The Prodigal Dog

Elizabeth Park
4 min readApr 18, 2024


In which I get my miracle and a reminder

I heard a panicky shout.

“‘Elizabeth! Luna got out!”

Muttering foul words, I leaped to my feet and headed out. Thankfully I was already dressed.

“Is there any chicken?” I asked as I headed for the door. He thrust a pile of it into my hand.

I saw her as soon as I got outside. She had paused to look back, leash trailing behind. So tiny.

She always has a leash on, because as a rescue she’s too damaged to trust to come to me yet without it. It’s an emergency protocol — I hate it, but once I took it off and it took me a couple of days to catch her in a STUDIO apartment of 302 square feet. I didn’t want to traumatize her or to get bitten.

She clocked me, almost came when I mentioned chicken, but then headed on down the driveway.

She can’t get to the road, I thought. She’ll get hit. I started praying.

She made it to the road.

Luna, my rescue Italian Greyhound (called an “iggy” by other greyhound owners, but I don’t like that abbreviation), is a tiny, quivering, speedball of nervous energy and mistrust.

It took me over a year for her to let me pet her at all. Petting is a privilege still, never a given, but chicken helps. It’s her favorite word.

She is my little piece of happiness.

I’ve moved across the country twice in the past 11 months, and finding apartments in my income bracket is HARD. And traveling FL to OR to NC with a dog who has escape instincts, speed, and trust issues is dicey.

But I’m not even considering getting rid of her in order to find a place.

Rich people don’t have to think twice about their pets, as far as affording them goes.

For me, she is the ultimate luxury. I constantly pray she stays healthy.

I live in a house with 5 other people at the moment. Sometimes the door gets left open.

This happened to me, or rather to Luna the other day.

I clutched the chicken in my sweaty palm, tried to sound calm, and followed her down the path we always take when I walk her.

“Luna! Chicken.” She kept looking back, but she kept going.

At the end of the first road, she turned left, per our custom.

But she was gaining ground.

I kept going, watching and calling and praying, trying to sound peaceful and reassuring, trying to BELIEVE. Asking God to forgive me for anything I could think of, in case there was anything blocking my prayers.


She turned left at the dead end, where we’ve gone before.

Then nothing.

I went out again, talked to any neighbors I could see, tearful and trying to believe but also start the stages of grief. I called my brother in another country, distraught.

I looked at her blanket on the sofa. Should I put it away?

I tried to imagine everyday life without her. I had just quit a job that kept me away too many hours and paid too little so I would be around more.

I called the animal shelter. They said they were the wrong people, call Animal Control. But not today, because they were closed.

I went out again, still carrying the chicken, but in a baggie this time.

She’d had time to get hit by a car, get caught in a bush, who knew? She wasn’t a barker, so she’d die quietly.

I talked to the guy next door, who spoke little English. I showed him her picture, showed her size with my hands.

As I neared an intersection of three streets in our neighborhood, I looked to the left and saw a white car from the neighborhood, followed by a police or sheriff’s vehicle, followed by a truck.

In front of them, almost invisible, was a tiny beige dog, dragging a green leash, panting furiously.

“Luna! Hey baby!” I crouched and held out the chicken. She headed towards me, followed by all the cars.

“Is that your dog?” shouted the woman in the first car. “Yes,” I said, also giving a thumbs-up. I tried to stay focused on Luna, because I needed to get her leash, close this deal.

She came all the way to me, grabbed the chicken in her mouth, but the leash was out of reach. I didn’t want to let go of it, because it was my only tenuous connection to her.

She danced away again, and I followed. I wanted to tell all the people thank you. A man stopped behind me with his truck and got out.

“She was all the way in the Walmart parking lot,” he said.

“Dang,” I said. I don’t remember what else. I wanted to say thank you, but it wasn’t locked down yet.

The guy next door, bless him, had come out and tried to help. She dodged into another yard.

I couldn’t catch her. No one could. All I could do was trust that all our walks, all my kindness, all the chicken, and her fatigue would pay off.

She headed to the driveway, and I didn’t follow behind her. I took a route to the door that was different from hers. She got to the porch, and then went back to the driveway.

“Come on, baby,” I said, being super casual, holding the screen door open. Hoping.

She came.

Thank God.

She got chicken.

As I’ve written before, my dog teaches me about how love works. She doesn’t fetch, she doesn’t cuddle, she doesn’t protect, she doesn’t act therapeutic, she doesn’t even trust me.

But I love her. And if I lost her, I would be devastated.

God described himself as being like the father of the prodigal son. Always waiting, always hoping, always giving. Not annoyed, or angry, or vengeful, or giving up.

I don’t understand that. But I’m trying to trust it.



Elizabeth Park

Van Gogh fan girl, loves good questions and people who listen, ex-fundamentalist; Spiritual life coach for black sheep