A Dog Named Easter

Lijiazhai, Henan (July, 2014) — The dog looked dead to us.  It was lying in a stairwell of an apartment complex owned by the school, lifeless and unresponsive to soft strokes of affection and kind words.  No food or water dish was present.  The dog had no tags, collar, or anything that would identify him as someone’s pet.  And, it was hot (100 degrees F plus 85% humidity).

We found a discarded plastic pepsi bottle, cut off the bottom, making a small dish and filled it with water.  No response. My wife still had some beef jerky, which we crumbled and set next to the dog’s nose.  No response.  His eyes were open and he blinked once, so we knew he was alive, but we thought he would die.

Was this an orphan dog, the kind you see roaming in the streets and often kicked around (literally) by most people?  If we did not care for the dog, who would?  We were in Lijiazhai conducting sports and culture camps for the summer at this particular middle school, and, some of the students saw us caring for the dog and joined in to help.  So did other counselors. No one knew where the dog came from or to whom it belonged. 

The dog received a steady stream of attention, petting, and offers of food and water, that first day, but with little effect.  The next day, we noticed some of the water was down and the food gone.  The dog managed to weakly wag its tail, but was still too weak to manage much more of a response.  The care of the dog continued.  On the third day, we witnessed an amazing transformation.

In the morning, of the third day, the dog was gone!  Everyone thought he had died and was removed.  The kids went looking and found him, and, to our delight he was responsive, jumping around and wagging its tail, eager to be with the kids, like you would expect of a puppy.  So, we gave him the name, Easter (after the biblical story of Jesus’ death and resurrection).

The whole experience reinforced to us the power a little love and attention in a dog’s and person’s life.  Despite the language difficulties of understanding each other, we could still forge bonds of friendship through mutual care, attention, and love.   The sports and games, arts & crafts, skits and dramas, meals and small groups were only mechanisms with which to build bridges into each other’s lives.

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