There are days that we begin without thought of what will be, nor how the day will end. We simply go on as before unrealizing how the world around us sees us or how we might be perceived. Sometimes, the day changes us before all is said and done. This day would be just one of those days.
As I rode down the hill toward the creek, I passed by the ancient barn that was still in need of repair. Like any barn of her age, there was loose siding, tin missing and doors sagging, but in all, she was a magnificent structure. She stands as a testament to work of our forefathers and the hard labor that made us who we are today as a people, as a state, and a country. Like any of us, we have our blemishes but deep down, we have a foundation of ruggedness that when pushed, can become a formidable force to be reckoned with. Still, we can have our moments, our tender spaces where something calls to us to ask for comfort. Driving past the old barn I thought I could hear barking, but then that was nothing new since the neighbor’s dog usually greeted me as such. When I finally parked down by the creek and got out of my truck, the barking was continuing but now I could hear it was coming from the barn. “Had one of my friends stored a dog in there without telling me,” was the first thought to come to mind?
The yelps continued but weren’t the kind for warding off strangers, they were a plea for help. Having been around animals most of my life, you learn to hear the difference in animal voices, both tame and wild.
I quickly made my way back to the barn on foot, entering at the end of the barn opposite the sounds of the dog. At this point, I had no idea the state of the animal, its size, demeanor or breed; caution was in order. When I opened the door, the barking ceased and I could hear the sound of it crawling out the opposite end of the main door, struggling to escape, yelping at the pain from the struggle to free itself.
“Was it gone already?”
I maneuvered my way through the stalls and feed room, soon finding a cable wrapped around several items both in the feed room and around the tractor. The dog was now on the outside of the barn, but the cable was still obviously attached as she now whined from her new position of fear. The water bowl was empty that we had left for our barn cats and the feed was mostly gone. At least, she had not gone hungry and thirsty for whatever length of time she had been trapped. From there I quickly went back out the other end, so as not to scare her anymore. She was extremely terrified at this point, the sound of the metal on the barn, the lead cable, the fear of being trapped. Then as I came around the end of the barn and slowly neared her position, calling to her constantly trying to soothe her concerns, it became obvious her panic; she had pups waiting for her somewhere. Her teats were swollen and had not nursed in at least a day or more.
Time was of the essence but safety was, even more, important.
I had learned in the past as a boy at the tender age of 8 the significance of what can happen when you take a scared dog for granted. In the back alley of our family restaurant in New Harmony, that little farming town back in southern Indiana, I had befriended a stray. Secretly I fed her scraps from the back door of the restaurant. She was a pretty long haired blonde lab mix, very friendly and loved to play catch. We were doing just that the day of the incident. She had gone to catch the ball again and had leaped over a draining grate in the road. Her back leg landed on the grate and became stuck. Instantly she began screaming.
I had never heard a dog make that sort of shrieking, barking noise before in my life.
Unthinkingly, led by instinct, I went to try to pull her out. Her instincts were to grab anything and everything to get her leverage from the beast that now tried to chew off her leg. As we met, my hand became the receiver of her plight for freedom and the receptor for my instant pain has her teeth sunk into the flesh of my hand. In the blink of an eye, she was freed, in the blink of an eye, my hand was ripped open and bleeding profusely. Scared and ashamed of my foolishness, I never told anyone. After that, the dog ran away and never returned; I couldn’t blame her. I would have done the same. Yet, there I was with a badly bleeding hand bitten by a stray. At that age, I was at least knowledgeable enough to realize that I was endanger of being bitten by a strange animal, yet, I kept it to myself. Amazingly enough, I was able to stop the bleeding with rags from the kitchen I snuck out the backdoor, again fearing being caught. It was a wonder I didn’t come down with some type of infection. Looking back I knew it was an uneccesary risk. Certainly, God was with me once again.
