She named the dog “Mercedes.”
It’s an unlikely name, given the way he looked and where he was found. But I suppose that the name itself reflects the nature of the gift given. True mercy often runs contrary to the expected, and the greatest acts of grace always smell of scandal.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My cousin Leslie – an adventurous, thoughtful, smart and talented woman – holds a soft spot for animals. One afternoon, while driving down a four-lane highway in Mississippi, she spotted a dog in the dried grass of the median and decided in an instant to launch a crusade to save him. This was no curried and pedigreed show dog that caught her attention. No, this was a homeless and forsaken mongrel scrounging for something to eat. Skin stretched tight across his bones. Ticks and fleas hanging onto his lank frame. Large patches of missing hair and hide scratched raw from the mange.
Then along came Leslie in her high heels, fitted dress and luxury sports car. She pulled over and chased the dog around on the median of Highway 19. A law enforcement officer stopped to tell her that she could not park on the median, and she promptly enlisted him to help her catch the dog and tossed her new pet onto the padded leather backseat of her car.
The next stop was the veterinarian’s office where instructions were given: “This is my dog. Clean him up, treat him for the ticks and mange, and give him his shots. I’ll be back to pick him up in a few days.”
After collecting Mercedes from the vet, she put him on a plane and sent him to her parents’ home in Malibu, where he resides currently.
Not so long ago, I asked how the dog was doing. “He is doing well,” was the reply. “He loves to cross the fence into the yard next door and run around and play. I guess it is fine for him to do that, but we haven’t discussed the dog with the neighbor.”
“Do you know your neighbor?” I asked.
“Yeah. Bob Dylan.”
Can we all just take a moment and consider this narrative from a dog’s point of view? For if dogs had an oral history, told and retold to the aged and pups alike while antique bones were gnawed around the midnight fires of the hunting camps, Mercedes would be a canine legend…
A dog, clearly rejected and abandoned, forages for cast-off bits of food in the dusty grass along a Mississippi highway. He is a survivor being consumed by hunger from within and parasites from without. Appearing suddenly, a beautiful woman pursues him and snatches him from the life he knows. A short time later, he finds himself surrounded by the bright lights and stark walls of the vet’s office. Needles are pressed into his muscles, medicines are sprayed on his skin, and a wire enclosure becomes home for a time. It seems that his freedom might have been taken, both with speed and finality. He is shuffled to another enclosure in the hold of an airliner for what we can safely assume is his first-ever experience of flight. The dog defies gravity and is transported to another land, to another life. Touching down again and emerging from the dark belly of the machine, he is welcomed into the arms of a family never before seen. Now he has the joy of playing on the palatial grounds belonging to a Nobel Prize recipient who is one of the most influential and brilliantly creative artists in modern history. The dog is not concerned with the 27 miles of pristine coastline surrounding him, the exclusive boutiques lining manicured avenues or the celebrity status of those a stone’s roll away; all he knows is that he eats well, sleeps in peace and moreover, is deeply loved.
Such a beautifully surreal turn of events altogether sounds like a Dylan song. It also speaks to how we often do not get what we deserve, yet receive what we could never earn. And that is grace.
This I know to be true: the distance between the median of Highway 19 to Bob Dylan’s lawn is far shorter than the distance between where I was before I knew Christ and where I am now.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight… (Ephesians 1:7-8).
Thanks DW, for sending me this link to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize lecture. Take a minute and give it a listen; it’s well worth your time.