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A dog story with a happy ending

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Our beloved golden retriever “Lady” was diagnosed with lymphoma this summer and we knew she was not going to be with us very much longer. Thinking this was a good time to change over to a smaller breed, but still stay within the sporting dog group, we started shopping for cocker spaniels. We wanted a dog at least a year old because we felt Lady would welcome a mature pal at this time in her life, but definitely not a puppy.

We found “Dandy Dozer” in a kennel in Mechanicsville and fell in love with him at first sight. He was adorable—a four-color cocker with mostly black curly hair but with lots of smudges of brown, beige and white, almost as if an artist had mixed up the paints when it came to creating him. He made me laugh when I first saw him because he looked up at me with his black face that was comically emphasized with two brown eyebrows. He was the cutest little dog I had ever seen.

So we brought Dandy Dozer home, my husband Chip driving and me holding the trembling package of fur in my lap. I thought how quickly I fall for a dog, any dog will do, and how much I already loved our little boy.

Yet this dog was a kennel dog and had little humanizing and I quickly learned exactly what that meant. He had been purchased as a puppy by a breeder especially for stud service, and even though he came with a long list of champion ancestors, he had had little contact with ladies who hugged and petted him. He was just as surprised at me as I was at him.

The truth was Dandy Dozer was frightened of me and everybody else. When we arrived home he leapt out of my arms and headed for the shrubbery. We tried to find him but one can’t locate a black dog on a dark night, so we finally gave up our search and went to bed (my first night of no sleep). While I worried, Dandy Dozer spent his first night in our fenced-in backyard.

The next morning at dawn, Chip, Lady and I went outside looking for him. We found him fast asleep behind the Sprout Cottage garage. One look at us and he was off like a bullet. We could not catch him.

Finally we all three sat down on the patio for a cup of tea to sooth our nerves. Every few minutes Dandy Dozer came flying by us like a meteor. Lady gave one bark at each pass as if to say, “Stop, you silly little fool, and join your new family for a cup of tea.”

We finally cornered him behind the propane gas tank next to the house, and the next week passed without further incident.

After a week of love and bonding with our new dog, I decided one Friday morning it was time to take Dandy Dozer for a short walk on the leash. Down Kent Street we went as happy as any lady with a dog can be on a fine summer morning in Urbanna. When we came to Waterman’s Park, we met up with a lady walker who wore a big hat. Dandy Dozer bolted, tore his retractable leash from my hand and went tearing back down Kent Street lickity split. I could not catch up to him and quickly lost all trace of him.

Word spread quickly through town that my new dog had run off dragging his retractable leash. So many people got on bikes, golf carts and walked the streets looking for the dog. Even the Mayor cruised the streets in his car and the telephones rang day and night of people offering to help as we went door to door, put up posters and signs, called the animal warden, animal shelter, sheriff and vets hoping to locate our dog.

Then, on Saturday morning, Lady collapsed and could not get up. She lay on a blanket immobile for two days as we hand fed her but knew the time had come we had to take her to the vet. I began to feel overwhelmed with grief and a terrible sense of sadness stopped my ability to complete the simplest daily tasks.

By Thursday, a lost dog ad came out in the Sentinel and a few calls came in of sightings of black dogs, one at Middlesex Metals and one at Hartfield. Sadly, they were not of our dog.

On Saturday evening, the ninth day since we had lost Dandy Dozer and had given up ever finding him again, Barbara Shackelford knocked on our front door. She had heard a faint cry from the marsh at the end of Obert Street. Could that be the last cries of our lost dog?

We raced to the marsh like madmen, desperately pushing our way through the heavy ground cover to the water’s edge. There was no sound except a crow’s call in the neighboring woods. Then Chip’s unforgettable shout from 500 yards away: “I found the leash!” followed by “I found him!”

“Is he alive?” I cried, my heart pounding in my chest.

“Yes!” And out of the depths of the marsh came Chip holding our dog, half dead, after 9 days with no food or water. A neighbor drove by, picked us up, and drove us home.

I offered him a bowl of milk, which he lapped down but soon threw up. After so long without food and water, how could we help him recover?

In desperation I called for a vet on Saturday night with little hope I would reach anyone. Thank you, Dr. Skinner, for leaving your home telephone number on your office machine. I called his number, left a message, and within 5 minutes Dr. Skinner returned the call, giving us needed life-restoring advice that first night.

All night long I repeated the words in my brain . . . “Thank you, thank you, thank you” in case anyone was listening. I am still saying thank you to all I meet, the Town of Urbanna, and to all the people who expressed love, concern and united efforts. Some people even put on boots and walked through the marshes looking for our dog, just to help little Dandy Dozer return home. 

posted 08.07.2013

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