Grace Stays Home

 

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti squirmed in his seat. He shut his eyes and then opened them. He squinted and stared at the pulpit through his eyelashes. He squirmed again and felt G.M.’s hand on his knee.

“Sit still!” she whispered in his ear.

Joseph took a deep breath. Would Pastor Chuck never start the church service? Joseph decided to count his breaths. One. Two. Three. Four. Finally! Pastor Chuck walked to the front of the church.

Joseph sat up very straight. He knew exactly what Pastor Chuck was going to say. He said it every Sabbath. And it was what Joseph was waiting for.

“Let’s come before the Lord in our special time of praise,” Pastor Chuck began. “The Bible tells us to bring our sacrifices of praise to the Lord. Does anyone have something he would like to share with the rest of us this morning? Something he or she would especially like to praise the Lord for?”

Joseph’s hand shot up in the air.

Pastor Chuck looked at him. “Joseph,” he said, “come and tell us what you are praising the Lord for today.”

Joseph stood up. Every Sabbath he listened carefully to other people’s praises. It was one of his favorite parts of the church service. But today, he had something to praise the Lord for!

Joseph walked to the front of the church and stood beside Pastor Chuck. He looked at all the familiar faces in the congregation. Pastor Chuck held the microphone in front of his mouth. “I want to praise the Lord because I have a new dog,” Joseph said proudly. “I always wanted to have a dog. And now I do. I got her yesterday. Her name is Grace, and she’s beautiful! And I’m really, really happy!”

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” different voices in the congregation called.

“Thank you for sharing your praises this morning,” Pastor Chuck said, patting Joseph’s shoulder. “I’ll look forward to meeting Grace.”

Joseph sort of floated back to his seat beside G.M. He listened to the other praises that were shared. Then Joseph sang with the rest of the congregation, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” He wondered if everybody who was praising the Lord that morning felt so good inside.

Joseph tried very hard to sit still and listen to Pastor Chuck’s sermon. But it was hard. He thought about Grace at home on the porch. She was probably curled up on her dog bed, sleeping. G.M. had told him that dogs sleep a lot when they are alone. But Joseph could hardly wait to get home! Yesterday’s rain was gone. It was still windy and cold, but G.M. had promised they could go for a long walk after lunch and let Grace explore Jacksonville.

When church was over, Joseph tugged on G.M.’s sleeve. “You aren’t going to talk to a lot of people are you?” he whispered. “Grace is missing me!”

G.M. laughed at him. “Grace is not going to evaporate!” she exclaimed. “There are some people I want to talk to. But I’ll talk fast,” she added.

Joseph stuck close to G.M.’s side. He wanted to be right there when she decided it was time to leave. He listened to G.M. congratulate Mrs. Campbell on her new granddaughter. He learned that the baby weighed 7 pounds and 15 ounces when she was born and that she had lots of straight black hair. My dog has black hair too! he felt like telling Mrs. Campbell. I’m sure she has lots more hair than your baby granddaughter!

Finally G.M. turned to Joseph. “Are you ready to go home yet?” she asked.

“I’ll race you to the truck!” Joseph grinned at her.

G.M. turned into the gravel driveway in front of the garage. Joseph stared at the porch. “How come Grace is sleeping right in front of the back door?” he asked, puzzled. “Her leash isn’t that long!”

G.M. turned off the motor and looked too. “That dog isn’t even tied up!” she exclaimed.

Joseph jumped out of the truck and ran across the grass. “Grace! Grace!” he called. “I’m home!”

Grace jumped off the porch and ran to meet him.

Joseph rubbed her head and laughed as Grace tried to lick him at the same time.

G.M. stooped to pet Grace. She looked at the porch. “I guess the harness must not have been snug enough,” she said. “The leash is still tied to the porch, and it’s attached to the harness. Grace must have wiggled out of it.”

“And she didn’t run away!” Joseph exclaimed, straightening up. “Grace could have run away! She could have gone anywhere, but she didn’t! She stayed here because she knows this is her new home! She knows she’s my dog!” He knelt down on the soggy grass and wrapped his arms around Grace’s neck. “You’re really, truly my dog!” he murmured. “You love me too!”

At that moment, Mr. Evans pulled up and parked next door. Mac tumbled out of the back seat. “How’s Grace?” she called. “I see she didn’t die of loneliness. Did you know people actually can die from loneliness? I wonder if animals can? But Grace won’t! You would never let that happen to her!”

“Guess what!” Joseph exclaimed, clambering to his feet. “I’ve already got something else to praise the Lord for next Sabbath!”

G.M. turned around before she unlocked the back door. “When you’re done praising the Lord with Mac, come in and change your pants. You’re soaked from the knees down from kneeling in the wet grass.”

“OK,” Joseph said. He looked at Mac. “When we got home, Grace was curled up in front of the back door,” he began.

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