Today I was thinking about how sometimes even though this life seems like a chaotic trainwreck of accidents, it’s not. In fact it’s the opposite. Sometimes it’s almost as though the whole thing has been scripted. Like maybe there are no accidents.
Which leads me to a story sent in by a friend. Many years ago this friend, who shall remain nameless, was driving through a little town, which shall also remain nameless. He was driving a truck, which, as far as I know, has no name either.
He was listening to music, probably some Duane and Greg. And I’ll bet he was singing along. On the side of the road he saw a sign that read: “Puppies.”
My friend is a noted dog afficiondo, and he is also dad to three kids who are dog freaks. His previous dog had passed that year and he was in the market.
The handmade signs led him to a dilapidated house. And we’re talking about a true ramshackled heap. A stiff wind could have turned this thing into a pile of pickup sticks.
In the front yard were several kids playing. On the porch was their mother, smoking a cigarette. He leapt out of the truck and waded through the lawn of dead appliances, rusted bikes, and rain-soaked trash.
The house was even worse than he thought. There were threadbare tarps over the roof, and windows missing. The kids were in bad shape, too. They looked like they hadn’t bathed since the Punic Wars.
He saw no puppies, but there on the porch, sitting beside the woman was the most beautiful adult dog he’d ever met. A Saint Bernard.
Many people have never seen a Bernard except in the movies, and they’re unprepared for how impressive these creatures are. A Saint Bernard is not just a dog. It’s a breed that’s been around since the seventeenth century with a reputation, historically speaking, for saving as more lives than a Gaither Homecoming concert.
My friend was smitten. The dog must have weighed about 800 pounds and stood 350 feet tall. The herculean thing came trotting up to him with a chew toy in her mouth.
“Get back here, Ethel!” called the woman. But Ethel had already made a new friend.
He fuzzed Ethel’s head and discovered that her chew toy was no toy. It was a plain old brick. The dog dropped the brick and it hit the porch with a thud.
He asked, “Where are the puppies?”
“Sorry,” the woman said. “Just got rid of the last one a few hours ago. But you can buy Ethel if you want, she’s real nice and she needs a good home.”
No sooner had the woman said this than tears began forming in her eyes, and also in the eyes of her children.
“This dog’s for sale?”
“Yep.” The woman dabbed her face. “My husband is making us get rid of her. He hates dogs. She’s five years old. She’s potty trained and everything.”
The woman cried and explained that after Ethel’s puppy birthing adventures, her husband had become fed up with dogs. Her husband said he was going to take Ethel to a shelter once the puppies were all sold. He was taking her away that evening.
“It’s a kill-shelter,” the woman added.
So my friend immediately offered to buy the dog. But the woman wasn’t able to freely make decisions without consulting her husband. She went to fetch him.
In a few minutes a man came onto the porch, shirtless, aggressive, and ready to fight. He said he’d sell the dog, but only for a ludicrous price. It was an intimidation move, there’s no doubt about it. One directed at her.
But my friend didn’t flinch. Instead he wrote a ridiculous check for the asking price, a price you’d normally associate with a three-bedroom house. The next thing he knew he was loading a behemoth Saint Bernard into his truck. The kids were surrounding the animal saying last goodbyes. Chins trembling. Faces leaking.
One girl wiped her pink eyes and said, “Are—are you gonna change her name?”
The little boy came next. “Here’s her blanket, so she won’t forget us.”
Even the woman was coming apart. She pressed her forehead against the dog’s mahogany body and let it all out.
But the goodbyes were interrupted when Father Dearest barked at everyone to get the [cussword] away from the truck and go inside.
“Now!” added Husband of the Year.
Before my friend left, he gave the woman a business card and said, “Listen, any time your kids want to see Ethel, I want you to call me. I’m just gonna temporarily hold her for you. How’s that sound?”
He maintained eye contact with her to make sure she knew what he was actually saying.
But before the woman could answer her husband shouted, “I said now, woman!”
What a guy.
As it happens, my friend did get a phone call from her late one night. She was calling from a cellphone while driving out of the state with her kids in the backseat.
She wanted to know if she could work out a deal to buy Ethel back. My friend sensed something was wrong, so he offered something even better. He told her about a domestic abuse shelter he knew about.
Arrangements were made, and when the woman arrived at the shelter that night, black-eyed and bruised, luggage in tow, Ethel was already waiting in the rec room.
And you’re probably wondering what the big deal is about my friend’s story.
Well, he just happened to be the guy who founded and operated the shelter.
There are no accidents in this life. None.