For about a week now, Happy has been feeling less than his best. Thanks to days of cold damp weather his back legs became so painful that it was all that he could do to limp from the family room to his pillow next to my bed. At one point the pain became so fierce that his cries of agony woke me up early in the morning, and it took me an hour of comforting him before he could finally drift back into an uneasy sleep. So miserable was he that his love of food and traveling to see his land were forgotten. Begging for rides and treats were forgotten, replaced by the excruciating pain that left him a lifeless bundle.
Fortunately after days of spending time under the heating pad Happy’s spirits revived, and his desire to travel to the land returned for him as well as for his tired caretakers. We were all anxious to spend a little time on our dream lot, doing what little we could to prepare it for use. But the day was too rainy for work, and the land was to far away for us to make a trip just to spend a few moments hiking on our little lot between showers. Desirous of an excuse to make the trip, I thought of the brilliant idea that we should call a land clearing company to see if we could make an appointment to price clearing at least one of the acres. Since recently we had come to the conclusion that clearing the land at the rate we were going would take forever and that with our poor health it was wiser to have someone else clear it for us and save our limited energy for planting trees, improving soil, creating a garden, and getting some chickens.
Our first call was meet with success. Elated we hurriedly prepared to make the long trip with a still painful but enthusiastically little Happy trying to herd us out the door second he realized where we were going. It seemed like forever, even though it was only a couple of hours, before we pulled up in front of our lot. The rain having temporarily cleared, we piled out of the car so we could enjoy a few moments looking and dreaming at our land while waiting for the man from the land clearing company to arrive and give us an estimate.
As usually we made a beeline for our neighbors chicken coup where we stood on the edge of our property admiring the chickens and imagining what fun it would be when we were moved in with a coup of our own while I took a few pictures of Happy looking at the chickens. We then moved to the middle of our lot trying to decide where we might put the house and what trees needed to go and which ones we wanted to stay.
I turned my back for just a second to snap a few pictures when I suddenly heard a loud crack and an equally loud scream. I turned around in time to see what my brain processed as a slow motion movie clip, my one of the hundreds of thin trees on our lot fly through the air along with my father. With a heavy thud he was on the ground, and thankfully the broken tree laid safely a few feet away.
Fortunately while my Father was injured, he had broken none of his limbs. But his ribs were hurting so badly that he could not get up from the ground himself. This posed a problem, because though we tried, my mother, my sister, and I could not help him up. What were we to do?
It was at this critical moment that the man from the land clearing company arrived. Like an angel sent from God, he rushed over to see if he could help get my father up. Only Happy did not view him as messenger of mercy, in his eyes this stranger bending over his injured Grandpa was a potential threat. Sure he might be a nice man, but he could also be a dangerous killer taking advantage of my father’s weakened state. Under normal circumstance there would be time to watch, to sniff out this newcomer and determine if he was friend or foe. But if he waited to do all of that it might be too late.
The instant that man bent over my father to help him, I heard the most ferocious growl come out of his throat. In that instance his limp, his size in comparison to the stranger were instantly forgotten. As he saw that strange figure bending over his injured Grandpa, he transformed from Happy the lovable 20 pound lap dog into Happy the fearless 400 pound guard dog. Lunging forward with a strength he rarely displays, it was all I could do to keep him from completing the few inches between him and the legs of the man I knew was only trying to help. Pulling and pulling with all of my might I struggled to put a few inches safely between him and his intended target.
Thankfully it only took a few moments for the man to help my father back to his feet, and only a second or two more for Happy the guard to dog to realize that all was well and return back to his gentle, lovable self. Once Happy realized that instead of harming my father, the stranger had helped him, the smile had quickly returned to his face and he was content to return to exploring his land.
While I do not like the circumstance that sparked Happy’s display, it taught me something about the depths of Happy’s love and devotion for his family and even more so about the power of love in general. For days he had been so sick that he had to be carried into the house or placed on our lap or his bed, the pain had been so strong that he had given up begging for rides and food, yet even though the pain was not fully gone, he was ready to take on someone who was probably 8-10 times his size. It did not matter to him that because of his size and health he had no real chance of winning the battle. At that moment his only concern was that someone he loved was in danger and did not have the ability to defend himself.
In that instant, when the fate of of one of his precious family pack was on the line, he did not need to stop and weigh the pros and cons. He did not have to pull out a computer and do a complicated analysis to determine the risk to reward ratio. He did not pause to ask if he would survive the battle. In that critical second as he saw this strange man standing over his injured Grandpa he knew one thing, he loved his Grandpa more than life itself.
To me that was a beautiful snapshot of the transforming power of true love, and its amazing ability to think of the need of others before our own. Sadly many of us get so caught up in the importance of knowing the risk to reward ratio. Its usefulness in determining our need of buying some must have thingamajig or that adorable knickknack is undeniable. There is a time and a place to pause and consider will the risk of emptying my pocket book of its last penny for this impulse buy, of moving from a sure job to the middle of nowhere to start a business that no one has ever heard of worth the risk? Will the reward outweigh the potential trauma to my pocket book, my career, my family, etc? There are times to ask these important questions and assure ourselves that we are not needlessly putting ourselves in danger of going bankrupt or destroying our careers, and there is no shame in saying the risk is to great. In this matter the damage to my future happiness is to great.
But like Happy, there are times that love calls, nay demands us to take a huge risk and potentially make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of another. Like Happy, there comes that ultimate moment when regardless of the personal risk, for the sake of one we love we must jump in and give our all. Sometimes it might be in willing to jump in and defend a dear family member or friend knowing that we are risking everything. But many times it means something more trying, a giving of ourselves that is far harder than entering a fight with a stranger 10 times your size. At times it means being willing to swallow your pride and say I was wrong, or be the first one to say I am sorry.
This is the hardest lesson of love to learn. To be willing to give of oneself that the ultimate sacrifice is made, the sacrifice of our dearest possession, our pride. But if for the sake of love we learn the bitter lesson of when and how to forgo this dear treasure out of love for another, like Happy we will know the joy of being willing to give our loved ones our all.