It was Christmas time, 2011. Amy, my sister's dog walker, and lover of all four-legged creatures, was upset. She had just returned from New York state where she spent a week at a facility participating in an instructor training workshop. The puppy assigned to her was named Milk Dud. His brother, Gummy Bear, was assigned to her friend. Milk Dud was a four month old pup who was friendly, smart, energetic, affectionate, and she instantly fell in love with him. Having worked very closely together over those seven days, they formed a very special bond and when it came time to leave, she was upset. "How can I possibly leave him behind?" she thought. "And what will become of him?"
Amy struggled, thinking about her options. She considered taking him home, but she already owned a big dog and lived in a small apartment, so that wasn't realistic. "Maybe one of my friends or clients can adopt him," she thought. Amy put out an APB to everyone she knew to see if they, or someone they knew, might be able to take him and give him a happy home. She wasn't having any luck. It was a bustling, very hectic time of year for everyone, since it was the holiday season, so it made her challenge even greater. She worried and wondered if anyone would really want to take in a dog at this time of year.
We all offered to spread the word on social media. I put out a plea right away on Facebook with a few pictures of Milk Dud. We all wished and hoped that someone who saw the post and his adorable face and longing eyes, might be curious and inquire. We waited.
Then, later that evening, and much to my surprise, I heard a ping on my phone. It was a message from a friend, Lisa, who said she met someone who was interested in Milk Dud! She was at a local salon in Newburyport getting a lovely, fashionable holiday pedicure, strolling through her Facebook feed on her phone, when my post appeared. Sitting next to her was a stranger named Mimi, (who really wasn't strange at all). She was a friendly, pleasant woman and they had struck up a conversation. "Look at this dog. He's so cute. He needs a home," said Lisa. She showed the post to Mimi, and Mimi immediately fell in love. "That's my dog," she said! "Oh my gosh, I want him. I've been so wanting to get a dog for awhile now and there he is. I have a feeling he was meant for me!" "Wow. What are the odds?" I thought. Mimi was convinced that Milk Dud was her dog. Immediately after that one short text, the wheels were set in motion.
They say, whoever 'they' are, that timing is everything. I put Amy in touch with Mimi right away, so they could initiate the formal adoption process. All went smoothly, Mimi passed the screenings and she was well on her way to having a new addition to her family. Only there was a twist! It was the week between Christmas and New Year's and she was scheduled for surgery. Yes, for better or worse, timing is indeed everything! There was no way that she could make the four hour, 250 mile trek to New York and back to retrieve Milk Dud. What to do?
My sensitive sister, Kathy, with a soft spot in her heart for all dogs, had a sudden thought. "What if we go and pick him up?" she asked. "Why not? We have the time. Let's take a road trip!" I said. "It will be fun." Amy had planned on joining us, but, unfortunately, she had come down with the flu.
Before settling in for that evening prior to our excursion, Kathy took her welsh terrier, Winston, out for one last walk. As she was walking in the darkness, star gazing and admiring all the decorative holiday lights in my neighborhood, she suddenly stumbled, and twisted her ankle! Badly. She lay on my sofa, frustrated, her ankle perched on a pillow with a bag of frozen peas melting on her foot. "I can drive if need be, no worries," I said.
And so, Kathy and I made our plans to head out on our journey the next day, December 27, to make the pilgrimage to rescue Milk Dud! We were on a mission of mercy. We were both excited and nervous at the same time about our adventure. What are we getting ourselves into? What would this dog be like? We knew it was a crapshoot.
We rose early that next cold, winter morning, and to ensure a smooth transition for Milk Dud, loaded up the car with all things doggie - toys, treats, leash, water, bed and a warm blanket. Oh, and of course, poop bags. Ready to go! Then, as I put the key in the ignition and turned it, nothing happened. The car wouldn't start. The battery was dead! We looked at each other and said simultaneously, "Are you kidding me?" Between the twisted ankle, the dead battery, and Amy's flu, the superstitious in me thought, "I hope this is not a bad omen." Thankfully, the tow truck arrived quickly, gave us a jump and a blessing that all would be well and we would be safe on our four hour journey. First stop - Dunkin' Donuts, the daily ritual for our jolt of caffeine. And then, finally, like Thelma and Louise, we hit the highway.
