he ate, he went to lay on the east side of the house. I looked out the window and saw him there in the sun. I can still see him lying there, because in that moment, the meaning of the whole ordeal became so clear to me. Even if he didn't live another day or even another hour, I took comfort in knowing that he was resting in the sunlight.
I thought about what this means to us as Christians, about how strongly I felt that this dog needed to be brought out of that ditch. About how it was important that he be given a chance, and an opportunity to be in the warmth of the sun. I think just about everyone would have this same sentiment. But if this is important, in the case of a dog, how much more important is it to apply to the people in our lives?
In regard to that sentiment, I will let you apply it to your own situation as you might, except for to say one last thing: If there is someone in your life who is in a ditch, and by the grace of God you are capable of bringing them out and putting them in the arms of the Son, do it.
So, getting back to Elsa. It does seem a little unfair, that we would go to such lengths to get an old dog that is likely to die soon anyway, out of a ditch, and now we lose our sweet little girl, so young and full of life. But I know that we are just part of God's bigger plan, and if this is how He wants it to play out, so be it.
However, if He wants to perform a little miracle and bring Elsa back home to us, I'd be ever so thankful.
I'm just sayin'.
In the meantime, I am just praying, wherever she is, that she is in the sun.
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." Matthew 18:10-14