It started like any other night on Christmas vacation. We had dinner together as a family, watched some television, laughed. My labradoodle, Coco and my brother’s cocker spaniel, Maisy, were playing outside together.
All was well with our world.
A few minutes later, there was only one dog looking through the porch door at us.
Curious at first, we thought maybe Maisy was hiding in the back yard. We looked around, casually calling her name.
But Maisy was gone.
Of course, we immediately sprang into action.
We scoured the yard, searched the house, the next door neighbor’s yards. Little Maisy was just a puppy – 10 months old. She was so small and it was so dark.
It was bitter cold, but we hardly noticed. It was late at night and most everyone was asleep, but we walked the streets calling her name. Up, down, up, down.
We used flashlights and looked behind flower pots and in dark corners.
She was no where to be found.
I got in my van and picked up my brother. We drove the same neighborhood streets for a couple more hours, windows down, calling her name.
The night was clear, but everything seemed like a black hole – pitch black.
We were doing everything in our power to find that sweet puppy.
My husband, Brady, took out Coco and hoped she would sniff Maisy out.
Evening rolled into midnight. It was time to wait until morning and hope that the light would help us.
I decided to make one last ditch effort while the family went home.
To be honest, I was hoping to be a hero.
Prayers rolled off my tongue. This little puppy – she had a family who cared for her, needed her. I was sure I saw her shadow in every crevice. I strained to hear the jingle of her collar in every clang of a flag pole.
My eyes were blinking shut and I began to feel nauseous. It was late. But I vowed to get up at the break of dawn to look again. Not just for Maisy, but for my brother. I loved him and wanted to take away the loss.
You see, our family has known loss.
And I didn’t want my brother to feel it again.
When I parked my car and walked back into my brother’s house, I asked him if he wanted to leave the garage door open.
Just in case.
He agreed – his voice muffled through the bedroom door. Sorrow is exhausting. The reminders of grief and pain so familiar even though it had been 16 years since we lost our father.
I crawled into bed with a heavy heart. But I was hopeful. With the morning came light, and I am not one to give up. I was going to find her and bring her home.
Hope is like that – it hangs on by a thread – peeking out behind our fear and sorrow. I had a new day tomorrow and I wasn’t going to give up.
I loved that puppy. Not just because she was cute and cuddly. I loved her because she belonged to my brother. Because she was precious to him. Meant the world to him. Brought him joy in the midst of life’s everyday madness.
I was going to find her.
When my alarm went off early the next morning, the rest of the house was sleeping. I threw on some warm clothes and grabbed my keys, quietly slipping out the basement door into the garage.
But what happened next – the image will never, ever leave my mind as long as I live.
I heard a small noise.
My heart began to race. I stood still as a statue and listened again.
Another small jingle.
For a moment, I felt like the night before – hearing so many noises I hoped were Maisy but ended up being broken chain link fences and flag poles.
Maisy is easily startled, so I quietly called her name. I was standing on one side of my brother’s car and couldn’t see the other side of the garage.
But I heard a small scuffle.
Near the end of his bumper, just under the exhaust pipe, a little black puppy, soaked and scared, peeked her head around the tire. Her long cocker spaniel ears, hung low around her face, those beautiful eyes frightened by her night’s experiences.
I didn’t want to scare her, so I stood quietly and reached my hand out to her. She backed up a few steps. I feared she would run away again – I could tell she was still fearful from her night’s adventure, so I backed away.
And immediately she ran into the house, up the stairs and into the living room, frantically searching for my brother.
My voice, I’m sure, was hysterical as I ran in behind her (being sure to shut the door so there would be no more escapes) and followed her up the stairs, calling my brother’s name.
“Travis! Travis! She’s home! She’s home! She was in the garage!”
My brother flew out of his bedroom and grabbed Maisy – then me – in a big bear hug. She was covered in mud and burrs, wet and miserable. But we didn’t see or care about the mud and burrs.
We saw Maisy.
She was home.
And it was a miracle.
Even now as I type this story, I am overwhelmed with the feeling I had when I saw that tiny puppy peek her head around the tire. I was so overjoyed to see her, I didn’t care where she’d been or what she’d done or how she got home.
I just wanted to hold her, love her. And I wanted my brother to see the miracle gift God had provided – a message about how much He cares about us.
He cares about a little dog who means a lot to my big-hearted brother.
And when we are lost, He just wants us to come home. He will look and seek and search and walk and cry and love…
And that early morning I got a glimpse of what Jesus might feel when we come before Him, vulnerable and muddy and full of sticky burrs.
But He doesn’t see all that.
He sees us. And He runs, runs, runs, to the Father and tells Him we’ve come home.
“Father! Father! She’s here! She’s come home!”
And He picks us up, mud and dirt and burrs and all, and He holds us close.
And we are safe in His arms.
It makes me breathe deep just thinking about the rest and grace in all that. A Savior who will take me – just as I am. Who will forgive me of all my mud and dirt. Who will love me unconditionally and see ME for who He created me to be.
The beauty of being found.
After Maisy’s adventure (we all wish we had attached a Go-Pro to her collar so we could know what her journey was like), we washed her up and took her to the vet. She came home with a clean bill of health and the same sweet personality.
But every time I hold her furry body or snuggle my face in her ears, I’m reminded the lengths I was willing to go to save the life of that fuzzy puppy.
And Jesus whispers in my ear that He went so much further. And would do it again.
He loves me that much.