Based on a true story
It was the perfect summer day. Pristine blue sky. Simmering warmth. Just enough unobstructed sunshine to heat my pumping bare arms. I maintained a measured, quick stride up G Street past ranches and bungalows with my beagle, Patches.
Nike running shoes? Check. Shorts and T-shirt? Check. MP3 player, earbuds, and playlist ready? Check.
After being chained to the chair in my basement office, the prospect of being outdoors after a long day of editing was heavenly. My neck ached, and I longed for the solace only woods, fresh air, and sunshine could provide.
I was walking my dog—or maybe she was walking me—toward that sun-dappled forest path that led beyond the subdivision and quite literally into the woods. Where the road ended, the path began—little more than two ruts carved between the trees by four-wheeling joyriders. Ahead lay the promise of sunny meadows, wild raspberries, and an old abandoned iron mine surrounded by a rusty barbed-wire fence.
I left the road, and Patches led me down the path’s steep hill to the beckoning world beyond, while being serenaded by the rush of leaves and distant birdsong. Not to mention the faint scent of pine and woodsy wildness wafting on the breeze. It was a wonderful, heavenly place I long to return to even now.
I figured we were far enough from the subdivision and the busy roads to let Patches off her leash. Then she could bound into the brush after rabbits and enjoy our forest romp without restraint.
In a flash she did a one-eighty and sprinted up the hill we’d just descended. Bewildered, I whirled and took off after her. “Patches, what are you doing?” I cried.
I was no longer her owner. The one who cared for her and fed her. Suddenly, I was a stranger—and strangers were the last people she listened to. Cresting the hill, she dashed down the paved road away from me.
What was going on? I ran, trying to catch up. “Patches? Patches!”
Nope. Not even an acknowledgment of my presence. I gritted my teeth.
Normally Patches loved the woods, so why was she running back down the road toward our house? Back toward—
Ahead G Street came to an intersection with Park Avenue, and it was almost 5:00 p.m. People were coming home from work, and right now this was a busy road in our neighborhood.
Park Avenue also had a blind hill just to the south of the intersection. If Patches tried to dash across the road at just the right time . . . Nobody would even see her until it was too late.
My heart revved. I hungrily swallowed more air and sprinted after her. Calves and thighs strained. Lungs ached.
Forget calling to her—she won’t listen anyhow. Just reach her. Grab her collar. STOP HER.
Patches was only yards away from Park Avenue now. She raced toward that dangerous intersection as if she wanted to die.
Have you ever known something terrible about to happen and realized you couldn’t stop it? I was closer now, but I’d never reach her in time.
One last frantic shout burst from my lips. “Patches!”
As she reached the intersection, my chest tightened. I wanted to rewind this whole tragic event and never let her off her leash again.
I can’t look!
But I did. She sprang across Park Avenue in a rare break in traffic. She’d made it across—she was okay.
Relief flooded my veins, but now I was mad. No, I was furious.
Didn’t she understand why I was calling her name? Didn’t she realize she could have been killed? This was why I kept her on the leash in the first place . . . until we reached the woods. In the woods she had freedom—there she could run without restraint as much as she wanted.
But not here. Not on G Street. Not with this 5:00 p.m. traffic. Why couldn’t she understand that? Didn’t she realize I was calling after her for her own good?
Obviously not, you dummy. Otherwise she’d turn around and come back.
I looked both ways and dashed across Park Avenue after her, calling her name, gasping for air. Sweat stung my eyes, and I swiped an arm across my face. It helped. A little.
I called her name again. More wasted effort.
But she was slowing now, and I closed gap. Another twenty feet, and I came alongside. I grabbed her caller. And just like that, the pursuit was over.
Panting, I swatted her rear end, put the leash back on, and gave her an earful. Not only could she be roadkill right now. She’d made me feel like a fool while I ran down the road and sacrificed my pride for a brainless, unsubmissive dog who wouldn’t listen.
Who didn’t realize the danger she was in. Who just wanted her own way. Who couldn’t conceive that my best intentions—the leash, my pursuit, my calling her name—were really for her own good.
While I walked her home, I realized I was sometimes just like my dog, and God had me by the leash. He’d promised me better places, wild forest paths and joys beyond imaginings, to explore with Him by my side.
But no. So often I didn’t want to lick the hand that fed me. I was dead set on going rogue, on going my own way and running into the dangerous traffic, on turning my back on the one Person who knew what was best for me. Who lovingly kept calling my name, even when I refused to listen and sprinted toward the jaws of death.
Sometimes He let me off the leash. He gave me the freedom to choose to obey Him, and in His will is ultimate liberty. But if I wasn’t willing to obey His wishes, back on the leash I went. Freedom on hold.
We’re all rebels at heart, aren’t we? If not for the grace of God, we’d all be roadkill right now. A bloody mess on the road because of our own foolish choices, our hell-bent will to be loners, our rugged American individualism.
But such living is a lie. The very notion of living apart from Him, apart from His grace and His loving correction when we stray, is impossible.
Because we do stray, and He alone can rescue us from our mindless ways. Praise God for His mercy.
“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” —Romans 3:12 (ESV)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
—Psalm 91:1 (ESV)
Photo Credit: Beagle Dog by Karen Arnold
- Favorite Books: The Chronicles of Prydain
- Should I Pursue Novel Writing as a Career?