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The PPM Blog

Old Men, Old Trucks, And Feral Dogs

a man wearing a suit and tieContributed by Walt Henley, Senior Geologist, PPM Consultants

Harry Honda – that’s the name my granddaughter gave my Ridgeline pickup truck – turned over 318,000 miles in the last couple of weeks. Harry is 15 years old, which in dog years is 105. Seems about right for 318,000 miles. As it turns out, Harry has a lot of things in common with dogs. He smells awful when his upholstery gets wet, he is faithful as proven by sticking with me for the equivalent of nearly 13 times around the world, he is lovable, and we have shared a lot of good times together.

Harry shows his age. His body bears the dents from hurtling hailstones that hit their mark and heaved hay bales that missed theirs. He is rusty around the edges, and he creaks a lot. His bulbs are no longer the brightest on the highway, but he still manages to find his way through the dark. Yet with all his blemishes, I am hopeful for many miles to come. My mechanic swears he will last until 400,000.

I spent much of last week working with Harry at an abandoned textile mill. The place could be the location for the next Walking Dead episode. It is full of piles of rubble, slabs of cracked concrete, remnants of buildings that appear to have survived the Blitzkrieg, and life. Opportunistic weeds overrun the broken bricks, spreading their like by latching their seeds onto any animate object, be it animal or human. The potential for new life literally clings to hope like beggar lice on britches legs.

Among the inhabitants in the acres of desolation are a pack of feral dogs. I was warned of the dogs when I first arrived, and I was a little nervous, truth be told. These are not domesticated animals. They don’t sleep on cushy mattresses or even in doghouses. They make their beds on cold concrete in half-flooded broken basements. I kept watching for them as the week wore on. I glimpsed one or two scurrying away in the distance. I heard them barking somewhere out of sight.

On the fourth day, as I jumped in Harry during a brief downpour and slowly drove to the other end of the site to get ready for the next task, I looked in my side mirror. Two canine buddies followed me down the overgrown road. The larger dog was golden colored, perhaps part yellow lab. He wore a broad grin and his tail wagged briskly as he trotted after me. By his side scampered a brown and black mixed breed, which darted off the trail to inspect something and then raced to keep up with the lab. I lost sight of the dogs before the end of the road. I suppose they found a dry place to hang out until the rain stopped. I know about anthropomorphism, the tendency for humans to assign human-like traits to other animals. So I don’t really know if the big dog was happy or just tired. I don’t know if the small dog was curious or just hungry. But I do know they were intent on living their life as best they could.

You see, among desolation, remains faith – that although life is full of both hardships and beauty, we are not given one without the other; that chaos can be reconciled with order because the laws of the universe are ordained by God.

Among devastation remains hope – that more miles remain on old trucks and old men, that a better life awaits feral dogs and hurting humans.

Among people, remains love – for faith and hope are nothing without it. A whole lot of love has gone into those 318,000 miles. That old truck has hauled grandchildren to the zoo. It has hauled old horses to new homes. It has hauled old tools to repair an even older parent’s home. And there is love for those dogs. This particular pack has its own website, set up by the good people of the local humane society to raise funds for their rescue and to find them new homes.

My favorite verse in the Bible goes like this: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

At the end of it all – after all we do or obtain or sacrifice or work towards – only “these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Perhaps, maybe, possibly, if an old man can just learn to nurture the love in his heart, I have faith and hope that the rest will turn out alright.

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