Three years ago, almost to the day, a stray dog showed up at our home. We live in the country, surrounded by woods and acres of farm land – literally not another house in sight. So, the appearance of strays is not uncommon. Thoughtless people find it secluded enough to feel safe in “dropping” these animals without being detected — not that they would care if they were seen.
We’ve adopted a few strays over the years but they seldom stay more than a few months or a year at best. Just long enough for me to grow attached and then they leave as mysteriously as they arrived. But this dog was different. First of all he was terrified and he was wounded. He refused to come anywhere near the house or us. He stayed about 20 yards from the house in the edge of the woods. We couldn’t get close enough to determine what was wrong with him but it was apparent that at the least, one front leg was broken. He wasn’t particularly cute, but the fear in his eyes broke my heart. We began to put out food and water, leaving it a safe distance from the house but not too close to his comfort zone.
After a few weeks of providing food, water and a totally non-threatening environment, he would allow me to come near him and even pet him. My husband, or any man – would send him hiding in the bushes. Within six weeks or so, he became comfortable enough to take his meals beside the garage and would let us both come near him but he was still skeptical of other men. This sweet dog, with no identification other than the cruel marks of a previous owner, desperately craved affection. The first to win him over was our 5 year old granddaughter. The dog had just begun eating near the house and when she arrived, and immediately ran to him. We were cautious not sure how this dog would respond. But he met her embrace with eager “kisses” and lots of tail wagging.
She asked his name to which we responded, “He doesn’t have one.” She quickly pronounced him as ‘Freddie’. And that sealed his fate. Freddie was adopted as one of the family. He has been with us ever since. He still bears the physical and emotional scars of whatever trauma he was subjected, but you won’t find a more loving or loyal dog. To a great extent he has overcome his fear of men but is wary on occasions. But the greatest testament to the power of love is his devotion to my husband.
While he is my steady companion as I work in the yard; he adores being on the farm with the hubby. Each morning as the farm truck takes off to begin the day’s tasks, Freddie faithfully races along. Yes, I said races along. In spite of a very crooked and arthritic front leg he runs faster than I think should be possible. And after a short cut across the pasture, he typically meets my husband at the barn. Freddie stations himself beside the truck (or under it depending upon the weather and his mood) and remains there until the work is done and his master returns home. Then once again, the race is on to see which one arrives first. This scene may replay a half dozen or more times per day depending on what is happening on the farm but regardless of the number of trips — Freddie is there, right beside his master.
For those of you thinking, “why don’t you let that poor dog ride?” Trust me, we’ve tried. We’ve bribed, cajoled, physically put him in the truck — but there remains a fear that we’ve been unable to erase. He prefers the freedom of running along beside us, to the confinement of even an open truck bed. There are other emotional scars; he won’t wear a dog collar or anything around his neck. (We’ve become really clever at giving him meds.) He’s suspicious of anything in your hand; dog brush, medicine, walking stick and he’s terrified of loud noises. Especially guns and thunder. And it took months, and some cold weather, to get him to sleep in his cozy dog house. So you get the picture; Freddie had a rough life. In spite of his past, he loves us.
Here’s one of the many Freddie faith lessons. Last week the hubby was literally racing the clouds to get his hay baled. It was one of those weeks that the weather taunts farmers just to see if they’re touch enough to handle it. The clouds were black and thickening at a rapid pace and with each drop of a hay bale, the distant thunder rumbled. Where was Freddie? Under the truck? In the garage (his favorite thunderstorm sanctuary)? NO. He ran beside the tractor keeping his eyes fixed on the hubby. Round after round, bale after bale that sweet Freddie kept pace with his master, assured that as long as he was there, Freddie was safe. Even hubby got concerned for him running so much and tried his best to take him to the farm shop for shelter. But Freddie refused to leave. As the last bale dropped, the first of the rain began and hubby, tractor and Freddie headed for the house. And once again, Freddie found sanctuary in the garage – but not until his master was home.
You see, Freddie has learned a valuable lesson that we should all emulate. He knows that his Master brings him no harm; he desires only what is good. He understands that things he may find unpleasant (medications . . .) are temporary discomforts for his long-term benefit. He knows that he is safe as long as he remains beside his Master. Where his Master leads, he will follow – no matter how long, how far, how hot, or even how scary the circumstances may appear. And most of all, Freddie knows that he is loved. Oh how he is loved.
God sent Freddie to us just about 3 weeks before I retired. And even though I anticipated retirement eagerly, I had never been at home all day. I have always worked and my days were busy. I think God knew that I could use a companion, someone to keep me company as I gardened, someone that needed me. Someone that has brought us all much joy.
Each of us has some emotional, spiritual or physical scar that reminds us of an unpleasant episode from our past. The evil one uses those scars to taunt us and instill fear, shouting that the future cannot be good because we are unworthy and unlovable. But the good news is, our Lord, our Master, our Savior, our Redeemer loves us regardless of our past! He rescues us, restores us, provides for us, fights our battles for us and protects us. Yes, He loves us more than we can imagine. In our eyes we see a scruffy, maimed, damaged, frightened stray. But God sees something beautiful. Let Him adopt you and transform those scars into something wonderful.
In His wonderfully transformative grace,