In the twinkling of an eye or two, he was gone. The boy had opened the front door to fulfill a request from the mother and in a sliver of not paying attention, the beagle ran between his legs and out the door. This was not just any beagle; no, this was Jack the beloved, who also happened not to be wearing a collar or any identification. The shoeless boy ran after his beloved, who sensing a pursuit interpreted it as play and ran farther. The two sisters began to cry. The mother called the father. They all began to pray.
The shoeless boy ran as far as shoeless feet could go, all the way to the border of rocks that hurt your feet to walk on them. The beloved beagle crossed this marginot line into the badlands. The boy ran back to the hem of the mother's garment and began to weep. He's gone. My beloved is gone. The two sisters began to wail.
The father offered his counsel and the decision was made to gather their wits and shoes and travel to the badlands. They steeled themselves through tear-filled eyes and left the ninety-and-nine things to be done that day and drove off to find the one. Greater love hath no mother than this: to leave her house which would soon be filled with her husband's parents and search for a dog that always knocks over the bathroom trash cans and eats dirty Q-tips. One day her children will rise up and call her blessed.
This ragamuffin band of lovers stood in the heart of the badlands and prayed that those with eyes would be able to see. And that a beagle with ears would be able to hear. Maybe the beagle-sheep would hear the voice of the shepherds and know. Jaaaaaaaack. Jaaaaaaaack. Come back, Jack.
From his distanced cubicle, the father could envision Alan Ladd riding off into the sunset in the final scene of Shane. He began to cry, such was his love for a shoeless boy who loved a nose-strong dog, and also his inability to show up and make everything right. No, this would be a journey his loved ones would have to make without his tangible presence. He was with them, however, in cell phone spirit.
After what seemed like hours, the decision was made to go home. The mother repeated those four Easter-laden words: "He is not here." Maybe the Beloved would realize how good he had it in the father's house and come to his senses and let his nose lead him home. Maybe.
The ears of the mother were overflowing with the sound of her children weeping and so she drove one last time around the block, slowly, ever so slowly. The only begotten son saw his beloved's coat of three colors. Stop the van, mom! The boy, now shoes on feet, girded up his tears and ran toward the prodigal, calling his name: Jaaaaaaaaaack!
Sheep do know their voice of the shepherd. As do beagles. Jack the beloved ran toward the boy he knows and loves and sleeps with. The two sisters were not far behind in this happy sprint. The mother voiced the prayer from which all prayers are born: Thank you.
The beagle who was lost had been found. Quickly the mother and her brood said: Let us go straightway to PetSmart and buy a new proper identification collar to put around his neck and a new frisbee for him to play with in the backyard. And let's not forget a bag of treats assembled, no doubt, from a fatted calf or pig or something. There was music and gladness in their hearts. And just as much in the tail of the beloved that wagged all the way home.
While presidential candidates strategized and gas prices rose and floodwaters crested across the Midwest and traffic commuted and hearts were bypassed and white ski runs were darkened with the arms and legs of spring-breakers, an ancient story was retold on a block in a little Colorado town. In a moment of inattention, a pearl or a coin or a beagle was lost. And those whose hearts were full of love left or sold all they had and swept the house clean looking for him/her/it. They prayed prayers of desperation to the God whose business is re-union; to whom else could they turn? And for some reason that God-only-knows, he who was lost was found. And the only response was ear-to-ear-smiling-wipe-the-tears-from-your-eyes-while-your-dog-licks-you-clean joy. Joy - the air we will breathe someday.