Looking for Dudley

This is the story of my day . . .

1) Got up and put Dudley outside so he could do his business and play with Jake. For those who don't know, Dudley is our nine-month-old basset hound and Jake is Alan's chocolate lab. We're keeping Jake this week while Alan is on a medical missions trip to Ecuador.

2) Jake is a true retriever. He loves to run after a ball or a toy or anything I throw. Since we live in a cabin by a lake, he enjoys jumping into the water to retrieve things. Jake can dog paddle for hours. Dudley can't swim very well, mostly because bassets are built for wading, not for swimming.

3) This morning when Jake jumped into the lake, Dudley followed him into the shallow water, getting thoroughly wet and totally covered with mud in the process. I glanced up to see Jake and Dudley standing outside the sliding glass door, watching as Marlene and I had our devotions together. They were both totally happy and dripping water and mud and lake debris. Dudley in particular was totally drenched.

4) I jumped in the car a few minutes after nine to drive from Tupelo to Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church near Batesville. I made the journey so I could meet the pastor and the music director to discuss the upcoming revival services, August 31-Sept 3. It turns out that I had to drive 87 miles to reach the church, which is perched on a hill by a country road. A hand painted sign announced the Homecoming Revival to all the passersby.

5) Just as I arrived at the church Marlene called with the news that Dudley had disappeared. He and Jake had been playing around the cabin but suddenly Dudley was nowhere to be found.

6) I met with the pastor and the music leader and we talked about the upcoming services. Pilgrims Rest was established well over a hundred years ago. It is an apt name given the cemetery behind the building. I noticed a sign that said, "Before Interment please call this number," which made you wonder if they've had a problem with random burials. Pastor Wes Sherman has served the church for six years and seen good growth during that time.

7) After we met and prayed together, we drove from the church back to Oxford to eat lunch at Handy Andy's, home of the finest barbecue in town. While I was there, I got a call from Josh saying that I needed to go to Memphis to get some paperwork at an automobile dealer. The owner of Handy Andy's knows the music minister very well so he brought over homemade fried pies and then sat down to chat with us.

8) Soon I set out to drive to Memphis, learning along the way that Marlene had not been able to find Dudley. She had searched the property (we live on 105 wooded acres with a 17-acre lake) and there was no sign of him. A deep sinking feeling hit me. The thought of something happening to Dudley was difficult to contemplate. If anything had happened, I thought it was likely that he had tried to follow Jake too far into the lake and hadn't be able to make it back to shore. Or he could have just wandered off, though he hasn't done that in the past. If he made it all the way to the paved road, someone could have picked him up.

9) After an hour I arrived at the automobile place only to find out that they didn't have the paperwork I needed. So I turned around and started for home. When I called Marlene again, she said that she had driven the car all over the property but still couldn't find Dudley. A great heaviness filled my heart when I heard the news.

10) It was late in the afternoon when I finally arrived home, having driven over 300 miles. I told Marlene that I would take Jake and start looking for Dudley. I started by the lake but found nothing. Then I got on the ATV and drove along the gravel road by the guesthouse, across the levee and behind the conference center, having given up any hope.

11) Then I saw Dudley where he wasn't supposed to be, on the far side of the conference center, which means he was on the other side of the lake from the cabin. He and Jake must gone exploring after I left. Dudley didn't come when I called, mostly I think because he knew he had been very naughty. He's a smart boy, and like all smart boys, he knows when he's done wrong.

12) He was filthy. Evidently he and Jake had been playing in the mud pit by the lake. I suppose he and Jake had played for a while, then Jake came back to the cabin but Dudley decided to stay and play in the mud. He must have been there when Marlene came by earlier, but he didn't come when she called either.

13) So I scooped him up and immediately was covered with basset hound hair and water and mud and slime. He wasn't happy and he knew I wasn't happy. When we got back to the cabin, he bolted inside and took Marlene completely by surprise. She was thrilled to see him and she was thrilled that Jake and I had found him.

14) I ran some hot water and put him in the tub and gave him a good bath. And I gave him a good talking-to while I did it, telling him how worried we had been and why did he run off and not come back and how it wasn't funny at all and how he needed to learn to grow up and everything else like that that I could think of. It didn't seem to bother him, but it made me feel better.

15) I called Josh and told him about my trip to Memphis and then we talked with Leah. That made us both feel better.

16) Then we drove to Hardin's Country Store where we bought rib-eye sandwiches for supper.

17) As we watched the news, Dudley crawled up on the couch and lay between us very quietly. "I think he feels bad about today and wants to be close to us," Marlene said.

18) It is amazing the hold that a dog can have on your heart. As I write these words Marlene is in bed and Dudley is sleeping several feet from me. It has been a long day, with a scary middle, but it had a happy ending.

You can reach the author at  ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.