Tuesday, December 5, 2017
by J.C. Foley
When I was 7 or 8 years old, Christmas Eve was unusually warm, so warm in fact that my mom, who was busy in the kitchen preparing for our big annual Christmas breakfast, insisted that the screen be put back in the front storm door. (In those days, ours was wooden and you had to put the glass or screen panel in with the change of seasons.) With the smell of bacon frying and making our mouths water, dad and we four kids were in the living room where a pleasant breeze wafted in through the demanded screen, when a sound – a whimper and a scratch – was heard….
Dandy was our dog, a mix of Cocker Spaniel and only the good Lord knows what else, and he was a great companion for all of the Foley children, especially me, the youngest by five years. Dogs in the country back then were, for the most part, free to roam as they pleased, and Dandy was a wanderer. Well, one day he wandered away and did not return. We were sad; I am sure I cried and questioned, but we moved on as life requires of a busy family, and Dandy became a bittersweet memory. Until one day my grandpa, who lived several miles down the road from us, passed our house on his way home from work and said that he had seen Dandy playing in a field near the woods a few miles down the road. He called to him, but Dandy wouldn’t come. I was angry about that – that Dandy didn’t want us anymore, but Grandpa explained in his wonderful way that some dogs are free spirits, and are happier living life unfettered: Dandy was happy, and I was okay with that. Grandpa reported several more “Dandy-sightings” over the next year or so.
…“What was that?” someone asked; I got up and went to the door and, lo and behold, there was Dandy, tail wagging furiously, wanting to be let in! Oh, the joy I felt to see my not-so-faithful friend! We played and played with Dandy, and mom and dad even let him stay in the house that night, but we had to let him out the next morning when our family breakfast guests began to arrive. In the hustle and bustle of Christmas days, opening gifts, breakfast, dinners at both grandparents’, Dandy, left to his own devices, did what Dandy did: he wandered. He was gone by the time we got home in the evening…
Over the next year, we never saw Dandy, but Grandpa continued to tell us of a rare Dandy-sighting now and again. He said our vagabond pooch appeared happy and healthy, although absolutely refused to come when called, opting for freedom over security every time.
…December 24th, one year to the day later, and the scene in the Foley household is much the same as the year before: mom scurrying about preparing breakfast, dad and kids staying out of the way in the living room, watching TV, probably a Christmas show of some kind. One difference, however, is that the weather is normal for Paris, IL this year: cold on Christmas Eve. The front doors are securely latched against the ever-present wind. Above the noise of the TV, pots and pans banging in the kitchen, and four boisterous kids, a sound is heard – a yelp? a bark? “Listen!” There it is again; sure enough – a bark! Could it be? COULD IT BE??!! AGAIN??!! In a split second: looks of disbelief, consternation, and the dawning realization that something truly special might be happening. Even mom, sensing something, has gone quiet in the kitchen. We rush to the door, fling it open, and there, dancing in anticipation, is DANDY!
Again, we spent a joyous and rambunctious night with our beloved, drifter dog. and once again we let him back out the next morning. Dandy was never to return, and Grandpa’s sightings dwindled to nothing over the next couple of years, but that is okay because Dandy’s job, for at least one Foley kid, was well and truly accomplished.
When I became an adult, I strayed – long and hard – from God’s path. My life was, in a word, pandemonium. Yet, even when I was furthest from Him, I knew with a sure certainty that God gives us miracles, big and small, regularly – all because of a mongrel dog named Dandy.
Whether it is the birth of a baby boy in a manger 2000 years ago, who changed everything for everyone, or it is just a little dog coming home – twice – on the very day we celebrate that greatest of miracles and giving just one little boy his own path home to Jesus, God bestows on even the most undeserving of souls, peace in the pandemonium.
TODAY: Pray for someone by name who is retired.