A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
For 28 days our “Next door” neighborhood email box was filled with the heart-broken pleas of a woman whose dog Anakin was lost. The owner put up posters everywhere, begged people to pray they’d catch him, and asked people to be on the lookout for him. “Don’t try to catch him; don’t even take pictures of him, lest you drive him further away. He’s suffering from Lost Dog Syndrome.”
Along about the 20th day of those heart-broken emails, I said to myself, “If that stupid dog doesn’t want to come home, he doesn’t deserve the kind of love that family gives it.” And the Lord (who doesn’t like for me to call anybody “stupid”) seemed to answer, “Libby, you’ve forgotten how I feel about one poor lost sheep, or one desperate prodigal son.”
That’s true. The Shepherd did leave the 99 sheep in the wilderness while He took a perilous journey into the wilds to find that one lost sheep. And the Father certainly welcomed His starving prodigal son with delight. So I felt better about the sacrifices this family was making to bring home their dog.
But on the 28th day, when the dog was captured and brought home, I found out I’d misjudged the whole situation. Anakin, it turned out, hadn’t deliberately left his loving home. He got lost while he was in a training facility far from home. He was desperate to find his home, but more desperately afraid of all those threatening strangers. The capture of the dog was accomplished only after scores of people in the community spent hours searching. The humane trap that eventually caught him was built and financed by people who hadn’t even known the dog’s owner. People who’d never heard of Anakin prayed desperately. Most remarkable to me was the impact the adventure had on a broad community. Children saw their parents pray and get their prayer answered. People became friends, and isolated houses became a community. And all that came about because a traumatized dog was desperately sought by the people who loved him.
The owner’s sister Becky Leneau wrote in an email:
“I’m crying, probably with many others, for God’s goodness in all this. People being His hands and feet and doing the work. People crying out to God for a miracle! The tenacity of so many! Thank you, Jesus, for your goodness in their lives and our lives! May many be strengthened in their faith through this story.”
Anakin’s owner wrote: “It took the community coming together and showing the biggest and best of restoration in humanity to save my dog. God was using us to make that happen. Everything that happened was for a reason, and I won’t let that go unnoticed. I will use it for the good of pets!
And I am deeply comforted to remember how the Lord Jesus felt about Anakin’s rescue. Jesus said,
Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?
And not one of them is forgotten before God. . . .
Do not fear therefore;
You are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6,7
If our Almighty God cares about every tiny bird in His creation, then imagine how deeply He cares about the trials and troubles of the human beings He created in His own image. And He still truly cares even when the lost dog, or the lost human being, is lost because of its own willful choices.