Wednesday, December 15, 2010
This past Sunday the family piled into the car to go to see “A Christmas Carol” at the McCarter Theater in Princeton. It was an unbelievable production that I could not recommend higher. I could go on but that is not really what this tale is about. You see when we returned from North Jersey back to our home in South Jersey a certain something was missing – that something was our dog, “Kenji”. Kenji is a Japanese Chin (think hairy pug) with the gentlest of dispositions and temperaments. In our haste to get into the car and onto the road we must not have seen him slip out the door.
“Kenji is missing.” My wife said to me. It was an instant after we got home.
“What – how is that possible?” I knew it was unanswerable as soon as I asked.
We grabbed flashlights and took to the woods.
“KENJI!” we repeated again and again into the cold, cold darkness.
He was gone.
We ushered the kids inside while my wife and I took an extensive driving tour of our immediate neighborhood. He is a small dog and he really couldn’t get too far if he tried. We scoured the roads looking for something we didn’t want to see but had to rule out.
We rejoined the kids at home agreeing that not finding his body was a good sign and we concluded that he must have been picked up. We explained the situation to the family and formulated a plan to call the local shelters in the morning & the municipal building for animal control & to make and distribute “LOST DOG” signs for the local Wawa.
The next day I started calling. I spoke with a wonderful lady named Cathleen who works at the Buena Vista municipal building concerning our situation. She took my information, description and cell number. She said that she would follow up with the animal control officer to see if he had picked up any small, white dogs with tan spots. I thanked her and called the Cumberland County SPCA. They weren’t open, apparently on Mondays they open at 1:00 PM. I called the Atlantic County Animal Shelter. They had no dogs that fit Kenji’s description. After 1:00 PM I paid a visit to the Cumberland County SPCA. They were crazy busy. I gave a woman Kenji’s description and my cell number. She told me to take a seat while she checked to see if there were any dogs that matched Kenji’s description in the back.
They did not.
We drove out to “Ron’s Animal Shelter”. Ron told us that he only served Salem County.
We went home.
“We don’t know where Kenji is but we hope he is happy and safe. We don’t know if we will see him again.” We explained to the kids. Our youngest child’s face fell and she began to tear up.
So did I.
Sometimes you simply don’t realize how much you care about something until it’s gone. It is easy to take things for granted – as given. I mean Kenji is the sweetest dog that anyone could ask for and we let him slip out of our fingers. This gentle and trusting creature that we had taken care of for the last six years and who was a part of our family, our pack, was gone; just gone. Night time closed down upon once us again; a second night without our Kenji. Unanswerable questions lingered; was he safe? Was he happy? Was he even alive?
The next day I receive a call on my cell phone. It was Cathleen. “Someone has found your dog!”
“Yes, but he’s been hit by a car.” She gave me a name and a number of a woman who had called to report that she had an injured little white dog with tan spots. “I knew it was your dog!” she said. I thanked her for everything she had done for my family. “Merry Christmas!” she said.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” I said.
I called my wife. She called the woman. My wife picked me up and explained to me that Kenji had been hit by a car, that one of his eyes was damaged, he had some teeth missing and he was not able to stand for long periods of time. We knew what that might mean. We wanted Kenji back but we certainly did not want to prolong any suffering that he may be enduring. We simply did not know so we drove on in silence neither of us voicing our concerns for whatever may come. Then we were there.
We met Emily and her husband Tim, the people who had saved our dog’s life. And then, there he was. He stumbled to his feet and his tail started to wag before he collapsed. Tim picked him up and put him onto a table in their kitchen. Kenji rolled over to have his belly scratched. I began to cry as I scratched away at this tiny 11 lbs bundle that had been the source of such concern and loss.
“He’s your dog.” Emily said. “I can tell. You never know these days. But he’s your dog.”
“We have a friend of ours who is a retired veterinarian and he came over with his kit. He’s had a cortisone shot and he has a concussion. I don’t know if he can see out of that eye.” Tim said.
“We don’t know how to thank you.” Linda said. “There is a reward…”
“As a reward for taking care of your dog we wanted to see if you had a church family and if you didn’t then we would like you to come to our church.” Emily said.
“We have a church family.” I said. “We go to Calvary Chapel in Vineland. In fact we’re doing a play…”
“That’s what we were doing Sunday night at our church in Milmay, the Milmay Christian Church, when I got the call from Billy saying that he had found a dog that had been hit by a car. He found him on the white line of the road and thought he was dead. That is until he got close enough and that little head looked up towards him.” Tim said. He brought him to our church. Everyone there helped. He wasn’t bleeding and it looked as if he didn’t have any broken bones but his core temperature was low. He was cold and wet and dying. He was just there in the road waiting to be hit again and that would have been it.”
“Unbelievable.” I said still scratching Kenji’s belly.
“We love animals and I’ve really taken to this little guy.” Tim said. “Anyway, he is having a hard time standing and is going to need some help going outside to the bathroom. When we first got him he couldn’t walk at all. He started trying to stand yesterday and now he is starting to walk again. All over the place but he’s improving. It’s neurological; probably from the concussion. He’ll be alright especially when he gets home to his own grounds.”
“He has his own Facebook page.” Emily said. “We had this dog and knew that he belonged to someone. While he was frozen and soaked we could smell the shampoo. We knew that there was a family out there somewhere who was searching for this little guy.”
“I don’t know how to thank you.” I said.
“Are you sure we can’t give you anything?” Linda asked.
“All we wanted was to use this situation as a chance to bring someone closer to the Lord.” Emily said. “But you are already part of a church family.”
We took Kenji outside and watched him stumble, wobble, fall and get back up again. “See! He couldn’t do that a few days ago.” Tim said. “He’s gonna be all right. It will just take some time.”
We thanked them again and took Kenji back home for a reunion which included tears and hugs and many, many belly scratches. Kenji is home again with his family. He’s mending and sore but he is back home with us for Christmas. We owe a debt to Billy, the man who stopped to scoop our dog off of the road, to Cathleen, the lady who put the pieces of the puzzle together and, of course, to Tim & Emily. We are so thankful and humbled for the kindness that they showed to a strange, helpless, injured creature on a dark, cold night. Their gesture reminds me of the reward that was refused but in a certain sense, received. They refused any monetary remuneration and instead gave all the glory to God. They never thought of themselves but thought of others knowing that by serving a helpless and wounded animal that they were really serving the Lord - for His glory. While we attend different churches we are a part of the same body – the same family. This Christmas season, Gentle Reader, know that you too can come home.
We are thankful.
What once was lost has now been found and just as Tiny Tim said in the play that we saw that fateful night that we first missed Kenji, “God bless us every one.”
Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader; God bless us, every one.
…Now if you’ll excuse me I have a belly to scratch.