Just Keep Your Eyes on the Prize…


The Grand Plan was rolling out flawlessly. Felicia and I planned to meet in Staunton, Virginia in front of a Shoney’s Restaurant. Sheila had given me a glowing reference telling Felicia that I would be a good Mama. I was flattered because as kind as Sheila is, she does not ‘blow smoke’. So I called a Veterinarian in Beckley to schedule Roosevelt’s neutering. I could not use the shelter’s usual vet – that office was closed for the week.

A woman I thought was probably the Receptionist answered the phone. I gave her a synopsis of the situation and asked if she could get us an appointment before Saturday the 30th. In a pinch, we could postpone the pickup until then. But Felicia was trying to juggle work and this rescue and I wanted to make that exchange on Friday. A Thursday morning appointment would do very nicely. We had it planned. Operation Thursday, Felicia would pick him up before work Friday and drive to Staunton with him, handing him off to me and home we would go. My Big Worry at this point was avoiding either Baltimore or Washington Beltway traffic.

Now I listened in horror as the Receptionist advised me that all appointments for the week were booked. Overbooked actually. And the office was closed the following week for what I do not even remember hearing. And of course the shelter’s usual vet was closed that week as well. Please understand, the shelter was in a hurry to get Roosevelt out of there for the understandable reasons mentioned before. They wanted to keep on rescuing. He was filling a viable spot another dog needed. He was ‘safe’, his pull fee paid. The shelter is not a Bed ‘n’ Breakfast. I gladly reduced myself to begging. I appealed to her (I hoped) softer side. This dog has had a hard knock life – we were trying to change that. No one else had stepped forward to take him, etc…Unexpectedly the Receptionist asked what sort of accent that was that I have! Now I had been told on more than one occasion that my accent is an odd mix of North and South with a few ‘Southern-isms’ thrown in there every now and then coming from my childhood. Confuses the heck out of some of my Northern friends. I told her I was born in Huntington, West Virginia and grew up in the Ohio River Valley. She laughed delightedly and said ‘Oh Honey! You’re big time!’ I had to laugh at that and told her that I return to the area now and again to visit my parents who have lived there all their lives.

Another miracle. I wonder about its origin to this day. The Receptionist switched to her business efficient voice without missing a beat. ” Let’s see…we have an opening this Thursday morning at 10:00 am. Can he be here by then?”

I was speechless for all of half a heartbeat and immediately blessed my Mother again for preparing me for the unexpected and how to meet it with good grace. Of course he could be there! Perfection! Thinking: what the blue heck just happened here? Once again I surrendered up my MasterCard number. Whatever he needs, I told her. Whatever makes him comfortable.

I was in a fever for Friday to get here. I had talked with Felicia several times now on the phone. What is he like? Describe him to me, I eagerly asked. Well, he is very muscular – like a weight lifter. And he has big floppy ears. And boy! Is he strong! There was already a large dog crate squeezed in to the back of my rather small car with the most plush blankets I could find lining it. Felicia had helped me map out the best route. It looked as if someone was leaving on a three week vacation. I had called the vet Thursday night. The surgery had gone well. He was up to date on vaccinations needed to travel. They had removed a jagged, broken tooth but nothing irregular. My friend, the Receptionist, told me she had coaxed him to the front of his kennel and he had allowed her to pet him although he was pretty groggy. He’s all man! She said. Well, maybe not as much now, I thought to myself. But later I would understand what she meant. And boy! She said – he  is strong!

No sleep in Delaware that night. I did not need the alarm at 4:30 am. Edwin fixed me an extra large mug of coffee and we went over my map. Unfortunately he could not go with me. The Post Office would not understand his need to accompany me for several hundred miles to pick up a dog. Unreasonable of them I think. As we talked I could see flashes of lightening and hear the rumbles of thunder that were warning of a true storm. No threats, this was a warning.

We kissed and hugged goodbye. One of these days I will ask Edwin if he remembers exactly what he was thinking. Probably he will not – being a true Type B. He should live to be one hundred. I got into my car and with Roosevelt’s pleading eyes before me like a banner into war, I drove into the black middle of the worst storm I have ever driven into in all of my life.


Hours later and that storm vanquished and left many states behind, I pulled up into the Shoney’s parking lot in Staunton, Virginia. I was early so I stepped inside and ordered ice water and Chicken Fingers which I neither wanted nor tasted. The temperature had soared to the upper nineties and I had packed accordingly: ice-water, lite treats, blankets for shade and my relaxation discs just in case Roosevelt was a white – claw traveler. Was I ever nervous.

