Sunday, December 6, 2009

Darlin’s first picture and Christmas story.

I’m posting this on both blogs because it seems appropriate.

A year ago today I took Darlin’s first picture. If I had taken her picture when I first started feeding her it would have made some people cry. She was so skinny that she looked hunched over with her stomach pulled up inside of her. She didn’t have her winter coat when we met, as a result her hair was thin and closer to her body. I thought she was some kind of hound dog. I was in such a hurry to feed her on schedule that taking her picture never crossed my mind. As soon as darkness fell I would watch the clock until it was time for me to leave the house.

So why Dec. 6th, 2008?

A local breeder had been shut down by the ASPCA. There were about 50 dogs that they had to surrender. The Humane Society took several, some went to rescues, and 16 were transported to a Michigan rescue. The ASPCA asked the breeder to pay for the gas needed to transport the dogs out of state. She said she wouldn’t do it because she didn’t want to give them up. When I heard about the gas, I made the donation because those dogs were not going to be delayed a chance at freedom if I had anything to do with it.

My husband and I met with the breeder’s husband at 8:00 in the morning at a grocery store parking lot. The same one that Darlin’ would be eating at once it turned dark. He was supposed to be bringing three Jack Russell’s going to Russell Rescue in Tennessee. They were not Jack Russell’s, they were Rat Terriers, but that’s okay, Russell Rescue wouldn’t turn them away. I had my camera along so that I could email the pictures to everyone involved in their rescue.

I asked the breeders husband for their names and any information he had. When he handed over the male he called JR, he said that JR had never been used for anything other than making puppies. They were frightened. In fact JR was in the back of the crate when we arrived at rescue and I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had to use the bathroom.

My daughter’s great grandmother (89 yrs at the time) lives in Tennessee so we stopped to visit with her that afternoon. Granny had a stroke in 2007 and moved into an assisted living home. We always take her out to lunch when we visit. It’s usually getting dark by the time we head home so I had Darlin’s food with me so that I could feed her on the way to our house. That day I had my camera too. It was hard getting Darlin’s picture because the camera I used isn’t good for taking pictures at night. Darlin’ was fearful too therefore I kept my distance as she ate over at her tree.

Yesterday we went to visit Granny in a North Alabama Rehab because she broke her hip in November and still isn’t able to walk. Darlin’ had been alone all afternoon and was really missing me. She cries, whines, barks, and gets overly-excited when I come in the door. All of are dogs are excited to see Mom and Dad even though the kids were home, but Darlin’ is different - and special. She usually hides in my room while I’m away. I’m sure she feels abandoned by me when I’m gone.

Last night I stood outside as Darlin’ went potty before bed. She still won’t stay in the yard without me and most times she will not go down unless I do. It was freezing cold and the ground was covered in frost. I wore my oversized coat with the hood over my head and I was still freezing, yet the night reminded me that it wasn’t quite as cold as some of the nights that Darlin’ spent alone outside last winter. As I stood there shivering waiting on the dogs, I was thankful that my mind is at peace this month.

Standing out in the cold last night took me back to last winter and winters past. It was December when my daughter asked what my intentions were concerning Darlin’. That’s when I told my family with tears on my eyes that I only intended to keep Darlin’ alive through winter by feeding her and the rest was in Gods hands. I didn’t want her, I had three dogs already. Besides, she didn’t want me, she wouldn’t come near me.

I knew my family was tiring of me not wanting to go places or do anything that might interfere with feeding Darlin’. I understood what was going on with them; they had to help me too. The questions hurt because it put what I had been doing into perspective. I knew that I was neglecting some of my own responsibilities because of Darlin’. How long was I going to continue with her feeding routine? How long could I keep doing it? I had to drive six miles every night. That’s not very far, but it was inconvenient. I couldn’t abandon her, especially not after three months. I couldn’t skip a feeding, not after establishing a routine. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was capable of feeding her and without me she would be hungry. What if I ever missed a meal, would she wait for me? It was hard enough knowing she was hiding in the cold somewhere. December was an emotional time for me.

It was Dec. 13th when we went to see Trans Siberian Orchestra in concert. The concert started about the same time I would be feeding Darlin’. Afterwards we went to dinner. The concert was wonderful, but Darlin’ weighed heavy on my mind because I would be so late getting to her. We took my husband’s car that night therefore I knew I would have to ask him to stop so that I could buy food on the way home. There was more food than we could eat at dinner. I asked everyone to pass their plates and I scraped everything together in a carryout container for Darlin’. We pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store on our way home when I thought I saw something by her tree. As we got closer she lifted her head and I realized it was Darlin’ lying there napping and waiting for me! She waited over three hours!

It was raining and the wind blew hard for three days the week of Christmas. I knew Darlin’ wouldn’t come out in the rain, but I left her food anyway by putting a bowl out with a stick on top to keep the rain out. I figured if the rain slowed down she would come to eat. At that point I hadn’t seen her for two nights and I was getting worried. The food was gone, but I couldn’t be sure that Darlin’ was the one who ate it. On Christmas Eve we put her food out early so that I wouldn’t have to leave the house later. My husband bought a large basted bone for her as a Christmas gift and we left that too. She didn’t show up.

As we drove home I recalled the year before we were living in Missouri. Our cat Abbey had been bit by something and it tore a large piece of skin off of her that required stitches. Abbey had to go outside, she ran to every door in the house and begged to go out. She loved to lie around on the porch and play with our neighbor’s cat, but they also had one that was mean and attacked her. Going through my photos I found the picture of her wound was taken and emailed to my husband on Dec. 6, 2008. He had transferred and was already working at his new job in Alabama while I stayed in Missouri with the children so they could finish out the first semester at school before we relocated them.

I didn’t know until I wrote this post that Abbeys picture and Darlin’ pictures were taken at the same time a year apart. It seems significant to me because there is so much synchronicity in my life when it comes to animals. I will write more on this subject in the future.

My husband came home for Christmas in 2007. We were sitting in the living room on Christmas Eve when I spotted something that looked like eyes in our tree. It was Abbey lying in the branches! I pulled her out and noticed her stitches broke open and the wound was infected and oozing. We called an emergency vet and drove Abbey over right away. Two Christmas Eves a year apart we were out at night because of an animal.

We gathered around the tree a little earlier than usual last year. The kids open one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. Since it was still early and the house was quite I thought about making a second trip to check on Darlin’. The rain and wind had slowed so my thoughts turned to Darlin’ and whether she might show up. I asked my husband if he would mind if I drove over to check the food to see if Darlin’ was around. He said that he would drive me. It was at that moment when he offered to drive me that I didn’t feel bad about asking. When we arrived the bowls were empty, but the Christmas bone was still there. I had to believe that she had eaten and would come back for her bone later.

This year Darlin’ will spend Christmas next to me on the couch. Her head will be dry, her belly will be full, and this will be the first of many Christmases to come for her in a real home.


  1. Hearing about these types of breeders DISGUST me. I am so happy you found Darlin' when you did. She needed you and so did all the rat terriers, thank god you came to their rescue.

  2. You are clearly a blessing in Darlin's life. May God bless you always for the love, care and compassion you show to all animals.