Joseph Herrin (09-06-2013)
Champ - September 6, 2013
If you are not familiar with the story of how Yahweh sent me a dog last year, you can read about it here. It makes quite a remarkable story. An elderly sister in Christ had sent me an e-mail commenting on how much she found her Chihuahua to be good company, as she lives alone. She knew of my love for animals, but that I had not had a dog for some years. Her words were completely unanticipated when she wrote:
I'll pray about Yahweh's leading re: a "puppy..." So MANY, MANY dogs (including LITTLE ones!) are being dumped for whatever reason.
Never underestimate the prayers of the saints. The very next day I was out on a bike ride through a rural section of Georgia when I came across a crate on the side of the road. I believe there were seven puppies in the crate, and three were already dead. It was very hot out, and there was no water for the puppies. They were also terribly afflicted with fleas. There was just one puppy that had enough strength to climb out of the crate, but he had not wandered far. I guessed that this little guy had the best chance of surviving, so I put him in my bike basket and carried him home. (A Mennonite woman came up about the same time, and took the rest of the living puppies home. From what I have heard, a number of them survived.)
After giving Champ a flea bath, supplying him with food, water and plenty of rest, he soon was the image of robust health. I have had Champ about 15 months now, and his personality has revealed itself. I kept Champ inside my bus with me for the first few months. However, he is a high energy dog. One of his favorite things to hear come out of my lips was “Do you wanna go outside?”
I didn’t want Champ to grow lethargic by being kept inside all the time, so I began keeping him outdoors. For the past 11 months I have had my bus parked on some land in a rural farming area. I have a 100' steel line run between a large oak tree and a wooden post. A 15 foot dog lead is attached to this steel cable with a pulley, giving Champ lots of mobility. I cannot let Champ roam free, as one of my neighbors informed me that Champ came over into his yard and growled and barked at him. He expressed concerned that Champ might attack one of his small dogs.
Champ is really quite gregarious around other dogs. He will be a friend of any dog that wants to be his friend. I have only seen him bristle up at another dog when it acted in an aggressive or unfriendly manner to him. Champ’s overriding reaction to other dogs is one of excitement. Even if they come into “his” territory, he appears eager to meet and greet them.
Around people, however, Champ is less predictable. He tends to be wary of strangers. Some people he quickly accepts, while with others he remains standoffish. Randy Simmons, the brother in Christ who has traveled with me in ministry, is very much a dog lover. He is also very much at ease around dogs, displaying no fear of a dog being aggressive. When I needed to travel out of state for my father’s funeral last year, I asked Randy to check in on Champ. When I returned I found that Randy and Champ were fast friends. Champ was not hesitant at all around Randy, and in his first meeting Randy had taught Champ the commands “sit” and “stay.”
Champ also is quite excited to see my daughter Kristin. He tends to jump up on people with his dirty paws, so Kristin usually keeps her distance. Champ’s excitement, however, is unmistakable. If he could just get off the leash he would be bounding all around (an on) Kristin.
I was surprised, however, to find that Champ would not warm up to one of the neighbor’s children. Seth is very much a country boy. I estimate he is around 13 years old, and he is not shy around dogs. Champ, however, would not let Seth come near him. He acted very wary. Even when I gave Seth some dog treats to hand to Champ, he would not let this young boy get near him.
When I take Champ on runs (he is running, I am on my bicycle), I have to put him on the leash when we encounter people. He tends to run up to strangers and bark or growl at them. He has never bitten anyone, but he is definitely a barker.
Our bike runs have given Champ an opportunity to display his personality in other ways. He loves water. There are some pools of water along the five miles of dirt roads that I take him down during our outings. When it has been raining, there is standing water in the ditches beside the road. Champ will run right through the ditches, occasionally plunging all the way in when there is a deep spot. He would rather run through the water, than run in the dirt road.
Champ Chewing on a Bone
Champ gets quite thirsty on our runs, especially in the heat of a Georgia summer. Being a bundle of energy, he prefers to drink on the run. When he sees standing water along the side of a road, he will run over with his mouth open and, without slowing his pace, gobble up water as he runs. He reminds me of the coastal birds that are known as “water skimmers.” They fly above the surface of the ocean with their beaks in the water, catching small fish. I laugh, as Champ has not quite mastered this technique, and often ends up with a fit of coughing as he half drowns himself while trying to drink water on the run. His enthusiasm and enjoyment of life is undiminished when this happens. He just keeps running, and sniffing, and leaving his scent on everything that in the least way resembles a fire hydrant.
Some of Champ’s habits are beastly. Champ loves most things that stink. When we have come across the remains of some dead animal in the road, Champ will stop and roll on the carcass, trying to get the scent of it on him. To a dog, I am sure it smells like sweet perfume, but to me it stinks. I have had to hose him down more than once when we have returned from a run after he displayed this behavior.
