Seward, like many Alaskan communities, is home to many dogs. In our previous hometown of Girdwood we used to say the community had 2000 people and 4000 dogs. Seward may not have quite so many. But it’s close. The sound and sight of dogs all around is a reminder.
Alaskans seem to love their dogs at least as much as they love their kids and almost as much as they love their snow. They are hiking companions. They are hunting buddies. And (from my present vantage point as I type) they are coffee shop company.
Do we love our dogs more than other people do around the globe? Maybe not. But they are clearly a big part of what it means to be a community in Alaska. And, for many families, they are a big part of what it means to be a family. Because of this, on several Sundays a year both children and adults lift up that they have lost their dog–part of the beloved canine community and a part of their lives. We understand what that means. It is a time of genuine grief and mourning and we take it seriously.
So it was with genuine concern that, last week, the announcement went out on Facebook one night that “Finnea” had gotten loose. Finnea is a young, 5 1/2 month old chocolate brown labradoodle puppy. She is full of boundless energy and, at this point in her young life, she is quite shy of men. And she is loved. (Look at that cute face in the pic above. How could you not love her?)
Finnea’s new family was out of town and she was being watched by dear friends. It is a scenario that is played out time and time again as people have vacations and trips and need their four-legged friends taken care of. But, there was a problem. The way I understand it, the man of house opened a door and Finnea (remember, she’s scared of men) took off into the night, into downtown Seward, Alaska.
Let me set the scene for you… It’s dark. Finnea’s is being watched by friends who are good people, doing a good deed, and now feel horrible. The owners are worrying from over a thousand miles away with little they can do. And Finnea, full of energy, is in an unfamiliar environment with more cars and more people than she’s used to.
The message went out on Facebook that Finnea was loose. And, what I have since called “The Great Finnea Search of 2016” ensued.
It was clear there was already a “search party” looking for her when I got word that she was missing. I loaded up the car with our two kids and flashlights and started driving around. We saw other neighbors and friends out and about as well. Each of them calling out for Finnea as they drove or walked, flashlights pointing behind every building and onto every porch. As cars passed we would ask what streets we had been down knowing that we’d need to cover our tracks again. Any group that was walking around town on their own, oblivious to the search, was asked time and time again if they had seen this brown dog who we assumed was now pretty cold and probably quite scared.
She had been loose for about three hours before she was found. A flashlight caught her eyes and she was safe again.
There was great rejoicing on Facebook. And I’m sure no one rejoiced more than her family who was so far away.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of these verses from Luke’s Gospel as I thought about this “Great Finnea Search” and what it meant for the community and for the family she escaped from and for her own family:
“Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives” (Luke 15:4-7 CEB).
As friends and community members pulled together to find that one lost dog, so dear to a family, and collectively rejoiced (online) it gives me peace that our great God seeks us with such abandon, using all of his resources, and celebrating our return as well. For while we may love our dogs collectively…and while this one family may love Finnea…that love merely hints at the great love our God has for us. If we do this out of love for Finnea, what lengths will God go to for us?