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The Sabbath, the biblical 7th day, the 15th day gone . . . and, a Hallelujah Homecoming!

The night of February 23rd, Edie 14 days gone, was perhaps the cruelest yet. We had not slept for 13 days, more than a nod at a time, were worn to near exhaustion, and after seeing Edie in the rain late in the afternoon of the day before - small, soaked and pitiful along the pasture fence line, knowing she was trying to find food - we were near spent, body and soul. Rain, the endless rain, wet and cold, the damned, infernal rain, all night, every night, mercilessly, and I knew she was still out there - alone and afraid - in the worst of it. It was killing me inside. I wondered the nights through where she was at a particular moment. If she was still safe, had found shelter, or was still searching for sustenance in the soaking, freezing rain. Or dead. The rain, four days now, unforgiving, without pause. The damn rain. I hated every drop of it.

The weather was supposed to break tomorrow afternoon. So they said, the weather prophets, that I had little reason to believe anymore. Maybe.

I got up at 4 am, thinking that the food in the traps was cold and wet. Not much scent. I wanted to go right then, to check them, but might run slam into her at the wrong moment and scare her away, ruining all, so would make myself wait until 10:30, giving her time to move early morning - if she did - and if we didn't have her, planning to set another, a sixth, and move the two interior traps to the bottom of the ridge at the wood's edge of the pasture where I had seen her the day before. We were now 36 hours into the trapping effort. Pray God she had found one of them during the night, or, would, in the first hours after dawn.

I tried to eat breakfast, but couldn't. Physically, I had a somewhat alarming sinking spell, had to sit down until it passed. I felt honestly like I was coming apart. Strange, hot, light-headed, taut as a piano wire stretched within a foot-pound of its tensile strength. On the virtual edge of snapping. But I couldn't and wouldn't allow that.

I know this all sounds dramatic, but I'm telling you that's exactly the way it was, and worse, with us at that point. If you ever go through it, with a dog you really love, God forbid, you'll know. It's within the next breadth of being utterly debilitating. And you're approaching such great despair, you don't really care.

My instincts kept telling me over and over that if we didn't trap her in two or three days at the most, we never would, and I was ready to do anything and everything I could accordingly, come whatever. If we lost her for good at this point, I'd never get over it anyhow.

Right now, the traps were our best, maybe only, chance.

I left in the rain at 9:45. The farm paths were absolutely rotten, hardly passable without getting stuck, but somehow I didn't. Considering what was about to happen, maybe Somebody else had the wheel.

A waterlogged coon and possum in the two interior traps. I released them and loaded the two traps on the truck, for relocation along the pasture fence line. It was now about 11:15. The rain was tapering a bit. The next trap was the larger one, the one of greatest hope maybe, at least somehow I had felt so all along, the one we had set behind the sheds and outbuildings of the southern-most house of the pasture route - if she was using it. Slipping and sliding, I approached the slight rise in the field that prevented an open view to where it sat. It was foggy, the light gray and low. The three pine treetops behind the old sheds gauzy and obscure. I was praying as never I had before - as the landscape fell away to the trap 150 yards ahead - straining to find it in the mist. When after a few yards more, I did, the moment was so emotionally explosive and cataclysmic, it was absolutely heart-stopping! In it, too distant yet to distinguish clearly, was what appeared a small, impressionistic smudge of white, but I knew in my heart, in that joyous moment, it was EDIE!!! I've been fortunate enough to have a number of "happiest" moments in my life, but never before one so overpoweringly soulful and completing as that one. I'm a grown man, and I broke down. The more as I neared the trap, spinning and skidding, and before me loomed the miracle moment of certainly that all had prayed for, that this nightmare of all nightmares had at last drawn to end.

I had thought that if we were fortunate enough to catch her, in her semi-wild state she might be fighting the trap. She wasn't, rather sitting there calmly, not shying or shrinking from the truck. Amazing.

Oh, but when I opened the door, stepped out, and spoke softly to her, "This nightmare is over, Girl, we're going home " . . . she recognized me instantly, wriggling, bouncing, tail going mile - a -minute, over-joyed. I felt like falling to my knees, giving thanks as never I had before, for the veritable miracle it was. I dared not try to take her out of the trap there, so I wrestled it on the back of the truck - she was barking happily by then - called Loretta, through tears said, "I've got her , Retta, we're coming home." Then, I guess, we all cried together, the three of us.

When I drove in home, Loretta, of course, was waiting in the drive at the barn. And Edie immediately went crazy with joy at the sight of her. It was heart-rending. I carefully slipped the snap on her collar (she was still wearing it) through the wire before opening the trap door, and she made the journey to the front door with Loretta holding tight to the lead, and me holding her even more tightly in my arms. Releasing her only after we got her inside.

Not surprisingly, she had lost about a third of her body weight, but perhaps the most amazing thing of all, considering that she had had to revert to literally wild to survive, was that almost from the instant she reached home, and the house, she was completely Edie again, in all her wonderful little ways. Though it did take about a week of rest and pampered nourishment, and all the Kraft cheese slices and spaghetti we could lavish on her, before she started playing with me like the feisty JR she is again.

So, do you believe in miracles? Hallelujah and Amen!

As I left shortly afterward to go pick up the last two traps, Edie now almost disbelievingly and safely at home, the clouds were breaking, and in a glorious moment, after many days of gloom, the sun broke brightly through. All around, Spring was breaking, greening, trees abud, from every puddle the peepers happily calling. All the little wonderful songs of birth and renewal. I love Spring, but until then there had been no joy in it. Now, with the renaissance, the second chance I had prayed for every hour for fifteen days. My Lord.

Tomorrow: A Final Post: Aftermath and Afterthought, and an Eternal Thank You

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