Dogs are beasts, and beasts do beastly things. Some of Champ’s behavior annoys me. I would prefer that he not run up to strangers and bark at them. I wish he would not roll in dead things. I would like for Champ to not jump up on people when he is excited. I suppose that if I spent a lot of time and attention training him, I could curb some of this behavior. He has learned a few things. He does not make me chase him down when I want to put him on the leash anymore. He will stop and wait for me when he sees me approaching him with the leash. This at least has given me the freedom to let him off the leash when we go on our bike runs. But, neither does he come to me when I call him.
Just when I am about to become aggravated with Champ’s undesirable behavior, he will do something that is equally part of a dog’s character that proves to be very beneficial. On two occasions since I have been at my present location, poisonous snakes have come up in the yard, and Champ has warned me about them.
Several months ago I heard Champ barking non-stop outside my bus. It is not unusual to hear him bark. Champ has a guarding instinct. He barks when he sees, or hears, a car going down the road. If a car is passing by I will only hear a few barks. If the car has turned onto our driveway and is approaching, Champ will bark until the vehicle stops and the driver gets out. When Champ sees a snake, however, his barking is different. There is a greater intensity to it. The barks are sharper, quicker, and they do not stop.
Adult Water Moccasin
When I heard Champ barking in this way a few months back, I knew something was wrong and I went outside to investigate. I found at the edge of the grass, and not more than 20 feet from my bus, a large water moccasin. Some people call them cottonmouths. I have not encountered a large number of venomous snakes, so I do not consider myself an expert, but I have seen enough snakes that I recognized that this particular one was a threat. A common non-venomous black snake would likely slink back off into the grass or bushes and hide itself. This serpent, however, coiled up, raised its head, and opened its mouth to bear its fangs. This is common behavior of a water moccasin.
I retrieved a long handled shovel, and approached the snake. It did not retreat from me. It continued to display aggressively and I was obliged to cut its head off. Through this experience, I learned that my dog viewed this particular animal as a threat. Champ was at the end of his leash, and may have gotten too close for his own good if he was loose. However, the snake stayed just out of Champ’s reach as my dog barked, growled, and bristled up at the serpent.
Last night I heard Champ barking again. I was playing a game of Scrabble with my daughter, and I commented to her about Champ’s barking. When I checked on him, I observed him acting excitedly as if there was something under the front of my bus. I shone a light under the bus, as it was dark outside, to see what Champ was trying to get at. I saw a large copperhead snake coiled up near the front driver’s side wheel of my bus. It was more than three feet in length, which is about as large as they get. This is another venomous snake that is found in Georgia.
Champ’s leash prevented him from getting too close to the snake. My daughter enlisted the help of the neighbor’s son to dispatch this snake. It shared the same fate as the water moccasin. I put Champ inside my bus to keep him from getting too close to the snake when it started moving. I brought him back out afterwards when the snake had been beheaded and let him get a good look at the dead serpent. Every muscle in Champ could be seen straining. He was hyper alert. He would only approach the dead snake with great wariness, ready to retreat if it should move in his direction. The hair along the ridge of Champ’s back was bristled up. When he was finally satisfied that the snake was dead, he picked it up and might have tried to make a snack out of it, but the neighbor boy wanted to take it home and skin it.
I feel confident that a snake will not be able to approach my bus without Champ letting me know about it. I didn’t realize that when I rescued a little puppy alongside the road over a year ago that he would return the favor by informing me of the presence of venomous snakes nearby. Champ got an extra treat last night for his service. I gave him a can of Vienna Sausage.
On a related note, I am planning this month to relocate my bus once again. Yahweh has affirmed His direction in the matter. It brings me much peace to have the assurance that the Father is telling me when and where to move. It is like following the pillar of fire and the cloud in the wilderness. When Yahweh reveals that it is time to pull up stakes and travel to a new destination, we are blessed when we follow His leading.
I have been corresponding for over a year with a young man (20 years old) who is now into his fourth year in prison. Nicholas is to be released this month and I am looking forward to spending much time with him. This young man has had his life transformed by the power of Christ. He is a new creature, with a new mind, and new desires. I will be moving my bus to another area of Georgia to be able to spend time with him.
I will be staying at RV parks during this time, which makes it more difficult to keep Champ with me. Most RV parks will not allow pets to remain outside unless the owners are with them. Yahweh has arranged everything, however. Champ will be staying with Nicholas, and will have the benefit of a large yard in the country. Nicholas had expressed a desire to have a dog when he is released from prison, so Yahweh will be answering a desire of his heart as well. I think it will be good for both Champ and Nicholas.
Yesterday I spent the morning giving my bus a bleach bath. It had been a year since it was last washed, and it had developed a good bit of mildew on the surface. It is once more gleaming white, and ready to travel. I am hoping to finish the Push Back series before I relocate. I will continue to answer e-mail and post blogs after I have moved. I am looking forward to Nicholas assisting me with some of the ministry responsibilities, such as printing and mailing out newsletters to men in prison, and performing some website maintenance. This will be of benefit to both of us as he will be afforded the opportunity to develop some computer skills, and I will have a fellow laborer in the ministry. Please keep us both in your prayers.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
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Montezuma, GA 31063