I haven't forgotten about my intention to chronicle the process of drafting a book from beginning to end and will resume those posts soon (I've been on vacation and also waiting on copy edits for my second book), but here's another interlude.
Four years ago today my father-in-law, Alan, passed away. I usually write a tribute to him - he was a huge part of our daily lives and we still miss him terribly - but this year I want to tell you a story instead.
First, you need to know that less than a year after Alan died our white German Shepherd, Sadie, developed an aggressive cancer and had to be put to sleep. She was technically my son's dog - a gift for his 9th birthday - but she had become my husband's sidekick and constant companion. She was a ruthless hunter of cats and small furry creatures, a menace to delivery people, and a midnight barker, but she was also endlessly patient and gentle with my kids, loyal and trustworthy to us, and good fun in general. My husband adored her, and losing her so soon after losing his father and farm partner pretty much broke his heart.
For a while the grief was too sharp to think about getting another dog, but eventually he decided he was ready to look for his next furry shadow.
We came across someone in Minnesota with Belgian Shepherd puppies needing a farm home and plenty of space to run. Belgian Shepherds are like their German counterparts but less prey-driven, less prone to aggressive behaviors, and slightly easier to train.
They're also cute as can be.
So on a February morning my husband and I climbed in his pickup and drove north (through wind and snow) until we reached a small city in Minnesota and checked into a cheap hotel off the interstate chosen entirely at random. (This is not the first long road trip we've taken in pursuit of an animal to add to our family. :P)
That night he started having second thoughts. The weather was bad and he was stressed and it all suddenly became a lot to think about, you know? I kept telling him I knew it would all work, that he was going to love her, that it would be a great adventure. But I knew he was anxious. Puppies are a big commitment, and Sadie was leaving big paw prints to fill.
When we woke up the next morning I found our check-out paper slipped under the door. To my utter shock, the name on the page was my father-in-law's! Somehow the front desk had gotten us mixed up. Somehow, sometime, for some reason, Alan had stayed at that very hotel and we hadn't known it.
"It's a sign from your dad that this puppy is meant to be yours," I told my husband.
So, we got to the dog place and met the lady and saw the puppy and I could tell my husband was still nervous. "She doesn't like me the way Sadie did," he whispered.
"She doesn't know you yet," I whispered back. "Give it time." At that moment she climbed in his lap, licked his face, and wagged her fuzzy tail and it was settled.
We paid for the puppy and got her bag of food and treats and toys and a folder of her papers - and guess what her sire's registered name was? Alan On My Mind - I kid you not.
My husband named her Brida, after the main character in my book. And within three days they were fast, firm friends.
Brida is not quite two years old now and for the most part she's a lovely young dog. She's sweet and friendly and always up for a run through the woods or a swim in the lake. She tolerates cats and ignores rabbits and never does more than bark at squirrels and raccoons. She sometimes chases deer but that's because she loves to race - she doesn't actually expect to catch them.
But she's afraid of thunder. Usually, when the weather gets bad we lock her inside until it passes, but a few weeks ago a TERRIBLE round of storms rolled in unexpectedly and she ran away.
We looked everywhere we could think of, but it had rained so much there were no tracks and we started to worry she could have gotten seriously hurt. It was a terrible night and all I could think was that maybe if Alan had helped us find her in the first place he could help us get her home, too. So we prayed and prayed.
The next day some friends of ours posted her picture and a note on Facebook (neither my husband nor I have accounts) and within half an hour we got a call - she'd been found.
She'd run across two highways and a railroad track to end up MILES away - at a farm owned by my father-in-law's good friend.
She seemed pleased to have met a new friend, but was quite happy to see us again.
All's well that ends well, but I sure am glad Alan is still keeping an eye on things for us. :)