When Nike, their Newfoundland, went missing, a Pennyslvania family received divine guidance.
This is crazy, I thought. I trudged through the wet forest, ducking beneath dripping branches, trying not to slip, keeping my eyes peeled for movement among the trees. By my side, one of my two two-year-old Newfoundland dogs, Ruby, sniffed at muddy tree trunks.
“Nike!” I shouted into the wild, “Come here, girl! C’mon!” Only silence answered. No throaty bark, no snapping twigs or flurry of leaves that signaled Ruby’s best friend barreling through the underbrush. There’d been no sign of her for two days. Still, I hiked on. I was following a lead.
A crazy lead, an impossible one. But Peter had been so insistent, and he was always the practical one in our marriage. Nike was out here somewhere, possibly hurt, or worse. Crazy and impossible was better than giving up.
Peter and I got Nike and Ruby as pups, when our daughter, Shea, was eight and our son, Devin, was six. “The girls,” we called our Newfies, and they grew up so fast. Our home was on 12 acres that backed up to the woods and a babbling creek—a perfect playland for our gentle giants to chase chipmunks and explore.
Ruby was well-behaved, calm, a typical sweet Newfoundland. Nike? She had been advertised as “show quality,” but she was a handful! She often wandered over to our neighbor’s farm, stealing his corn, cucumbers and whatever else she could get her big paws on. As rascally as Nike was though, she always came home.
Until two days ago. Peter was out back with Nike and Ruby doing yard work. I was inside with the kids. Suddenly a strange shriek came from the woods. Some wild animal.
Nike and Ruby took off like they were shot out of a cannon. “Ruby! Nike! Get back here!” Peter yelled. He ran into the woods after them. The kids and I came outside and followed. But the dogs were out of sight.
After about half an hour, Ruby returned. Nike didn’t. Our friends came over with their Lab and helped us comb the neighborhood. Peter hiked as far as the creek, where a group of kids were hanging out by a fallen tree. “Have any of you seen a large black dog?” he asked. They hadn’t.
The rain had been on and off for days, and the creek was running high and fast. “Nike couldn’t have crossed it,” my husband told me later.
At sundown, it started pouring. We headed home. Surely Nike will come back for supper, I thought. At mealtimes, Nike planted herself in front of our kitchen door and stared at it, her drool forming a puddle on the floor. She wouldn’t let anyone pass unless he or she was carrying her food dish.
But by bedtime Nike hadn’t shown up. It was a fitful night. I tried not to think about the dangers she faced. There were probably bears in those woods, or even coyotes. The flooded creek could be treacherous. What if she’d hurt her leg and couldn’t move?
“Keep looking, Mama!” the kids begged the next day before they left for school. “I will,” I promised. But all I really had left were prayers, desperate, hopeless prayers. How could God help us?
Peter left for work and I marched into the woods. I took Ruby. “You’ll help me track her,” I said. She kept me company but didn’t seem to understand our mission.
I called our vet, checked the shelters. I made flyers: “LOST 2-YEAR OLD NEWFOUNDLAND NAMED NIKE. REWARD.” I posted them all over town. No one called. No leads.
I didn’t want to get out of bed the next morning. “I can’t believe she’s gone,” I said to Peter, stifling a sob.
But Peter jumped up. He was agitated. I’d never seen him like this. “Honey, you need to search down by the creek again,” he finally said.
“The creek?” I said. “You looked there yourself. I looked there.”
“I know. It’s just...you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I had a dream.”
A dream? In 15 years of marriage Peter had never talked about dreams. I didn’t even know if he dreamed.
“I was down by the creek. The rain had stopped, and the creek was much lower. I saw those kids by that downed tree. They saw me and began to run downstream. From out of nowhere, Nike came bolting after them. I saw her so clearly.
"I’ve never had a dream so vivid before, so real. Donna, you have to look. Please...”
Peter seemed so convinced, almost shaken. I promised him I would.
So here I was, following the lead. As crazy as it was. Ruby bounded on ahead and paused at the creek’s edge. The water was lower, noticeably so. I walked along the bank until I reached the downed tree. No kids. No Nike. I shouted her name with everything I had left. Again my shouts met with silence.
I kept walking in the direction the kids ran in Peter’s dream. I followed the creek to a small waterfall, a good landmark I would use to let Peter know just how far I had gone on this wild goose chase.
Then I heard something. A whine. I nearly dismissed it. Newfies are tough dogs, and I’d never heard Nike make a sound like that. But I walked, then ran in that direction, as if someone were pulling me. No, it can’t be, I kept thinking.
“Nike! Is that you?” I yelled. I heard the sound again. “Nike?” I splashed through the creek to the other side. I faced an embankment about 50 feet high. I can get a better view from up there, I thought. “Stay,” I said to Ruby. I began to climb.
Halfway to the top, I heard the whine once more. I craned my neck. The dense forest seemed to stare back hopelessly. But to my right, on a muddy ledge about 30 feet high, was a shadowy figure. Could it be? I climbed and crawled to get closer. My boots slid. Every step took a concerted effort. Finally...
Nike! She was wet, shaking, clearly traumatized. The muddy cliff behind her was scarred from where she’d desperately tried to climb up. The descent was just too steep for her, though it looked as if that was how she’d gotten into this precarious predicament. I threw my arms around her.
Thank you, God, I thought, for relaying your plan to Peter and for giving me the strength to go those few extra steps. My tears fell on her matted fur. “Don’t worry, my precious Nike,” I said. “You’re safe.”
I had to call a team of firefighters to get her down. Then the vet checked her out. “She’s dehydrated, but no injuries,” the vet told me. I was so happy to hear it, although given all she’d been through, it was hard to believe.
Until I looked out the window later that afternoon. Nike was running through the yard, chasing chipmunks with Ruby, seemingly without a care in the world. It was almost like a dream, a dream come true.
Crazy, I thought. Impossible.
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