Thursday, December 18, 2008


I blew a tire today. In the rain. In forty degree weather. With no flat place to pull over on the steep, twisting road. Could it have happened any other way?

I was on my way to pick up my oldest son after school so he could buy strings for his guitar before the music store closed (The band he joined a couple of months ago has their first "outside of church" gig tomorrow night). I like to get where I'm going and I'm accustomed to the curves and hills between here and the town where Jeremiah attends school (Read: I have a lead foot). But fortunately the fog (unusual for around here in the middle of the day) was so heavy I couldn't see more than a few yards in front of the car so I was going quite a bit slower than usual when the tire went.

I pulled the car onto a steep slope of a ditch, as far off the road as I could, feeling a little like I was parked on a cliff, saying the kind of words I would wash my sons' mouths out for, and climbed out. The tire was shredded. We still haven't repaired the spare from the last round of flats. I was stranded, in the cold, in the rain. I stood there in the ditch contemplating my next move and wondering what lesson I was supposed to get from it, because for something to go wrong like this, there must be a lesson, or a blessing, or something useful in it. It couldn't just be crappy.

This happened in a wooded area, just outside of the national forest. There was only one house in sight and nobody appeared to be home. Holding my cell phone out in front of me like a divining rod, I walked across their gravel driveway hoping for a signal. I discovered that if I held my mouth just right and stood on one foot, I'd get weak, flickering bars that came and went.

I called Gary, who was at home asleep (he works nights). We managed to discuss our options with voices cutting in and out. We agreed I would call my mother and see if she could and pick me up. I began to push in Mom's number and heard barking in the distance behind me. As she answered, I turned.

Two LARGE fawn colored dogs with huge black muzzles were bounding toward me. By large, I mean nearly waist high and easily a hundred and eighty pounds-roughly the size of miniature horses-maybe bigger. When Mom answered, all she heard at first was me talking to these two bellowing beasts. "Get back. No! Get back! Lord! I hope you're friendly! No, not you Mom."

I explained my predicament to her while the two American Mastiffs sniffed me over, tails wagging. I stroked them lightly, admiring their beauty (I love all dogs, but I'm especially fond of Shetland pony sized canines that are friendly when I'm standing in their territory). Mom replied that she was without a car. My stepfather had taken theirs to pick up my sister at college three hours away. After assuring my panicking mother that I was fine, that nothing was about to eat me, and that Gary and I would work it out, I hung up and called my tired husband and apologetically asked him orchestrate my rescue.

Because I didn't want the two dogs near the road, I told them they should go back to their yard. Exchanging surprised looks (Wow! She knows those words too!), they obeyed. One of them immediately went back up the house and didn't return, the other, as slightly older, more dignified animal, stopped halfway across the yard and returned to eye me from the open gate for a few minutes, then chose a point about five feet away me to stand. She politely wagged her tail at my command to go back, but wouldn't budge, then purposefully crossing her paws in a lady-like fashion, she laid down and waited with me for Gary and whoever he could round up to come and get me.

A few minutes later, a state trooper stopped to check on me. A passing motorist has spotted me and been concerned, he said. Shortly after that an older couple stopped off to check. Then a young fireman, and just behind him--the local sheriff. It's nice to be loved. At least I hope that's what it was and not people wondering if that crazy lady talking to the dog needed some kind of intervention.

I stood in the drizzle with the dog for company, and watched the cars go by. Nearly an hour later, Gary and our pastor, Dean, pulled up in his minivan. They immediately ordered me into the warm van with Gary clucking over how wet I was and expressing guilt over not having checked the tire more closely. I assured him I was fine because I knew he was coming and that all I had to do was wait. He actually had the hard part.

My giant canine companion, stood, stretched and trotted back up to her house, her job done, I suppose.

"I know what dog I want next," I told my husband, watching the retreating animal.

"Ohhh. I don't think so." He was imagining, with some horror I'm sure, one of those giant beasts in our small home, knocking things over, drooling, eating everything, and lying on the couch.

"Yep. That's it," I replied, warmly imagining one of those lovely giant beasts in our small home, knocking things over, eating everything, drooling, and lying on the couch. This goes to prove that perspective is a funny thing.

The car is safely back in the driveway now and all is more or less well. Unfortunately Gary had to miss work because of this, but we'll sort that out later. He's grateful to be home with his family. As it turns out, Jeremiah forgot I was coming to pick him up and he rode home on the bus, so it would have been a wasted trip anyway.

All in all it could have been worse. It could have been Gary traveling home early this morning at oh-dark-thirty in twenty degree weather. Or it could have been Jeremiah yesterday driving on icy roads in teen-degrees. Or it could have been the whole family coming home from Silver Dollar City on Sunday. I was fine, the car was fine. And I met two lovely animals and discovered that people in our area still care enough to stop or at least send help back. Even our minister seemed happy to help, telling me that this was getting him out of going to a Christmas party he didn't want to attend in the first place.

So maybe the message was, "See? I'm looking out for you." Or maybe it was to point out how much I needed a new dog. I like both messages equally well, though the second one is still up for debate. Sadly, Solomon, my otherwise loyal German Shepherd, is siding with Gary. I'm working on that. I'm sure cookies will go a long way toward changing minds.


Dennis Bryant said...

Hmmm..."A giant beast knocking over everything in the house, eating everything, drooling and lying on the couch." Terry would say that you've just described me :)

Pencil Writer said...

How scary!!! On all points, until the two "beasts" gently watched over and the one stayed with you. Isn't it wonderful to watch our Heavenly Father at work--through others?!! Even some of the "beasts" of His creation.

Merry Christmas to you and all your family!

Scotty said...

Glad to hear you're okay, Mary, and that it all worked out in the end.


Anonymous said...

Ooh! Mastiffs! Two in my house and I'm still drooling over the idea of meeting more :) And I love that feeling of standing stock-still and facing large dogs racing toward me, knowing not to run and wondering whether the experience will be friendly or horrifying. Anticipation is a great thing, i'n it?

Glad you're good. And I love your writing. It has matured so much in the time we've known each other!

Hal Johnson said...

Glad you're okay. Mastiffs? I'm afraid that if we took two of them home, we'd have to take out a second mortgage just to feed them.

Mary Paddock said...

Thanks everybody. The good news is we now have four new tires on the car (they've been replaced one at a time over the last couple of months).

LOL Dennis. I could say that about any of the guys in my house. :)

PW--Yes, it was very much like that. I did feel looked out for.
Thank you and Merry Christmas to you too.

Heather--Glad to see you here! You should get yourself one of these things. Thanks for the compliment. As for the excitement of anticipation--outright momentary terror is probably a better description for what went through my head. I could just read the headlines, you know (Woman vanishes. Neighboring dogs suspect"). :)


Hello Hal! I looked it up; a single, full-sized Mastiff (average 180lbs) eats 40 to 50 lbs of food a month. That would double our animal food budget. 'Guess I'll be waiting for a couple of teenagers to leave home. :)

Debby said...

I love protective dogs.

I hate blow outs.