Nikki was a tall skinny old dog on that fateful day. He was an eleven year old Siberian Husky who had a pretty easy life. It consisted of going from his pen to the house, sleeping a lot, eating, catching his ring or ball, and like most dogs begging for food. He would sit there if I was eating something he wanted, (which was everything) and attempt to do his favorite trick. That trick was shaking hands. So Nikki would attempt the paw shake even if it wasn’t asked for to try to please and get the treat. Once in awhile we would take Nikki for a walk. He got all excited and started barking and whining uncontrollably at the very sight of his leash in our hands. It could not be argued what a good life he had through the years, but one day Nikki wandered away.
At first we didn’t realize that Nikki was gone. He spent a lot of time in his pen outside. If he wanted to come in he would whine at the door after walking through the garage that the pen was connected to. I don’t remember how he got out. Perhaps the garage door was accidentally left open. Perhaps his gate door was ajar. However it happened Nikki was gone. It was a Sunday in the middle of the summer that we discovered him missing. I’m sure he enjoyed his freedom. Even on the walks we took him on he was confined by that leash. Now he could wander wherever he wanted with nobody pulling on his neck to come back. I’m sure it was fun for awhile. Going to places he only dreamed about and all of the scents that dogs invariably smell. Perhaps other dogs barked as they realized that this big dog was free and they were trapped in their house or yard. That’s the envy of the other dogs looking out I’m sure. Barking to threaten the straying dog to get out of their territory, yet realizing that there is nothing they can do about it.
The hours passed and still no Nikki. This had never happened before and we didn’t know what to do. We drove around and looked. With the window down we called out his name “Nikki, Nikki’, but there was no response. It was getting dark and we were worried. Our street is not a busy one but the road connected to it is. If he had wandered into that busy road he could have been hit. There were many directions he could have gone. He could have headed west which would have him walking along the busy street. He could have crossed the busy street and found his way to Parkview Hills which is a Condominium Community. He could have wandered east and either kept going on the busy road or cut off north into the Winchell neighborhood. Not knowing where to look we drove all over and kept an eye on the side of the road in case the ultimate tragedy had occurred.
Reluctantly we gave up the search for the night. It was dark and we had traveled down all of the paths we could think of. Once again we were devastated when he wasn’t home to greet us when we got back. We couldn’t think of anything else to do but wait. Maybe he would show up during the night. The fear thoughts kept entering our minds. Maybe he was lying by the side of the road hurt and couldn’t make it home. Maybe Nikki would never come home again. Sadly we were trying to prepare for the worst.
I remember back in elementary school. When something got lost they had a lost and found in the principal’s office. There were times I came home without a glove or something. My mom would encourage me to go to the lost and found. In the office was a big box. It seemed like hundreds of gloves, hats, and scarves were there. Also in the mix was my lost glove. It would have been nice if it were that easy to get Nikki back. I do remember as a kid we had a dog named Happy. Happy found himself in the dog pound many times after getting caught wandering away from our house by the dog catcher. My sister would be crying and dad reluctantly would go and pay the fine to get him back. Dad always said “I should have just left him in there”, but deep down I know he wanted him back too.
There is a story in the Bible that resembles Nikki’s situation. It is the story of the prodigal son. One day the younger son decided that he wanted to see what life was like without being under his father’s rule. He would taste the fun stuff that he wasn’t allowed to experience. He asked and was granted his inheritance which allowed him to go out on his own and eat, drink, and be merry. All went well for the prodigal son until his money ran out. Suddenly he found that when the money was gone so were his so called friends. He was left to make his own way working in a field with someone’s pigs. At that point he came to his senses and made his way home. He would tell his father he was not worthy to be his son anymore and ask for a job in his field. His father had other ideas when he saw him coming. He was restored as his son and his father held a big party for him! Unfortunately Nikki didn’t wander home that night. If he did like the prodigal son we would have celebrated. Perhaps we would have bought him a special treat! Those thoughts seemed like only dreams as the hours passed.
The next morning I didn’t go to work. I called and told them that I was going to be late. I mentioned that our dog was missing and I would be in if and when I found him. Driving around in my Camaro with the window down I kept yelling for Nikki. Once again there was no response. I did happen to pass people on the way who were out walking. With everyone I passed I described our missing dog and left our phone number. That morning I drove all over leaving our number to anyone that I saw. It was extremely hot as the temperatures that day hovered between 90 and 100 degrees. If Nikki were alive the heat alone might be enough to be his end. Totally dejected and very hot myself I went back home to rest and consider my next move.
Perhaps you are in a place right now like Nikki and the prodigal son were. Perhaps the grass looked greener on the other side and you left God to find those greener pastures. Maybe you found out like they did that the world is a harsh place. Maybe the curiosity has gotten old and you have discovered like they did that what you ran away from was love. Sometimes when we reach our lowest point we discover things about who we are and what we need to do. Know that God loves you and is calling you to come home much like we were calling for Nikki.
As I was resting at home from the torturous heat the phone rang. The lady on the other end told me that she thought she found my dog. She gave me directions in the Winchell Neighborhood where she had seen a dog that matched my description. Hurriedly I jumped in the car and took off to the destination about a mile away. From a distance I saw him in the front yard of a house. A lady was out there with him and she had provided him with a big bowl of water. As I think about her kind deed it was like the Bible verses in Matthew Chapter 25 within the verses of 35-40. “When I was hungry you fed me and when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink. Later the righteous ones asked when they did those things and he answered “when you did it to the least of these you did it onto me.”
Nikki didn’t see me at first. He had his head in that bowl and he was drinking like there was no tomorrow. I pulled up, jumped out of my car and called his name. He took his head out of the water dish long enough to look at me. He looked ragged and confused. I could tell from his look that he hardly recognized me. The lady wondered if this was my dog and I told her yes and briefly explained what happened. Nikki still seemed in a daze but I coaxed him into the back of my car.
It took a few days to recover but Nikki slowly came back to himself. There was a day a short time later that we accidentally left the garage door opened. Fearfully we looked in his pen only to find Nikki laying on the cold cement content with life and with no desire to wander away. Nikki lived for three more years and never ran away again.