The parson pulled his hands from the soapy water of the sink, where he was washing dishes, and, while wiping his hands on a drying cloth, made his way to the door.
“What’s up?” he asked the teenage boy form across the street.
“Parson, can you help us?” asked the young man with obvious distress in his voice. “Mom was coming home from shopping and the puppy (their newly acquired ten-week-old rescue ) ran out to meet her. She didn’t see him. She ran over him. She’s really upset. And the dog’s really hurting.”
The parson headed across the street to his neighbor’s house. She was in a ball crying. Newly divorced, on her own, trying to make it by working two jobs and supporting a teenage son, the puppy was her one indulgence, a warm body to curl up in her lap when she came home, a living being that offered love with no conditions.
Now the puppy lay in the shrubbery beside the driveway, yelping in pain, so much pain that when the familiar hand of the parson reached down he tried to bite. The parson covered his head with a cloth and looked at the injuries. Both back legs were broken, obviously. There was swelling in the lower portion of his underbelly.
The neighbor, as is the case with so many single mothers, was on a limited budget. The nearest twenty-four hour emergency facility was forty-five miles away, and, the parson knew, the charges were outrageous.
The parson called a staff member of a local vet clinic to get the number of the emergency facility and ask for advice. He explained the woman’s limited financial abilities. He was referred to a local vet who offered twenty-four hour calls for emergencies. The parson called. The charges were $99 to come to the home and examine the animal. After that the vet would determine future charges.
The parson made arrangements to bring the puppy to the vet’s local clinic. The parson knew what was the only outcome.
Arriving at the clinic, the neighbor let the vet examine her puppy in the back seat of the car. The vet, with care of lifting a newborn child, held the puppy to his chest, carried him into the clinic and began the examination.
Both back legs were broken. The left one was broken in several places. The puppy’s bladder had most likely ruptured. There was internal bleeding. The blood pressure was dangerously low.
The doctor, call him Dr. Jay, with a compassion that is so lacking in so many of his profession looked at the parson’s neighbor and gently, lovingly, told her the truth.
Five minutes later, Dr. Jay, after asking the neighbor to pet and talk to her puppy as he did what he had to do, injected the drug into the puppy’s system.
Little Charlie, named after Charlie Brown, the parson’s faithful canine companion, closed his eyes and fell asleep. He was in pain no more.
Little Charlie’s mother is a single parent trying to make ends meet. The parson pulled out the church’s credit card, handed it to the vet and said, "Charge the expenses on this."
The parson’s neighbor will be mourning for a while. She’ll miss Little Charlie. And she’ll feel guilty.
The parson will talk to her, comfort her, and rejoice. The parson will rejoice that he pastors a church that allows him to unconditionally provide for the expenses of those in need. And he will rejoice that this community is the home of Dr. Jay, a vet who is willing to get up in the middle of the night to care for the puppies in need.