The word 'rescue' began as a verb. Born within the murk of Middle English, in the 14th century, 'to rescue' meant to deliver, to save, to redeem…from dragons, rogue knights, a hidden sun…whatever dangers lurked in the medieval imagination.
Through the years this word continued to retain its meaning of safety and redemption – danger continues to lurk, though not so scaly or roguish. And astronomy seems to be behaving itself. But there is danger, and we still need to be rescued.
But recently, I have heard 'rescue' used as a noun. People aren't the only creatures that need help. And when that blessing is bestowed on an animal, it is so profound and worthy an act that the verb solidifies; it becomes a noun, a definition, a label.
I was walking to work. And I saw acted out before me a touching little scene: a man, about to dial his cellphone, was speaking to his dog, a dalmatian mix. I heard the words, "Sit…Sit…", he spoke in a steady voice, not loud, not irritable. The cellphone could clearly wait. The dog sat obediently, looking into her master's face with intelligence and complete devotion.
The path I was on would take me between the two. And when I did, I looked at the dog's sweet face, and held out my hand. She leaned forward, sniffing, trying to make some canine sense out of the gloves I was wearing. But when I tried to pet her, she quickly pulled her head back, even though the questions still waited in her dark eyes.
Well, I reasoned, sometimes an animal isn't ready. I started to move away, but the inquisitive nose was back again. But she wasn't able to trust a stranger's kindness. Her owner said, in a type of soft embarrassment, "Oh, she's curious, but very, very shy. She's a rescue."
A noun. A definition. A label
As he was explaining her status to me, her interest got the better of her, and she walked a timid circle around me. And as I walked away, I turned to wish the man a good morning, and saw the pretty dalmatian watching me – unsure of who I was, yet sorry to see me go.
I hope that this man will continue to use his patience. I hope that he will embrace the affection and allegience this dog will one day be ready to give him. Because if he does, he will certainly have a gentle, grateful frirend for the rest of his life.