The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)
Cato and I noticed the rustle of grass while walking the turn-around early one morning last week. I spotted a small toad, about the size of a silver dollar. Cato stopped short and immitted a short “ruff.” When the toad hopped again, Cato jumped back, nosed down, and barked full-out.
I couldn’t help laughing—a sixty-pound dog afraid of a little toad, weighing only a few ounces. Then again, first encounters can surprise. And unknowns often frighten us the most.
Since Cato is settling in well and has been with us for nearly three months, we’ve decided to let him explore our mountain land off leash once or twice a day. He zooms around the meadow and, taking cues from big dogs Heathcliff and Freya, explores the woods. Squirrels send him into a frenzy; and though initially afraid of the deer, he now happily runs with them—and like them.
Sometimes I think about attaching a video camera to his collar and watching where he goes, to see what he sees. Then again if I sensed his adventures might endanger him, I might hesitate to let him run and explore, something dogs and people absolutely need to do. As Keith often reminds me, “If you don’t want your children to fall down, never let go of their hands.”
Our old dogs Heathcliff and Freya have reclaimed some of their youth since Cato arrived, playing bitey-face and running after deer. And all three dogs always come home.
Heathcliff barks when he wants to come inside. His barks become increasingly insistent if we don’t respond right away. Though Freya is our biggest barker—at critters and vehicles—she does not bark to alert us to her needs. Instead, she paces on the deck outside my office windows and, if she catches my eye, trots to the kitchen door. Otherwise, she curls up in a sheltered place and waits—she knows we’ll come get her.
I can’t help laughing with relief that his sweet face and big paws are home—and with recognition. When afraid, I feel like Cato, my face pressed against the door’s window and calling out to my Lord and Master to let me in. For in Him, fear turns to joy, like first toad encounters turn into runs up the mountain.