“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Prov. 17:22)
I love to play outside.
When I was lost and abandoned under the cedar tree, I would dream of a home and a family.
I would imagine having parents that loved me, and a safe place that was dry when it rained so that I wouldn’t get wet.
I dreamt of a place that was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A place where there was plenty to eat and I could sleep safe at night and not be afraid.
I thought that if I had such a place, I would stay inside and never go out again.
But then the big round man and the silver haired lady found me under the cedar tree.
They brought me in to live inside their little gray house, and all of my dreams came true.
That’s when I realized that inside is the place to be when you need to be safe and comfortable, but not to stay and hide.
Outside is the place to run and play, to breathe the fresh air and feel the sunshine on your face.
It is the place to play in the winter snow, or chase butterﬂies in the spring, or just lie under the cool shade of a big tree in the summer with your friends.
Yes, I love to play outside all the year around, but I especially love to be outside in the autumn. This is the best time of the year for a little black dog with a white furry bottom.
The air feels fresh and clean. The leaves begin to fall from the trees, and the mornings are so crisp that your breath makes little puffs of smoke in the air when you breathe.
Fall is the season that I love the most, and the time of the year that I most like to be outside and play.
But the fall after the summer when we rescued Chester the goat almost became the season that my friends and I in The Rescue Club didn’t have any fun at all.
That was the autumn that a bully moved into the neighborhood.
Chester and Marvin were the ﬁrst to meet him.
Mom had let me outside on a brisk October morning. There was a chill in the air and a light frost on the ground.
I made my morning rounds in the front yard, running from bush to bush and snifﬁng the ground as I ran.
I turned the corner of the house to run and say good morning to Marvin, when I noticed something that didn’t look right.
Chester was always up and out of his barn by this time but I didn’t see him anywhere.
He loved his new home in the ﬁeld so much that I knew he hadn’t jumped over the fence and ran away.
I thought about jumping over the back gate to go and see if he was sick in the barn, when suddenly I saw a little pink hand waving at me from the branch pile.
It was my friend Marvin the possum, but I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coming outside on this beautiful morning. He just had his arm stuck out between two branches to get my attention.
I ran to Marvin’s house to ﬁnd out what was going on.
“Hey Marvin,” I said as I got close to the branch pile. “How come you’re not coming outside to play? Where’s Chester? What’s going on this morning?”
“Shhh!” whispered Marvin. “Keep your voice down. I’m not coming out for the same reason that Chester is still in his barn. There’s a stranger in the ﬁeld.”
I looked out toward the ﬁeld, but I couldn’t see anything unusual.
Then suddenly, I saw something moving in the shadows of the trees at the far end. I wasn’t able to make out what it was, so I ran to the gate and barked as loud as I could.
“Hello!” I barked.
“You out there by the trees. My parents own this ﬁeld and they really don’t like anyone to be in it except for Chester the goat. I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding.”
“We would like to be friends. Are you hungry? We can get you some food. Hello, can you hear me?”
I barked and barked, but there was no answer. Perhaps he was not a dog after all, and didn’t understand barking.
I started to yell out in pig, but Chester called to me from his barn door.
“It won’t do any good Jake,” Chester said.
“I came out early this morning just as the sun came up and he was already in the ﬁeld. I ran up to him to say Hi, but he just ran at me and snorted.”
“He speaks pig, but he’s not friendly. I told him my name was Chester and that I would like to be friends, but he just ran at me again.”
“He said, ‘Get away from here you old stinky goat’ and chased me back to the barn. He’s very scary.”
Marvin had found the courage to come out of his house and stand beside me.
“Oh, he’s a pig alright, but not like any pig that I have ever seen. I was wandering in the ﬁeld next to ours last night when he almost stepped on me as he ran past.”
“He crawled under the fence to get into our ﬁeld.”
“I tried to be friendly and warn him that your parents would be upset if they saw him in there, but he chased me and called me an ‘ugly rat tailed possum’. He’s big, and mean, and scares me too.”
I felt myself starting to get angry, but I managed to calm down. I didn’t like anyone calling my friends names and being mean to them.
Then I remembered how scared I was when I was lost and alone under the cedar tree. “Perhaps he’s lost and scared,” I said. “I remember how Mama and Daddy were scared of me when they ﬁrst found me.”
“They thought that I looked mean. Maybe he’s not as mean as he looks. Let’s try again to be friends. Maybe we can help him.”
“Hello, Mr. Pig” I grunted and oinked as loud as I could. “Could you please come over here for a moment? We would like to talk to you.”
I’m not sure if it was because he had never heard a dog speak pig before, or if it was because I asked so politely, but he looked up from where he was rooting under the fallen leaves and turned my way.
Marvin hid behind me as the big dark shadow began to walk across the ﬁeld toward us.
(TO BE CONTINUED)