Me and My Rescue Photo Contest

 - Puli
Dog Name:
Baldwin
My adopted dog's rescue story:
I’m a dog lover. Have always been one, will always be one. My first dog as an adult was a pound mutt I named Blondie. She lived to be 19-and-a-half years old and I cherish every moment I spent with her. When she died, it was so excruciatingly painful that I felt like I had lost the best part of me, my own soul was gone. I didn’t know who I was any longer if I didn’t have that blonde fur ball to look after. I decided to volunteer at a local animal shelter. Immediately, I met a little black curly haired puppy who made it clear he had eyes for me but my heart was too broken to consider bringing him home. He sure was trying to convince me otherwise. “Mom, you don’t think I should get another dog, do you?” I called her that night certain she would be the voice of reason. “You’re a dog person. Of course you should get another dog.” Her answer came as such a surprise to me. Our relationship was changing and she was finally recognizing me for the person I was, not for who she wanted me to be any longer. It was time for me to do the same. I went back to walk him again the next day and he screamed in delight when he saw me. He was barely the size of a shoe box but he sounded as large as a Doberman, that red tongue hanging out with bright white teeth, a sight that could mend anyone’s heart. “Go get your dog,” my mom called to announce the next day. “I bought him for you.” This little black dog that nudged me with love nibbles became a symbol of my mother’s acceptance of me, the real me. I immediately drove to the Lange Foundation and there he was, waiting for me behind the front desk. He looked at me and wagged not only his little stump of a tail but his entire body. He knew from the moment he saw me that I was his and now I knew it too. He was perfect. That black mop with those white, white teeth that looked like Chiclets. I picked him up and inhaled his earthy puppy scent that reminded me of sunshine and happiness. I found out that he was a Puli, a Hungarian Sheep Dog, a very smart puppy that I quickly realized I had to train or else I was going to be in big trouble. I learned that this breed is the one with the long dreadlocks, expert sheepherders who can move hundreds of sheep from one place to another and even herd 500 pound cattle. Incredible! Only six months later, I brought Baldwin to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday in January of 2000. I tried to pretend I was happy for her sake while we dined at her favorite Italian restaurant but I was having a really hard time in light of the fact that once again, my boyfriend and I were breaking up after ten years. When we got home, Baldwin was out of control. He barked at every sound. He ran around and bit at my ankles that were already completely black and blue from his attempts at herding me. I took him for a walk around my neighborhood and he lunged at a homeless man. “Baldwin, stop it!” He growled and pulled with all his might. “Leave it now.” Baldwin needed a lot of attention, training and time, more than I had to give working full time and traveling for my job. With my boyfriend gone, Baldwin was home alone all day. He needed to live in a house with a yard. I was faced with a decision I simply couldn’t make. “God, why can’t I have just one thing, just one thing? I can’t have a boyfriend. Now I have to sacrifice the dog I love too? Oh, I get it. I am supposed to be grateful for my stinking job. Well, thanks a lot God.” At least for that night, I had my Baldwin. Early the next morning, the phone rang. “Sue, are you sitting down?” my brother had that tone in his voice that let me know he was about to deliver bad news, the worst kind of news. “Mom died,” he said as if the words were swallowed back up as soon as they came out of his mouth. I screamed. It sounded like it came from someone else, maybe from another time or another place but it definitely was not my voice I was heard. “Not mommy, not mommy,” I yelled, dropping the receiver and falling to the floor as the room started spinning. I gathered a few of my things and drove to my family home, the place I had lived since I was four year old, the place of so many memories. I was still in my pajamas; Baldwin sat on my lap as I drove, licking my tears away. Like my mom, he wouldn’t let me cry. When I got back to my home on Dearborn Street, I rushed through the back gate, opened the kitchen door, and entered the den. There she was, lying motionless on the couch, her favorite couch in that dark, dingy room. It was the family room where we ate dinner on TV trays while watching our favorite shows on the small black and white set she rented because she didn’t want to spend good money on an expensive color model. She held court in that room, letting me know how she expected me to behave over the years in no uncertain terms and placing unrealistic expectations on her youngest daughter that haunted me, trying my best to be the good girl she wanted me to be. After my mom died, I went into a downhill spiral. The thought of what life would feel like without her never even occurred to me. After she died, I quit my job so I could oversee the care my dad who was in the final stages of Parkinson’s. Baldwin and I moved to the family home and he had a backyard. I was the only single sibling, had just broken up (again) with my long time boyfriend and felt good about making this unselfish act. Later that fall, the crows came. I remember they covered our yard, the full ½ acre was a sea of black feathers. They weren’t on other lawns in our neighborhood, just ours. Each