Those who knew Anna or have heard her stories know that Anna loved animals. She loved creatures of all kinds. We have many photos of Anna with bugs, lizards,etc. (even an infamous and rarely shown photo of Anna with a number of large snails on her face that we were preparing for the Guiness Book of World Records, but that is another story). Indonesians were always surprised at the boldness of both Samuel and Anna when it came to handling these creatures. They quickly learned which ones to stay away from and which ones are harmless. The caterpillars in Indonesia have nasty spikes along the backside that immediately stick in your skin if you touch them. The cicaks (chee-chalk), the small household lizards that run all over your walls and ceilings, especially at night, are harmless and even helpful because they eat the mosquitoes and other bugs. In Semarang, our backyard was full of frogs at night. We think they may have come from a string of frog eggs that Timberley and the kids took out of a large pool of water at the train museum in Ambarawa and then brought home with them to watch hatch, but that is another story. Walking in our backyard at night was like walking into a pot of corn being popped. With every step taken it seemed as if four or five frogs would leap into the air to evade your foot. The kids loved going out at night to catch or corral the frogs into places. These were the animals that probably caused the most consternation with our helpers. They were convinced that the frogs had poisonous skins and that the kids should not be handling them. It surprised them a bit when our kids’ hands did not fall off or turn purple. If nothing else, our kids gave the Indonesians something to laugh and talk about.
I mention these things because all kids, I think, to a certain extent are attracted to animals that are different, weird, or exciting. I included a picture above of Anna with one of our dogs, Spotty. Spotty was nasty. He was gross. If he wasn’t so pitiful and needing of compassion, there would have been no positive emotion extended from me to him. I did not like him. Timberley did not like him. We endured him. Spotty had to be experienced. The only way I can try to explain what it was like to live with Spotty is to say that whenever he came around, he had a penchant for licking your toes. It was never your hand or anything else. Just your toes. There was something wrong with that. There were three reasons I kept Spotty. First, we also owned his mother, Molly. I liked Molly. She had her problems, too, but I don’t think I ever had a dog as faithful as Molly. Second, I loved my kids and it would have torn them and our household apart to even mention getting rid of Spotty. Third, I don’t think anyone would have taken him, even as food.
When we came back to Indonesia in 2007 after our stateside assignment in the fall of 2006, we had a bit of a shock. Both of our dogs’ hair was dirty and matted. For Molly, this was not much a problem because she had pretty short hair. Spotty, on the other hand, had very long and thick hair. When we came back and looked at him even I felt a little sorry for him. His hair was matted into what felt like a thick wool blanket glued to his skin. We tried to bathe him, but the water and soap would not penetrate this outer armor. I decided we needed to cut it all off. During the bath and the shearing, however, we discovered something disturbing. Both Molly and Spotty were covered in ticks. We saw them first on Molly because we could see through her fur more easily. With Spotty we did not see what was happening until we started cutting away these large patches of fur. We discovered hundreds of ticks on him. They were nesting underneath the canopy of his fur and breeding new ticks. We discovered that the mother ticks who are laying eggs attach themselves to the animal and then swell up several times their normal size to provide for all of the eggs. He easily had 50 or more of these large female ticks on him. We cut away all of the fur from him, shaved him down to the skin, and began the slow process of removing all of these ticks. It was dirty work. It was gross. And in the end we had two very happy and very ugly-looking dogs. And we had two very happy children.
Anna loved the bizarre. Anna loved the unique things of the world. But Anna also loved the ugly. Although a story about a pitiful, tick-infested dog may not be the best example of this, I believe that the love of Christ moved Anna to look beyond outward appearances and to love and have compassion for all.