I know I keep referring to months and even years past when speaking about struggling in varying degrees with mental illness. I do this because even now as I type this, the vast improbability of of finding myself waiting in a restaurant in Virginia on the delivery of an adult pit bull I really knew nothing about first hand and all of those unanswered questions that were fighting for space in my head  – it all really comes home to me. Seven months before I had collapsed in a soggy, unintelligible heap in Sheila’s office, looked into her kind and understanding eyes, accepted kisses from a delighted Coco Bella and poured out as best I could at that moment the chain of events that led me back into her care. Depression and the frequently accompanying anxiety are hard to understand if you have never experienced them. And if you have not I pray you never will. You lose your courage, you lose your self – esteem, more often than not you lose your friends and you lose your joi de vivre – you lose yourself. Now I was adopting a dog that would need excesses of patience and kindness. Almost like forcing therapy on myself! but this was not forced. It was those three words I had never believed in. Meant To Be.

After a bazillion years (well it seemed like it) my phone rang and Felicia’s SUV was pulling into the restaurant parking lot. We took care to park far away from other cars. This was it. I can not remember if I hugged her – I know I wanted to. We walked to her car chatting about things I will never recall. She opened the back gate and led him out of his kennel into the sun.

I do remember my thoughts when I first saw him. I know that a huge grin spread over my face and I felt I could not contain it. I saw that huge, over – sized head and those deep brown eyes that I had seen my every waking moment since Monday. I spoke softly to him. I think I wanted to cry.

We made our way to a grassy section and sat down. Felicia kept hold of the lead. She knew him far better than I did. I had a lifetime to get to know him. She told me some of his habits, likes and dislikes and gave me some new doggie owner pointers for which I was grateful. We laughed when he plopped his big muscular butt down on Felicia’s lap and panted in the heat. Then the lead was handed to me and I thought just like many others before me, Boy! Is he strong! A lot of the small talk is lost to me. What I will never forget is Felicia’s caring about this one unwanted dog. She was going to leave Staunton and return to the animal shelter and put in a long day of rescuing animals. Some whose stories would not have the happy ending that Roosevelt’s did. But she would keep on rescuing anyway. I am a rookie at this dog rescuing stuff, but I do know those animals at the Raleigh County Animal Shelter have their own Guardian Angel. And I have learned since that they are many in number. I promised to send updates and pictures. Roosevelt jumped enthusiastically into his crate in the back of my car. This time I did hug Felicia and I thanked her. For Roosevelt’s life.

We pulled out of the parking lot and headed for Delaware. We headed for Home.

This entry was posted in Anxiety, Depression, dog adoption, Dogs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Just Keep Your Eyes on the Prize…

  1. What a wonderful story. What made you decide to tell it now? I recently read a book about a similar rescue situation, called As Bright as the Sun: http://www.asbrightasthesun.com/

    • I am so psyched you sent that link – I am going to order that book! I recently read one called “One Good Dog” that has a similar theme. Outstanding!
      I decided to write this all down long before I was able to. Even before I rescued this dog. I was immobilized by depression and decided that if I was ever able to again I would write something that I hoped could reach one person. Just one would be enough. So that one day they might have some hope.

  2. Sherry says:

    Such and awesome story, totally waiting for the next installment 🙂

  3. I, too, struggle with anxiety and depression. I also love to write, but my depression and anxiety kicked a hole in my ability to do that–which is a pretty big thing when you are a grad student getting a degree in English. I, too, am on leave from work (my degree) due to my struggles with depression and anxiety. I started my blog as a way to force myself to do some sort of writing on a regular basis. I am loving your blog and your story. My pit bulls have been immense therapy for me since we adopted them. We adopted W in October 2011, M in April 2012, and G in May 2013–and are fostering little H. It’s a little crazy but I love these animals that have come into my life! I am looking forward to reading more of your story.

    • I understand your inability to live the life you were trying to live. I know how hard it is to put life on hold because of an illness that no one really ‘gets’. Therapy, medication and seeing and following a path that I now know I was meant to follow have all helped me get better. But I’m not fooled – D and A do not just vanish usually. Unfair as it is you and I will probably both keep fighting on and off. I wish great strength for you. Just remember that even at its worst, things ca still get better – I do know this!

      • Thank you so much for this reply! I am much better than I was a few months ago…and yes, it’s something that I know I will probably struggle with on and off for most of my life. I’ve been doing all of the things you mentioned above–and pet therapy has been a big part of coping as well. I think it’s wonderful that people can be open and share their experiences…so much of the struggle feels like it happens quietly and in isolation, and one of the best things I started doing after I was finally first diagnosed was talk about it. I was amazed by how many people I liked, respected and admired have struggled with depression. People I would never have dreamed of. Thank you for sharing your story…and I look forward to reading more about your journey with Roosevelt!

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