The Dog in the Swamp

For those who are joining for the first time, Beth and I are parked in Savannah, Georgia with our petite RV, a twenty-two-foot camper pulled by a pickup truck. We’re on a three-month tour of four states, Georgia, Tennessee, South, and North Carolina. 

In the past few days, I’ve been writing about kindness. The kindness I’m interested in is expressed in the biblical story of the Good Samaritan. I’m super-intrigued by how some people give of themselves without preconditions. My goal is to move myself into a place where love is something I give freely, without strings attached. It’s not easy when you’ve been brought up in a transactional culture, but I think I’m making progress.

The Dog in the Swamp

Last Thursday night, Beth was teaching a yoga class outside of our camper. I wasn’t onsite because I was teaching a songwriting class elsewhere, so Beth was using the camera on her laptop to connect with her students. She also uses a Rode Go microphone to capture her sound. This last detail is important because starting around 7:30pm, someone began honking their horn repeatedly while driving around the campground. This fellow, let’s call him Al, was a man we had met earlier in the day. Al is a big drinker as is evidenced by his red-nose, slurred speech and desire to talk to everyone he meets about his beloved dog who just got over a case of the worms.

Al was honking his horn because his dog had slipped his leash and disappeared into the swamp that surrounds part of the campgrounds. The night before, his dog had done the same and Al believed that the only way to get his dog back was to honk until he returned. home.

Beth, in the middle of her yoga class, couldn’t stop to help search for the dog. She was in the middle of a class and was having enough of a hard time concentrating on her students. As she tells it, though, it’s a miracle her students stayed in the class since the entire campground filled with the sound of a honking horn for nearly one hour!

Eventually, the honking stopped and everyone was able to put their children and themselves to bed. I returned home to find Beth wide-eyed and exasperated and I’m kind of glad I missed the drama. So, we went to bed.

The Nurse Next Door

Next to our camper was a young family, Ryan and Kara, plus their one-year-old daughter, McKenzie, and their small dog. Ryan is a traveling nurse and he moves around the country working at hospitals stressed by the nursing shortage.

The night before, Ryan heard the man searching for his dog – just like everyone else in Savanah. For a while, he walked with Al to try and locate the dog. But all they could hear were his whimpering calls from somewhere deep inside of the swamp.

So, here’s the cool thing. Ryan went back to his campsite and took out his hip-waders. Evidently, he’s a fisherman. In pitch-black darkness with a flashlight, Ryan set out into the muddy swamp walking step by step towards the dog’s urgent cries. Eventually, the dog heard his rescuer approaching and doggy-paddled his way into Ryan’s outstretched arms. The duo returned to the shore. I wasn’t there, but I assume that Al was very grateful.

What that Story Means

As we often tell children, a story like this has a theme. Yes – it’s about a hero and a victim – and that’s one level of the story. On a deeper level, though, the story is about unconditional love, a type of kindness that is its own reward. Ryan is a very humble man. I’ve spoken with him enough to know that he is not interested in praise. He is not going to get a commendation and he’d probably be embarrassed if he knew I was writing about him.
This morning, Beth was teaching another yoga class and I was filming it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryan gathering wood and packing supplies outside his camper because they were leaving the spot next to us. Knowing that the camera position was good for the time being, I jumped up and asked Ryan if I could help him move the wood.
“You can if you’re not busy, ” he said.
“I’m not that busy,” I returned, “and that’s a lot of wood to move.”
“Yup,” he said.
And the two of us worked together until the job was done.
“Need any more help,” I asked?
“I think I’m good, Scott,” he smiled.
A lesson learned is one we practice. I hope I’m up to the task.

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