—Michael W. Smith
Pain hurts even when it’s self-induced.
This past summer I found myself living in the home of a dear friend Brock who is a member of the artist mentoring group I led for eleven years. He and his wife were on summer tour and graciously gave me a place to attempt to sort out my life.
The house is literally in the middle of nowhere. Tucked deep into the woods on a hill in the countryside south of Nashville, one feels completely isolated.
Hurting myself and knowing I had desperately hurt others.
As Brock gave instructions about the house, he casually mentioned a puppy had shown up a few days before and said, “If you feed him, you might find a friend. His name is K.O.”
The name seemed appropriate.
Around the second morning of a sixty day period that seemed to last an eternity, I blearily stumbled out onto the front porch with a cup of coffee, spied a bowl I assumed was for dog food and reluctantly filled it.
A few minutes later, I saw the “puppy” for the first time. An overgrown gangly blur of brown and energy. He flew up the steps, brushed by me straight to the food and in a few slurpy, crunchy seconds hungrily devoured every bite.
He then jumped up in my lap with muddy paws and proceeded to lick me while exuding the most terrible breath I have ever experienced. And if that weren’t enough, he had huge, transparent blood—bloated ticks greedily attached to his skin, sticking out of his dirty brown fur like parasites from a science-fiction movie.
I had a friend.
Over the course of the next two months, the morning ritual became something I hesitantly anticipated. The ribs sticking out from his belly gradually began to disappear and most of the ticks fell off after countless applications of ointment.
It seemed we were both in need of healing balm.
K.O. would accompany my runs along the country road, and like the exuberant puppy he was, fearlessly leave me for a second and run abruptly in front of “Tonka-like” work trucks. They would careen to a screeching halt, the driver cursing him and me in thick tobacco and southern juiced accents.
He would sit impatiently—paws awkwardly draped over my bare feet—as I smoked an occasional contemplative cigar at evening, every once-in-awhile vainly chasing a firefly. I couldn’t help consider the ironic, albeit tragic, analogy.
We slowly became affectionate friends, me giving him sustenance and medicine, he giving me the unconditional love only a dog can give.
On yet another very sad and tearful day in the humid heat of this late summer, as I left that house of healing and grace, K.O. sat on “our” porch watching me and slowly disappeared forever in the rear view mirror of my Jeep.
Brock called me a few days later to see how I was doing at my new location, and at the end of our conversation he said as only he can say it, “Oh, yeah, remember that dog K.O.? He disappeared after you left and has not been seen since. There’s no carcass on the road, he just disappeared. It was kinda like he was an angel or something? Huh. Maybe he was just for you. Who knows?”
Maybe there are things you just can’t…know.
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