Retrieving the Retriever

Lessons of God's unconditional love for us,

from a Black Lab... 

When crawl spaces are closed off with merely a piece of plywood and four buckets of dying ferns; and when there is a heat wave going on and it is hot as blazes outside; and when the incessant, loud booms of fireworks overhead become too much to bear; a dog's gonna do what a dog's gotta out the cool, quiet, comfortable solitude of the area underneath the house.

And when you're a Labrador Retriever, like our dog Scout, you have no fear of consequences.


"He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me." - Psalm 18:19 (NIV)

To my discredit, I knew Scout had been venturing underneath the house for a couple of days, but given the circumstances mentioned above, I didn't dog-proof the entry to the crawl space.  After all, she'd been showing up for dinner and had been sleeping in her bed on the sunroom porch.

So late last night I noticed that she had not re-emerged, and that she didn't seem to want to play ball when called (from under the house).  In lieu of crawling under the house at 11 pm, I chose to inspect the foundation vents on the street side of the house to ensure that she had not escaped the confines of the fenced backyard through an alternate route.

I figured if she hadn't re-emerged by morning, I'd go looking for her.

So, this morning, I found myself dressing in my purple knee-high tiger band socks, jeans, long sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, steel-toed boots and a winter hat (I did mention it's July and we're hot-t in SC, right?), and gloves.

 I figured if there was something (like a poisonous snake) that had taken down my 72 pound dog, I'd be long as it didn't go for my face! (God bless all you HVAC, ELEC, & Cable installers who have spent years crawling under houses.)

I plugged in the yellow, handheld contractor's light into my 100' extension cord, and asked God for His protection, citing: 

 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. - Daniel 2:38 (NIV)

...and judging from the size of the dried excrement I encountered upon entering the crawl space on my belly...I was going to need that assurance of dominion going forward.  I kept trying to imagine what kind of animal would have the head clearance necessary to drop a poop that size?  Wharf Rat?  Racoon?  Lynx?  I can assure you it did not originate with any regular sized cat, that we're used to seeing in our neighborhood, but I digress.

My fears of Scoutie having perished from some giant rodent or reptile attack, were quickly allayed, as I heard her familiar whimper from the OTHER side of the main HVAC trunk line (the big one) the one that you pretty much have to go around to get to the other side.

Thanking the Lord that she was alive, I continued sliding on my belly like some 236 pound Sea Lion, towards the HVAC duct.  The noise of Scout's whimper had come from somewhere near the outside corner of the house.  Could it be possible that she had escaped, and was calling to me through the foundation vent (from the outside)?

I backed out of the crawl space (not nearly as quickly as this sentence might suggest), and walked around the  outside of the house.  And I heard her again (through the foundation vent).  I removed the vent cover, and there she was.

So, she was under the house, inside the crawl space, on the OTHER side of the Main HVAC Ducts.

I called for Wendi to bring her some water, and Scout seemed appropriately grateful.  Then a neighbor walking his dog passed by the front yard, and Scout acted like she wanted to crawl out through the vent hole.  Sensing she MIGHT fit, if I could get her sideways, but anticipating a "halfway in / halfway out stuck Lab" scenario, I sought to avoid the latter problem.  It seemed to me, less time intensive to climb back under the house, and coax her back from whence she came, than to try to push a half stuck lab back into the crawl space she was attempting to flee from, and then crawl back under the house and attempt to coax her back from whence she came.

Oh, and by the way this was Wednesday morning, and my typical weekday morning routine which would otherwise had have me leaving for work, was no longer valid.

  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. - Luke 15:4-7 (NIV)

 Back up under the house I went.  Heading toward the main HVAC trunk line.  I took a left and headed toward the middle of the house.  The clearance between the bottom of the plumbing, HVAC ducts, etc and the top of the dirt became more of a challenge, and I was more frequently being reminded to "make myself small".  (which is kind of a joke, for those of you who have witnessed my girth firsthand).

With my trusty contractor's light illuminating the perpetual darkness, I slid onward.  Then suddenly faced an impasse.

I decided to leave my light where it was (located next to the HVAC line that I was eventually going to get around), and backtrack in search of a place that allowed for oversized rescuers.  The light seemed to be adequately lighting the entire crawl space ahead of me, so I felt secure in leaving it.  And I was hoping Scout would see the light and start working her way back towards it.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. - Psalm 139:11-12 (NIV)

Since my journey had placed me on the wrong side of the back-to-back plumbing lines underneath our efficient Ranch floor plan, I had to slide all the way to the back wall of the foundation to find a place large enough to pass through.  And then a funny thing happened (not so funny at the time).  I heard the tapping of 4 feet on the floor above my head.  It wasn't kid feet, it was dog feet.

Scout was somehow back inside the house!

I rejoiced for a brief moment, that she was back where she belonged.  Apparently my wife had managed to coax Scout through the foundation vent.

So, I did a 180 (again, not nearly as simply as that sentence makes it sound), and started sliding back from whence I had slid.  I still had to retrieve my light, which was tenuously tethered to the extension cord that I was finally approaching.  I knew that I probably shouldn't try to pull it towards me by pulling the extension cord, but I did it anyway.  And after 3 gentle tugs, it came unplugged.  So I had to make my way back toward the light in the dark.

After reaching it, I reconnected the power cord and made my way toward the daylight of the open crawl space entry.

Of course Wendi was there to document the whole thing, as I reemerged from the darkness, filthy dirty from the rescue mission.

A small part of me wanted to punish Scout for having caused so much trouble this morning.  But mostly I was glad she was back within the safe confines of our backyard, and glad that the search and rescue mission was over.

 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me. - Psalm 18:19 (NIV)

My friend, if you are currently stuck in a dark place with no apparent way out, there is hope.  Your Heavenly Father loves you.  He cares for you, and will rescue you from the darkness, if you will simply call out to Him.

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

You may have gotten yourself into this situation, but you cannot get yourself out.  God can. He has a plan for your life, and it is to have fellowship with you IN THE LIGHT.

 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. - 1 John 1:5-7
It feels great to have rinsed all the dirt off my clothes from this morning, and to have taken a long shower.

I have adequately blocked the crawl space access door, and my hope is that Scout won't attempt such a maneuver again.  However, having lived with her for almost eleven years, it's likely not going to be the last time she has to be rescued from somewhere she shouldn't have been.  And that's ok, as long as we get her back

Thanks to "Reverend Scout" for yet another brilliant illustration of God's unconditional love and His unfailing desire to rescue each of us from the sins that we so often find ourselves entangled in. 

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1 comment:

  1. UPDATE:

    Scout got out of the fence this past Saturday (a contractor left the gate not quite closed). In an effort to retrieve her (yet again), I made my way over to the other side of the neighborhood, and spotted her from afar, in a semi-confined area beneath some pecan trees.

    I decided to gently nudge her back by throwing her tennis ball (something she really loves (almost as much as breaking free and exploring new territory)) into the area where I found her. Almost like, we had ventured to this new, unexplored area together. Since, I wasn't rushing to grab her, or fussing at her, she played along, and eventually I was able to gently grab her collar, and put her back on the leash, and lead her home again.

    "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you[b] from the power of sin that leads to death."
    - Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)