Today we lost Pete hiking on the Appalachian Trail. We'd been hiking for under an hour when I heard my oldest son Josh holler back to ask if Pete was with us. He wasn't. Our hiking party of 17 was a bit spread out, and as I continued to walk, I could hear Ben keep calling out Pete's name. I could also hear the hunters gun shots, far from us, but I knew not far from where a dog might run off.
Pete has hiked with us for all his four years. He can run fast enough to catch up to deer even with a bad leg. When he really wants to go fast he just lifts it and runs on three. He runs faster on three legs than most dogs run on four. He'll disappear into the woods for minutes at a time but always comes tearing when we call.
As Ben continued to call for him, I started to worry. I wonder now why we didn't turn back. I guess we just kept expecting him to show up. But after an hour, I knew he was either lost, hurt or worse. I asked Josh to pray as we continued walking. I care about the dog, but my greatest concern was for the boys, especially Ben. Losing Pete would be heartbreaking for him. All the boys love Pete, but at fourteen, Ben and Pete are the picture stereotype of a boy and his dog.
Eventually Ben quit calling and just hiked on. He was being stoic and trying to enjoy himself, but I knew he was worried too.
We arrived at our destination, six miles from our start. Jeff, Josh, Ben and our friends drove back to get the cars with the hope that Pete had followed our scent back to the car. The rest of our group and I went to get a snack and wait.
After about half an hour, Jeff called with the news that Pete had been found! We all clapped and cheered inside the little ice cream store we were waiting in. Later Jeff explained how a couple back at the parking lot said a dog kept showing up and taking off again. The guys spread out to look for him, and Jeff found him across the road at a construction sight. He was dirty and scared but okay.
At home, Pete got a bath and lots of extra loving. I even laid down beside him and gave him some hugs. With a house full of people, I don't give much attention to the dog. But today I was reminded of how thankful I am for Pete just because he means so much to the ones I love. As I hugged him, he sighed and so did my heart. Thank you sweet dog for coming back to us.
Making my rounds to say goodnight, Ben said to me, "I don't know what I would have done if we hadn't found him."
"I'm so glad we did, Ben."
Thank you, God for answering our prayer and caring about a little gimpy mutt because you care about us. The ones You love.