After a rough day, I’m tired and want to go inside and crawl into bed. It’s almost midnight. What am I doing pet-sitting for a young dog, part Min-Pin and part Doxen, and a cat, both rescue animals. I’m not even an animal person. Not like my daughter, Lynn. She carries a leash, a water dish and a blanket in the trunk of her car. Many times, while riding around town with her, she’d spot a dog running loose, hit the brakes, pull over, then jump out of the car and coax the dog with a treat. She’d put the leash on, get the dog in her car, and do her best to find the owner. Or take it to a place that would. She loves rescue animals and would rescue every one if she had a place to keep them.
But I’m not really an animal person. My husband, Buddy, and I owned pets our whole life, but that was mostly for our three kids. And our kids moved away, with families, and pets of their own. Buddy passed away after thirty-two years of marriage. I’m alone, and the kids try to convince me that I need a pet. I don’t agree. I enjoy the freedom to come and go as I please and not have to worry about taking a dog out in all kinds of weather. If God means for me to have a pet, I figure He’ll open a door.
So, why am I watching my daughter’s pets? Ten years ago, when Buddy got cancer, Lynn came to help. She would drive over 120 miles to spend the night with us. The next morning we’d get up early and she’d drive us to Ann Arbor for Buddy’s cancer treatment. After his long day ended she’d treat us to supper, her dad’s choice. Then she’d take him anywhere he wanted, or had the strength, to go. His favorite place was Cabella’s. He loved to ride around the store in one of their carts. He’d look at all the hunting gear with a longing in his eye as he recalled memories of all the times he had gone. One time, just before the end, she even bought him a new complete set of hunting gear, even though we both knew that he most likely would not be around long enough to wear it. She’d drive back to our house, spend the night, then get up early the next day and drive home by herself. She did this, without complaint, for several months. Then, when her dad got worse, and I heard the dreaded words from the doctor, “There’s nothing more we can do, but keep him comfortable.” She left her husband to fend for himself and she moved in with us for a few more weeks. She helped out, with never one complaint, until God called Buddy home. Oh, what a Godsend she was to both of us. I’d do anything for her.
Now I’m standing outside in the dark, fighting mosquitoes, and waiting for the dog to sniff the ground and do her business. “Hurry up! Hurry up!”
My plan is to stay at her house for two weeks, rather than driving back and forth across town. My daughter lives out in the suburbs, with woods at the back. My ears perk up when I hear movement in the bushes beside the house. Probably a stray cat, I think. Peyton goes ballistic, barking and pulling on the leash. For such a small dog, she has the strength of an ox. Holding her is like trying to reel in a twenty pound fish. I hear a man’s voice whisper.
I freeze. Too scared to even run. Then comes a menacing laugh. I grab the dog and high tail it back into the house. She’ll just have to go on the floor. I do a speed check to make sure all the windows and doors are locked. I spend the night, tossing and turning, my ears on high alert, listening and wondering what I can use for a weapon, if needed. The lamp on the night table? The baseball bat in the corner? I never get to sleep.
About 5:30 AM, I get up and take the dog out. She never went on the floor and she wastes no time going this morning. I spend the day taking care of the cat and dog. After the last feeding, I plan to take the dog and drive across town to spend the night at my house. Hopefully I can get some sleep. The cat will be fine on her own. She’s been fed, her litter box is clean. Her water dish is full, and she has some treats. I set my purse, phone and the keys on the counter by the back door. I make sure she is OK and in sight before I shut the door. I put Peyton’s bed in the car and hook her up to her seat belt. The cat tries to get out when I open the door, so I put her back inside and pull the door tight so she won’t escape. My mouth drops open. “Oh, no, no, no!”
I know the instant I shut the door. My keys, phone and purse are still inside, on the counter. Maybe she has a spare key in the garage? I search every drawer and shelf but no key. I force myself to walk over to the neighbors and ask for help. Two ferocious pit bulls lunge at the screen door and almost send me running back home. But the owner hears their barks and calls them back.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” I tell the lady, “but I locked myself out. Could you call someone for me? I feel so stupid.”
