Yesterday was an eventful day in a country living kind of way. It started normally enough with breakfast followed by coffee in front of our respective laptops, checking to see what was going on in the rest of the world. Neither of us found anything particularly interesting, so David put on his work boots and hat and went out to do battle with another tree stump, and I went to the garden to pull weeds. He told me later that when he was getting his tools, he heard a low growl under the shed. I would have investigated immediately, but his focus on the task at hand was stronger than his curiosity, so I was the first to meet our visitor. As I knelt in the garden, this little furball barreled into my backside.
“Well, who are you?” I said.
He rolled over and showed me his tummy. He didn’t have a collar, and he wasn’t talking, so I went back to weeding. He tried to help, but he had trouble distinguishing between the weeds and the tomato plants, so I evicted him from the garden. He didn’t stay evicted long, so I took him over and introduced him to David. He wasn’t much help with the tree stump either, so we went back to the garden where I tried not to step on him, trip over him, or stab him with a weeding tool.
I also tried to ignore him, hoping he’d get bored and go home. He was so little, probably not much more than a month old, and it was unlikely he could find his way home, even if home was close enough for his little legs to make the trip. It was more likely that some irresponsible pet owner had found a sparsely populated area away from traffic and dumped him. He was a friendly little thing and too cute for words, but I knew we couldn’t keep him. We didn’t have a fence, and the open floorplan of our house didn’t offer anywhere to pen up a rambunctious puppy. A third family member would make travel more complicated, and another mouth to feed would add another expense. I tried not to think about how long it had been since he had eaten.
When I went in to clean up for lunch, he followed me up the stairs, whining and scratching at the door when I closed it, leaving him outside. David came in soon afterward, and we didn’t talk much about the elephant in the room or the puppy on the porch. We hoped someone at the Senior Center would know where he came from or would want to take him in.
“Do you want a puppy?” we said to several of our neighbors.
“No,” was the almost unanimous response; however, Mary who lives around the curve from us made an offer.
“I can’t keep him,” she said, “but I’ll take him and see if I can find where he came from. If I can’t, I’ll put him on Craig’s list and find him a home.”
“Maybe he left,” said David.
Then we heard a rustle under the front porch. A little black nose appeared by the bottom step, and he wriggled his fat little body out between the gap between the steps and the skirting.
“He’s probably thirsty. It’s getting pretty warm out here,” said David.
Now that The Mutt as David called him had somewhere to go, it seemed okay to offer him a little hospitality that might otherwise have given him the wrong idea about our intentions. I brought him some water, but he wasn’t impressed, so I went back in and brought him a little milk. He buried his nose in the bowl and didn’t take a breath until he’d licked it clean.
“Want some more?” I said.
He did, and he finished it with equal enthusiasm. After his third round, he let out a satisfied burp, curled up in a ball, and went to sleep. I went inside to do some laundry, but when it clouded up and looked a little cooler, I went outside to visit with The Mutt before Mary came to pick him up. I got a bucket and policed the area for the bits of trash that seem to surface every time it rains. He helped, biting at the pieces of glass I unearthed and chasing my toes when I moved from place to place.
In a few minutes, Mary pulled into the driveway and smiled as I picked him up and walked over to her window.
“You’re a real cutie, aren’t you?” she said, taking him gently from me and cradling him comfortably against her shoulder. I was a little sad as she drove away, but I knew it was best for him. She was rescuing him from becoming one of the homeless dogs that wanders the back roads around here or something worse. Some of the long-time country folks at the Senior Center assured me that if someone didn’t take him in, he’d be on a coyote’s dinner table by morning.
Before he was out of sight, it began to sprinkle a bit, so I decided to call it a day. I went to empty my bucket, but when I got to the trash barrel, it was raining so hard I forgot to watch for the red wasps that hang around that end of the house. By the time I remembered, it was too late. As I turned my bucket up over the barrel, I felt a stabling pain in my wrist. I dropped my bucket, slapped at my wrist, and vacated the area ASAP. I almost collided with David who was headed for the house, too.
“A wasp got me,” I said, showing him my wrist that was already beginning to swell a bit.
I applied a couple of the anti-bite and anti-itch remedies we’ve collected and didn’t think much more about it. We both turned on our computers and did some surfing until the shower passed and the sun came back out. Then David disappeared into the laundry room and came out with three cans of insect sprays of various kinds and went outside. In a few minutes he opened the door and stuck his head in.
“That roach spray works real well on wasps. Come and see.”
I followed him out and looked where he pointed. There were a dozen or so wasps on the ground, suffering the fatal effects of David’s wrath.
“I may not have gotten the one that got you, but I got a bunch of them.”
That was our country living day: a puppy, a wasp, and a couple of heroes. I’m not sure why God made wasps. I know bees pollinate fruit and flowers, but what good are wasps? It’s a little easier to understand why He made dogs. Some of them are useful, and those who aren’t are cuddly and good company. But I’m pretty sure why He made heroes. There are times when you’re down on your luck and don’t have anywhere to go, or when you’ve been hurt by the stinging things of life, and you need somebody to step up and say I can help. That’s why God made people like Mary and David, friends and loved ones who can be our every day heroes when we need them.