The massive dust cloud billowed across the highway as the eighteen-wheeler a short distance ahead of me left the road, plowed through the dry dirt and withered grass, crossed the ditch and buried itself in a pile of recently-cut pine trees.
This changed the tone of the Saturday drive.
Looking back, I am thankful for lost dogs who aren’t really lost.
I’ll explain what I mean soon, but back to the wreck…
A couple of truckers and I pulled over and made our way through the chalk-fine, red dust toward the cab. A young man staggered from the driver’s seat and climbed up the embankment toward the shoulder of the road. He pulled out his phone to call his boss, seemingly focused, but upon looking closer, I saw his eyes dancing as he swayed. He didn’t look injured, but I knew he was shaken.
“Let’s take a seat here for a minute,” I said, pointing at a spot on the ground. “Law enforcement and medical help are in the way. Just sit tight until they can check you out.”
“I’m ok, man,” he stated and took a couple of steps back to survey his rig.
“Yeah…I’m not so sure of that, bro,” I said stepping beside him.
Moments later, his eyes rolled back into his head and he fell, as stiff as a board, backward onto the pavement. His head thumped loudly within a foot of the white line at the road’s edge. With the impact, his arms extended over his head. I took a knee next to him as he, still unconscious, stared unseeing at the sky.
That is the exact moment when I saw the big, red semi barreling down that lane toward us.
I pulled his arms back down and, at the same time, lowered my shoulder over his face while holding his head still as the semi passed just to the side of me. I could have touched the lug nuts on the front wheel easily without extending my arm completely. The passing truck slung a piece of gravel into the right lens of my sunglasses, busting out a jagged hole and grazing my eyelid with a couple of shards. The lens slowed the rock enough that it did no other damage.
The young guy finally came around, and as the authorities showed up, one by one, the truckers who had stopped to help found their way back to their own vehicles. I turned the driver over to the emergency response team to deal with his potential injuries and, after shaking hands with the officers and letting them know that I appreciate all they do, climbed in my car and drove away.
But something else happened on Saturday. I lost my mom’s dog.
That is not entirely accurate. Perhaps I should say, “I got separated from the dog.”
While at my mom’s place, I took the dog along with me on a nature walk into the woods to the place where the old house where my father was born once stood. He is a little Boston terrier and has fading eyesight (not exactly a rugged companion). We took the long route to the spot: down through the pasture, along the dry creek, past the pond, into the stand of pines and over the hill. We were almost there, and looking back a moment later, the dog was gone.
As in Bermuda Triangle gone.
So I called for him.
He did not show up.
To make a long story short, I backtracked a long way as I was calling for him, but did not find him. After a while, I returned home to see if he might be there.
So I made the walking trip again, all the while worried that he might wander into the road, or be found by coyotes or meet his demise in some other terrible way. After an hour or so of fruitless searching, I decided to go get some water and take a break.
He was sitting lazily on the back steps.
I was irritated, and I gave him a brief-but-greatly-impassioned explanation of how he disrupted (what could have been) a serene walk and wasted an hour of my time.
He blinked slowly and, seeing as how I was then silent, retrieved a chew toy. I finished up some other things and finally left to drive back to my place. On the way, I intersected with the accident at the right moment. A few moments earlier and I would have not seen the wreck. A few moments later? Let’s not dwell on that possibility.
We likely have many, many “lost dog” moments without our knowing. Those incidents come so frequently that we forget them easily or dismiss them as minor inconveniences or irritations. But each is woven into the fabric of time in a way that only a perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing God can understand clearly, though at times, like on Saturday, He allows one to see how a couple of threads are connected.
So on and on with perfect pace He weaves a vast and intricate pattern seen only in fullness at the time when all is set right again.
In the meantime, we can trust that the little moments, the tiny, hidden stitches, are purposeful, valuable and good.