Our house has turned into a bit of a menagerie. There are two semi-sane adults, three adorable and energetic girls and two dogs all living under one slightly leaky roof. About a month ago, my in-laws gave us a miniature daschsund as a gift. She was an adorable, six-week old, red puppy we promptly named “Penny.” We all fell in love with her instantly. She was tiny and sweet and oh-so-small. She was the perfect-sized dog for our little girls. Emma, especially, took a real shine to Penny, pushing her around in doll strollers, wrapping her up in blankets and doting on her like the dog was her own baby. Penny had found a surrogate mother in Emma and relished every moment of pampering.
If you aren’t familiar with the daschsund breed, they are known for their independence. What they lack in stature they make up for in persistence and stubbornness. They can be a difficult breed to house train as well as train in basic obedience. Penny is no different. She thinks of herself as the leader of the pack most times. She often ignores us when we call and thinks nothing of spending 30-40 minutes outside only to come in and promptly do her “business” under the dining room table. What Penny doesn’t know is that she is part of a family of persistent, stubborn people. We don’t give up on things we find important and are rarely deterred from a path we find challenging and redeeming. In the end, we all know that Penny will eventually fall in line, even if it takes a little longer than we like.
Today was a beautiful day. (Thank You, Lord, for that!) After church, Charlie and the girls spent most of the day building the new playground set and playing in the yard with the two dogs. Around 3:00 PM, I went outside to check and see how things were progressing. I glanced around the yard and asked, “Where’s Penny?” We all looked around and called her name. No sign of the puppy. Charlie put down his tools and we both took off in different directions, walking the perimeter of the yard, calling her name. No answer. Charlie and I looked at each other and both thought the same thing: she had escaped the yard. We had seen her slip in between the gates a few times but she always went right to our door, never wandering off. We quickly circled the house, calling her name and looking for her. Again, nothing.
By this time, our neighbors noticed us looking and that we were beginning to become a little frantic. After all, she only weighs 4 pounds and it would be easy for her to fall into a ravine or hole or become entangled in underbrush with no way of getting out. Several of our neighbors joined in the search. At one point, we had about 12 additional neighbors and friends out combing the neighborhood and surrounding areas. We even had a neighbor offer to send out a campus-wide e-mail to Wabash students. Still no sign of Penny. Not even a whimper.
Emma began to carry a worried expression on her face. I could tell that she was holding something back. Finally, she said, “Mommy, it’s my fault. I wasn’t watching her. She might be hurt. What if we don’t find her before dark?” I hugged her and reassured her that everything would be okay. In my heart, though, I knew it wasn’t good that we had not found her yet. She was too small for identification tags so anyone could have found her and decided to keep her. We prayed together several times, asking God to help us find her. Nothing.
After about 90 minutes of searching, we had to take a break. The neighbors all went home and Emma began to cry. She was inconsolable in her grief and kept referring to Penny as her best friend. She sobbed herself to sleep on the couch and I started to pray harder. Lord, I know you see what is going on here. Please help us find Penny. This is Emma’s whole heart and world right now. She is grieving as if it were her own child. Father, I know You love each creature You have made. Please keep this creature safe and bring her home. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I started to make dinner and continued praying. Each time I heard a noise, I ran to the door hoping it was Penny or someone returning her to us. Emma awoke just before dinner, eyes red and puffy, still crying. “Did Penny come home yet?” was her only question. My heart broke for her. What would we do if Penny never came home? We prayed together again. Through dinner, I could see Emma just picking at her food, still sad and tired. After we finished eating, I said, “How about you and me go around the block one more time and look before bed.” Her eyes lit up and she jumped up to put on her shoes. We circled around calling her name and praying more. As we walked through the alley behind the house, we both felt discouraged and disappointed. I tried to remain hopeful but my hope was fading fast.
Suddenly, we heard a high-pitched yelp. It was faint and muffled and at first I thought I was imagining things, but when I looked at Emma, I knew she had heard it, too. We called her name again. A few agonizing seconds went by and then the same muffled cry. Penny! It was her! We both knew and started racing towards where we thought the cry was coming from. First, we checked the neighbors’ yard, thinking she had wandered in there but the sound seemed to be coming from our own garage. We tore through the garage, knocking over boxes and searching behind bicycles and garden tools. The sound was farther away now. Where could she be?!
We raced into the yard and yelled through the open back door, “We hear her! We hear Penny!” Charlie and Ruthie came running into the yard as well as a couple of neighbor boys who had been searching earlier. We combed through the bushes and peered over the fence. I could hear her cry but couldn’t imagine where she could be. Charlie checked inside the neighbors’ garage and Emma and I kept calling her name. It sounded like she was inside the playground but there were no openings for her to crawl into.
Finally, I started slowly circling the playground. Yes, the noises were definitely coming from here but where was she? Was she trapped on the top somehow? Buried underneath? Then, I spied something. Charlie had brought the girls’ plastic play kitchen outside and placed it on the lower deck of the playground. One door was broken off the kitchen but the other door was still attached and closed. I yanked the door open and there she was! Our Penny! Safe and sound and whole. Thinking Emma would be beside herself with joy, I turned to her beaming and said, “We found her!” But, Emma’s face was covered in guilt. I knew immediately that Emma had been the one to put Penny inside the play oven and had simply forgotten where she was. She looked like she was about to cry again. I hugged her and handed Penny to her and Penny’s shower of puppy kisses went a long way in cheering her up.
After taking Emma (and Penny) door to door to thank our neighbors and friends for their help in searching for Penny and telling and re-telling the story of finding her, Emma and I had a long talk about the events of the day. She promised to take better care of her best friend and I promised to help her know what it means to be a friend. We ended the day by thanking God over and over for helping us find Penny and keeping her safe.
Thank You, again, Lord for the blessing of Penny. I know I complain about her sometimes. Just seeing how You used this experience today makes me realize that she is a part of Your plan for our family. Thank You for giving Emma faith today. Thank You for hearing our prayers. I know You care for each creature of Your creation. Thanks for showing me again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.