morning they were there, on the grass, in the trees, everywhere. And the weird thing was that Baldwin didn’t chase them. Their presence was comforting to me. I imagined they had come to take the soul of my recently departed loved one to heaven. I closed my eyes and imagined her high up in the clouds reuniting with my Uncle Merton, her oldest brother, who I knew only from the old family photos my mom kept in the bottom drawer of her dresser. I was always interested in the past and the only Hartzler child who spent hours examining those pictures one at a time asking her for details about each relative. I remember the first time she told me about my heritage. I was about four years old sitting on the floor Indian style with my childhood dog, a Chihuahua named Siesta warming my back. I had taken every document out and was surrounded by photos of my mom and her two brothers as well as pictures of Great Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents whom I would never meet. My mom was sitting on her bed, watching me. I picked up a photo and asked, “Who’s this?” “That’s my Grandmother Sadie and my Grandpa Robert, your great grandparents,” she told me. “You remind me of Sadie. She was a strong woman who ran the farm in Quebec. There wasn’t much Sadie couldn’t do. She liked bananas just like you do. And look at her face. It’s just like yours.” “Wow,” I said examining the old black and white faded picture printed on extra thick stock like they did back then. History called to me from that drawer, Siesta snoring as I put names to the faces I would never meet. It had been years since I looked in there. One afternoon I remembered good old Sadie. I couldn’t wait to see her again. So much in my life had changed and I needed her portrait to feel grounded again, something from my past. I slowly opened the drawer, expecting to see Sadie and Robert looking back at me. But she wasn’t there. Instead, I found a plain white envelope on top. My name was written in pencil in my mom’s perfect handwriting; the careful capital S beautifully curved so that it looked like something out of a textbook on how to form cursive letters. “Susan’s first tooth,” I read out loud and peeked inside. There was one tiny white baby tooth that she had kept all these years. I wondered why she had never shown that to me. Then I reached for another envelope. It read “Susan’s first hair cut,” and inside was locket of my white blonde hair tied carefully with pink ribbon. I had no idea she kept all this stuff. I pulled out a baby announcement, certain it was one of my siblings. The three Hartzler kids looked identical in newborn photos but being the youngest, there were always more pictures of my brother and sister. I was surprised to turn it over and read: Susan Frances, born 10:17 am, North Hollywood, California, May 26, 1958, Margaret Agnes McGill, Mother, Richard William Hartzler, Father. The next picture I saw was also of me on grad night, 1976. I was dressed in a white pants suit with my low rider bell bottoms, a tight, button down plaid blouse under my vest. My smile was as big as my Farah Fawcett hair with the sides perfectly curled so they framed my tanned face. My date was a handsome jock. In front of me was a stack of report cards. They were all mine too. There were pictures of me as a toddler, pictures of me in grade school, high school, at the prom. I uncovered letters she had received when I made the deans list in junior high and again in college. “It’s all me, everything in this drawer is me,” I said out loud to no one but my dog Baldwin snuggled up next to me. As I pet him, the tears started to flow. The pieces of my personal history that my mom secretly kept somehow replaced my painful memories from the past. The resentments that I had carried with me for so long magically disappeared. There it was, right in front of me, the proof of my mom’s true feelings about her youngest daughter. She loved me. She loved me more than words could say. From beyond the grave, my mom was reaching out to me and doing something I craved from her my entire life. She cradling me in her arms, rocking me back and forth; letting me cry all the tears I held back. I saw myself as a child, sitting at her side, my arms wrapped around her leg, my head in her lap as she stroked my hair, leaning as close as possible to whisper in my ear like mother’s do. “There, there, baby girl, I’m here for you, I love you no matter what, and everything’s going to be all right.” For the first time in his puppy life, Baldwin didn’t jump up to lick my tears away or nudge at my nose. Instead, he snuggled closer next to me and quietly waited while I cried.


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Cristal   San Diego, CA

6/25/2011 8:31:57 AM

I love this story. It brought me into tear's. I'm so glad that you got Cherioo back. I love happy endings. I VOTE for this
article.

GO CHERIOO!!!!!

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Cristal   San Diego, CA

6/25/2011 8:30:44 AM

I love this story. It brought me into tear's. I'm so glad that you got Cherioo back. I love happy endings. I VOTE for this
article.

GO CHERIOO!!!!!

User Avatar

Cristal   SAN DIEGO, CA

6/25/2011 8:30:02 AM

I love this story. It brought me into tear's. I'm so glad that you got Cherioo back. I love happy endings. I VOTE for this
article.

GO
CHERIOO!!!!!

:)

User Avatar

Cristal   San Diego, CA

6/25/2011 8:28:06 AM

I love this story it brought me into tear's. I'm sooo happy that you got your dog Cherio back. I love happy ending's.. I VOTE for this article. :)

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