We rolled up to the farm and flung the doors open. The firstborn knew what to do with the  fields in sight. He galloped. He jumped. He turned himself upside down then right side up, somersaulting himself on repeat over unkempt grass and dirt. Like Erika at The Life Artist wrote in her answered prayer story last week, “…you may just need to stand on your head to see the world right-side-up.”

The property was a wild place and in the distance I saw our wild dog trotting around with his new hunting buddies. We had dreamed six years for this wide-open space for him, this wide-eyed wonder for us. We had prayed, begged even, so desperate for relief.

This had been our reality…. Our son couldn’t sing a nursery rhyme without sending the hound into a tailspin, dog claws ice skating across hardwoods, him whimpering all the way. At meals, we had to harness the dog to a spot far from the kids’ plates to keep him from snatching food and gobbling up little fingers along with it. When we set his own food bowl in front of him, he scratched at it and drooled over it and every once in a while gathered the courage to lunge in for a nibble. Some nights he’d get himself so worked up that he wouldn’t eat at all, leaving his stomach gurgling in hunger and anxiety all night long. Hello insomnia.

Then, there was his voice. The bark and bay that were meant to call a hunter from miles away to find a treed raccoon, that voice was corralled into the echoing walls of our home and our small backyard. As for the sweet lady behind us who dared rest her arm on the fence for neighborly conversation, our hooligan hound thought it best to sink his teeth in, sending her off with a puncture wound. From there on out, we muzzled him every time we let him out of the house.

His anxiety and depression were contagious. Even while I worked hard to rehabilitate our hound, I cried many days wondering how my sanity could outlast his lifespan, how our home could ever be a happy one when all our efforts and the meds and the expensive training with a world-renowned therapist at Purdue’s Animal Behavior Center hadn’t done the miracle.

It all came down to the day he bit our son. I wept hard when I made the appointment with the vet. We had scoured the country for a rescue. No after no after no. No one could chance taking a biter. One animal lover, my friend’s husband, continued to search when I had given up. But the date was set. There was no other way out.

At church that Easter morning, a grown woman shared a strange story from her teenage years, how her cat had gone silent for two weeks, not a single meow. In her worry, she had the guts to ask God, whom she didn’t know so well at the time, to step into her little world and give it a try. If He’d help the cat to find its voice again, she’d promise to read her Bible every day. Within minutes, the cat came in to run its head under her hand, purring and full-out meowing.

I held back my sniffles for a bit, but not my prayers. If God cared enough to step in for the silent cat and this curious girl, I felt I could ask Him again for better ending for Hoover.

That night as I bawled my eyes out to extended family, my friend and her husband were chatting about our situation in a town two hours away. “If only there were more time,” my friend’s husband sighed, “Even two weeks more. I’m sure we could find some solution.” My friend calmly said back to him, “If God can save Hoover in a matter of two weeks, God can save him overnight.”

When I got back home that night, I opened my email to a consolation note from another faraway friend who’s dealt with her share of wild animals, and her share of hardship (and answered prayer!). She reminded me that I had to be willing to do what was safe and healthy for my family and that I’d tried everything, even beyond reason, to save Hoover. But had I thought about the possibility of finding a hunter to take him in and train to be what he was meant to be. Good idea, but I didn’t know any hunters. Or did I?

It hit me then, the memory of the black book with the gold hound dog stamped on the front. I picked it up and started flipping pages. Right inside the cover, hidden all these months, was the hunter’s number. And there was this light peeking into the tomb Easter night. Next morning, the door opened in full. One phone call and our life was made new.

A few months later, on our summer night at the farm, we rolled in the grass with puppies and kids. We nuzzled (not muzzled!) our dog and reveled at his new hunting adventures. He’d been adopted into hound royalty by the grandson of the man who started the very breed in the 1930s. And he was happy. We are still wide-eyed in wonder.

I can’t really do the story justice here in a blog post. The details are too many and too significant, all the things God choreographed to write this story for us. Someday, I may tell it in long-form, maybe hardbound, our little version of Marley & Me meets One Thousand Gifts…working title Happy Unleashed: The true story of a hooligan hound, a frazzled mom and the redeeming love of their Creator.

On the other side of answered prayer in all this wide-open space, with all this wide-eyed wonder at seeing the world right-side-up…I could just about do a somersault.

{What wild answers to prayer could you be lassoing into story? Take a few minutes to make an outline of your narrative including: 1. The hardship, 2. The audacious prayer, 3. The people and circumstances God used to lead to the answer, 4. The answer itself, 5. What life felt like afterward. Share here if you feel comfortable.}

This is Day 12 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change and The Hollie Rogue’s Tell Your Story link-up.

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