So, as I slowly tried to approach this new stray, a black lab mix, I was very aware of the animals fear. Her tail remained tightly tucked between her back legs as she tried to extend the cable as far away from me as possible. I could see it had a clip on the end by her collar but getting to that point my take another ripped hand. Then I remembered the turkey scraps in the back of the truck that we had brought to give to the barn cats. It was also clear at this point why there were no barn cats around. Making the quick trip to the truck and back to retrieve the scraps, I continued to call her names and comfort her as best I could without knowing her name. She had a decent red collar tightly secured about her neck; too secure. When I returned, I slowly worked toward her, chumming bits of turkey in her direction.
At first her fear for flight was greater than her hunger.
I kept talking, whistling, calming her.
Finally, she gobbled a chunk of meat before her. The tail unclinched for just a second, then back tight.
She liked it and was starving.
Slowly, ever so patiently I worked toward her trying to convince her that I didn’t mean her harm. In the past, I had seen animals like this, abused, by their owners to the point they feared any human. This poor thing acted the same but yet, I had to reach that clip in order to totally free her. For safety’s sake, I put on my gloves. My coat would protect my arm should something change dramatically. Again, I kept thinking of the grate in the alley and how quickly a sweet dog can turn. One after another, I kept tossing scraps, but closer and closer until I was feeding her from my outstretched hand. Again, from a seated position with my back to the barn door, I pulled her toward me, feeding her now directly from the roasting pan of turkey scraps. Extending my arm, carefully,… easing my fingers along the cable until…. I finally reached the silver clasp.
My fingers frantically clawed for the knob that was suppose to open the pin, but it was gone. “What next,” I thought?
I continued to hold her, the food was dwindling and so was my time. She hesitated and looked up at me between gulps of food.
Painstakingly, I clawed with my fingernails at the pin trying to open it, but as I just got it spread far enough to clear the clip on her collar she pulled back, tail tight, fear in her eyes.
I released her and breathed.
We were both shaking.
This was not going to work. She was tired, exhausted and fearing for her life. She would do anything to free herself, yet I was curiously in her way. Instead of retrying the last effort, I knew there might be a better way.
Taking a break, I filled the lid of the roasting pan with water and put in within her reach. A new idea came to mind.
Returning to my truck, I found the bolt cutters and brought them back, slowly retracing my steps to our mutual area now outside the barn. She had just finished lapping up water when I came back into her sight. She was weary of me now that I carried something in my hands. Again, I tried to make her feel at ease, talking, whistling and cooing her.
Once more I tried the food and worked my way back up the cable. The bolt cutters were making her shake even more so I got as close as comfort for both of us would allow.
I reached as far as she would let ne and squeezed.
There was a brief moment of when both of us sighed relief, just briefly.
In the next instant, she ran away, heading east. The remnants of the cable that had kept her captive in the barn dragged harmlessly between her two front legs, barely touching the ground as she ran.
She never paused to look back.
Would she find her home, her pups? I could only hope.
The pastor of Morganton First Church of God’s sermon today was over John 8:31-5 and how we are slaves to our sin. Some of us allow our sin to keep us tied down, starved and nearly dead. Like the stray I found, we allow ourselves to be taken away from our loved ones until we both suffer. We can find salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ and he can deliver us from this bondage.
My fear for the poor mother is that she will return to the captivity that caused her to become the fearful animal she seemed; hopefully, this was just a condition of her motherhood. Like the dog in this story, we too can be set free only to return to the same conditions that put us in the bondage of sin.
I learned a little more about myself that day. Patience and control of fear worked through me in a way that I had never known. Faith in being who God made me allowed me to push through and set the poor animal free.
In 2016, make it a point to finally be set free. Run away, run hard and never return to that life which kept you a stranger to your own family. Run away from that addition that bound you to become a person you didn’t know when you looked in the mirror.
Do it today, and you will be set free forever.
Seek Jesus Christ and eternity will await.
“Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” – John 8:34-35