Three pit stops and four hours later, with great anticipation, we arrived at our final destination. Down a long dirt road, we spied the weathered grey building, sitting solemnly against the white snow. "How many dogs will make it out of that kennel?" I thought. As we entered the lobby, we were greeted warmly. "Hi, we're here to pick up Milk Dud!" we told the receptionist. "Oh yes, Milk Dud. He's quite the energetic pup. He's been patiently waiting for you. Let me go and fetch him."
She disappeared down the long, noisy hall with the sound of barking everywhere, and instantly reappeared with the most beautiful canine. Kathy and I were so excited when we laid eyes on him. There at the end of the leash, was a white and tan pup, with floppy, brown ears, big black soulful eyes separated by a strip of white, and a large black snout. His fast wagging tail was mostly tan, with the tip looking like it was dipped in a can of white paint. Without any hesitation, he immediately jumped on us both, looking for some love and attention. We gave it to him, and he gave it right back, in spades. It was as if he had known us forever.
We loaded Milk Dud into the back seat, turned the car around, proceeded down the driveway and began the journey homeward. He instantly spun himself around into a snail-like position, and soon fell asleep on the blanket. No fear, no whimpering, no barking, no anxiety, no "accidents." We were a bit astonished, quite frankly. This adorable, gentle little pup nestled right on in for the long ride home, content, knowing he was safe.
We called Mimi from the road, informing her that our mission was accomplished, and that Milk Dud was as sweet as sweet can be. We texted photos and updates along the way and told her we would see her in about four hours, or approximately 6pm. Or so we thought. As we made our way down the highway, we landed in the middle of a three mile traffic back up. Yet another obstacle. We didn't get to Mimi's house until nearly 8:30pm!
Upon arrival, because Milk Dud had so easily connected with us, we were hopeful that he would do the same with Mimi. But we also held our breath. Once again, we didn't know what to expect and were filled with lots of what ifs. Here he was - about to enter the unknown of his new permanent home. What if he was frightened of his new surroundings? What if he was overly timid? What if he became aggressive? What if he didn't bond with Mimi? What if Milk Dud was not what Mimi had hoped for? What if Mimi didn't bond with Milk Dud? Well, Kathy and I quickly learned that we wasted a lot of energy on what ifs.
As soon as we walked through the door, like a pogo stick, Milk Dud started jumping up and down and pounced on Mimi, who was dozing in a chair. His long tail was happily wagging as he licked her face as she rested, still dazed from her surgery. The two bonded immediately. It was love at first sight and the mutual affection was evident. And then off he went, with not a timid bone in his body, running in circles and sniffing his way from room to room throughout the merry house, upstairs and down. Milk Dud was finally home for the holidays. His fate was sealed and our mission of mercy was accomplished.
The local newspaper got wind of Milk Dud's plight and decided to print the story. The tale of puppy love was refreshing and heart-warming for people to read, especially during the holiday season. The story even made its way to London and back, via skype. Thanks Kayla!
This labor of love was set in motion within one week because of a Facebook post, a pedicure, fate, communication, determination, and a little bit of magic. Oh, and let's not forget - a sprained ankle, a dead battery, the flu and a huge traffic jam!
That Christmas, both Mimi and Milk Dud gave each other no finer gift - the gift of unconditional love. They were meant to find one another. I'd like to believe it was a little Christmas miracle, because who's to say it was not?
On behalf of Milk Dud, Amy, Kathy, Mimi and myself, we wish you a pawsitively Merry Christmas!
p.s. If you are considering adding a furry friend to your family, please consider adoption.