“Oh, don’t feel bad,” she says, “I’ve done the same thing many times. Who would you like me to call?”
“Maybe a locksmith?”
“Sure, I’ll make the call for you.”
I head back home to get away from the dogs who don’t take kindly to strangers. I sit on the porch and wait. The lady walks over carrying her cell phone.
“I got a hold of a locksmith,” she says, “but they won’t unlock the door without written permission from the owner.”
“Oh, no,” I sigh, “they’re on a cruise in Alaska and can’t be reached.”
“Maybe I can help,” she says, “are all the windows locked? What about the sliding door? I could shinny up the deck and get in there.”
“You could break a window,” she says, “or cut a screen.”
“No, I don’t want to do that. Are there any neighbor’s around here that you can trust?”
With wide eyes she says, “Well, all of them.”
“Maybe someone knows how to pick a lock?”
“My husband does,” she says, “I’ll call him.” She makes the call, and he says he could walk her through it, but she didn’t think so. “I should have paid better attention before when he tried to show me,” she says. He suggests that I get on YouTube and follow their instructions, but my computer is also inside the house.
“I can call a locksmith I know.” she says. “Maybe he will let me vouch for you.” She makes the call. “My neighbor locked herself out. I know this woman, it’s Lynn’s mom. She’s been here several times. Can I vouch for her?”
The man finally agrees, but he can’t get away for about 30 minutes. And, since it’s after hours, he’ll have to charge me $110.
“Wow,” I say, “that’s a lot of money. Maybe I can pick the lock myself. Can you give me a few minutes to try before you leave?” He agreed to not head out until I call him back. I thank the neighbor and tell her I’ll try to get in and if I can’t, I’d ask if I could come back and call again.
“Well certainly you can,” she said, and left.
I’ve never picked a lock, but I have to give it a try. I scrounge the garage and search for anything that even resembles a key or is small enough to fit in the hole. Every nook and cranny. For twenty minutes. Nothing works. I am clueless.
I head back to the neighbor’s and face the dogs again. She puts her dogs outside, invites me in and gives me her phone. I call the locksmith. “I’m not a very good lock picker,” I say, “can you come out?”
He laughs and says he’ll come within the hour.
I walk back to Lynn’s, settle down on a porch chair to wait and chew my nails. Around thirty minutes later the Lock & Safe van pulls in the drive.
“How are you doing?” he asks.
“Feeling pretty frustrated,” I say, as a tingling sensation sweeps up the back of my neck and across my face.
“Don’t feel bad.” He laughs. “We just took a call from another woman who did the same thing. And she is younger that you.”
I assume he intends his remark to make me feel better.
“Can you open the garage door for more light in here?” he asks.
“Sure, but when you open the door be careful and don’t let the cat out.” In just a few minutes he has the door unlocked. I carefully open the door, go inside and put the cat safely in the bedroom so I can write the guy a check.
“So, you’re house sitting?” he says.
“I’m getting married next month,” he says, “and we were thinking of going on a cruise. But with all the bad things that have happened lately, we decided against it.” Then he proceeds to tell me about all the people who were sick, trapped on a ship, and lost for over three weeks. Then they had real pirates attack them. “Didn’t you hear about that?” he asks.
“No,” I say, “I didn’t.” And I don’t need to hear it at this point, either.
The Lock & Safe van pulls away, and I head over to my house with the dog. As soon as we pull up she needs to go outside. That’s when I discover that I left her leash over at Lynn’s. Since I can’t very well take her outside by holding on to her neck, I drive all the way back to Lynn’s to pick up the leash.
Why oh why? I wondered. But God never said we wouldn’t have hardships. He only promised to never leave us. I can’t explain why things happen, but this I know. God made a promise that whatever happens, many things far worse than getting locked out of the house, He would be there to help us through. And He did. I was thankful, at least that it wasn’t dark, or storming. The sun was shining, and I sat on the porch in a lounge chair while I waited. I was glad the neighbor was home, willing to help me, and that she called off her pit-bulls just in the nick of time-thankful they let her vouch for me, and that I had money in my checking account to cover the cost. I had just finished supper and the little girl’s room had been my last stop. There was a thermos of water in my car.