Why I Love Living In a Small Town

Garrett Mostowski
Friday, August 10, 2018

This evening, as I was driving home from the recycling center, a chocolate-colored lab puppy darted out in front of my vehicle and came much closer to losing its life than I think it will ever realize. Since my car was already fully stopped and I could not see the puppy, I slapped my car into park and stepped into the road, closing the door behind me. A man and little boy were jogging toward me and the dog, who had now run behind my vehicle. Whenever the man or the boy stepped toward the dog, the dog reacted in a playful way and ran away from them, often circling around my car, barking, and bending low to the ground while sticking its rump in the air and wagging its tail, as if to say, “chase me.” And yet, when I stepped toward the puppy, it didn’t react at all.

So, I whistled at it and said something like, “Hey, get over here,” and then probably snapped my fingers because that’s what I used to do with my family’s dogs when I was young. And the dog — for whatever reason — ran right to me and laid down at my feet, turning over, as if to ask me to scratch its belly. I scratched with one hand, and I snatched its collar with the other.

After a few more belly rubs, the man and boy had reached me and taken the dog by its collar. The man thanked me and then started carrying the dog away toward their home. But the little boy, who looked as if he was six or seven years old, stayed in the road (don’t worry, there was no traffic, except for my parked vehicle) and looked at me, pointed to a spot around his exposed toes, and said, “I’ve been trying to get this rock out of the road.”

His finger was pointing at a small rock that had been trapped in the ooze of oncehot tar that had been used to fill a crack. The rock, I assume, had been sealed there by accident when the tar cooled. The little boy bent down and pulled at the rock until his face turned red. Then, he looked at me again and bent down to try once more. He pulled so hard to show me how he had been trying to get it out of the road, but he still couldn’t get it.

“Can you try?” he asked me.

I tried, unsuccessfully, several times until my face was beet red, both from trying to pull and embarrassment. The little boy looked at me after about four or five honest attempts, and he said, “I really thought that you could get it.”

“Yeah, I thought so, too. Sorry about that, dude,” I said.

“Well,” the little boy said, “Thanks for stopping and saving our puppy.”

“Anytime.”

I did not “save” the little boy’s puppy, I stopped my vehicle from hitting it, stepped outside, and asked it — in a way that anyone would ask a dog — to come over to me, so that it wouldn’t die. And — for whatever reason — it stopped playing its epic game of “chase me,” and it listened. I didn’t chase it. I hardly even moved. It ran to where I was standing, and it laid down at my feet, asking me to rub its belly.

I did not save a puppy that evening, and I failed to pull the rock out of the tar, but I did get to go home and tell my wife that a little boy thanked me for saving his chocolate-colored lab puppy.

And that’s a pretty good night, if you ask me.

Have a good week.

( Garrett Mostowski is the soon-to-be ordained and installed pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Miles City.)

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