[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here’s a cat on my lap, right now. I don’t know where she came from, but we’ve been feeding her for months now. So I guess she’s ours.

We named her Lula Bell.

She has a crippled back leg. She limps. And I don’t know how, but since we’ve had her, she’s attracted more of her own kind. A brown one and a grey one. Everyone eats free.

Presently, they’re outside with me, sunbathing—along with my two dogs, my neighbor’s Jack Russell, and two other feral cats I’ve never seen before.

I don’t know what makes someone hate animals, I couldn’t hate them if I tried.

There are heartless people out there. I know of a man who drug a mule behind his truck for six miles. I won’t go into detail, but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

Once, at a hunting camp outside Andalusia, I saw dogs in filthy cages. Their hair had fallen out, their eyes covered in brown film. The owner only released them whenever he went hunting—which was next to never.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make you sad.

So, I’ll tell you about Charlie instead. A stray shorthaired pointer, who looks about as pretty as a painting. Renne Jones found the dog on the steps of the Assembly of God church in Damascus, Alabama, last week.

Charlie was in bad shape. Starved, dehydrated, ate up with cancer. He needed surgery. Then, they discovered his microchip. As it turns out, Charlie’s no stray.

Ten years earlier, two hundred fifty miles away, someone kidnapped him.

His original owner, Tracy Dove, nearly passed out when the clinic called her. “There was lots of excitement,” she said. “And tears…”

Lots of tears.

Old Charlie had surgery yesterday. His mother, Tracy, and foster-mother, Melissa, were at his bedside. Several folks pooled together to pay for his procedures, but a canine surgery is roughly the price of a Pacific island. It wasn’t enough.

Even so, you should see him, he’s a fine-looking boy, with pretty eyes. Sad. And you can’t help but wonder what those eyes are thinking about right now.

I believe dogs have the same kinds of uncomplicated thoughts God has. Simple ones. Love this. Not that. Sleep. Eat. Then love some more. I’ll bet Charlie even loved the fella who kicked him out of the truck and left him for dead. That’s how dogs are.

And even though I cannot be certain.

I believe Lula Bell is reading this over my shoulder.

God bless you, Charlie.

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