Today, I’m taking a break from the blog and spending the day out with my husband. So, I’ve asked my daughter Katie to fill in while I’m out. She’s been such a lovely help, teaching me all the ways of social media and shooting many of the beautiful photos that you see on Changing Fifty. I really don’t think I could have gotten this far without her, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for today’s post! I hope you enjoy!
This morning, I woke up pretty late. I’m 22, and yesterday was the 4th of July…can you blame me? In fact, as I write this, I’m still hanging on the porch in my PJ’s, enjoying the day home alone. When I finally made my way downstairs, Mom and Dad were watching some reno show on HGTV — no surprise there. The hosts of the show were taking an old headboard, fixing it up, and distressing it. The style had my mom written all over it. As we watched, she observed that everything in her life was new-used. New to her, and that’s how she liked it. She’s big into fixing pieces up and making everything in this home her own.
Furniture isn’t the only new-used thing around here, though. We adore second-hand clothing stores, and so much of the glassware on her wine bar is antique. My very favorite new-used things that we have, though, go by the names of Annabelle and Eloise — as in, “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe and Eloise by Kay Thompson. We love literature. These aren’t antique or used books, though. They’re — you guessed it — dogs. The title didn’t give it away, did it?
Okay, so what do I mean by “new-used dogs”? Well, I think it all started back in 2011 when Karlie and Mom together decided that my sister needed a companion. They began their search for the perfect pooch for Sis, someone calm and consistent; someone who would be there to cuddle and aid Karlie on the tough days and to shower her with love on the good ones. After a long search, they found Ellie at a local Humane Society satellite shelter, cowering in the back corner of a floor crate in the main room of the shelter. I’m here to tell you today that she was certainly, 100%, not that dog.
Ellie was already halfway through her life, and it was clear that there had never been love in anyone’s heart for this pooch. When they took her home, she was shaved naked because the vet couldn’t get rid of all of her mats and fleas. She was dangerously underweight, and she could do nothing but cower under tables and in shadows, looking like she was standing in the middle of an earthquake. Walking too close to her was risky, unless you didn’t mind missing a toe or two. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but she certainly was a fighter and a biter. It was Ellie against the world; everyone was certain that nothing would ever break this dog.
Then, Karlie entered her life. My sister didn’t have an easy childhood, but what Autistic child did? From her experiences, she learned patience and compassion; she learned how to truly appreciate those who love her, and how to be genuine in the love that she gives. My sister is the most endearing and simply lovely person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She’s refreshing, delightful, and just downright special. What really sets Karlie apart, though, is her dedication to those who mean the most to her. She is unfalteringly loyal, and she would never, ever have given up on her dog.
So, goes the story of how my precious sister came to teach a dog to love. Once upon a time, Ellie would obsess over her toys, most especially her bones. She wouldn’t eat her food, but guard it instead, scared that there would be none later if she didn’t ration it and protect it. A sock in her possession was a treasure, and someone would get hurt before she was willing to sacrifice it. Can you imagine being so deprived that something so simple as a sock would be worth fighting for? I know I can’t, blessed as I am.
It wasn’t an easy road for Karlie. Ellie fostered the same wary discontent for my sister as she did for everyone in her life. But, when anyone else would have given up and sent Ellie out, Karlie was determined. She would do nothing but sit for hours on end by Ellie’s bedside, reading books to the dog like she was a child. Sis wasn’t frugal with the treats, especially since the poor thing was so underweight. She had Ellie enrolled in good citizen classes, and bought her an obstacle course to help with the arthritis in her hind legs. I have never in my life seen anyone so patient, gentle, and forgiving with another being. The year that Karlie saved Eloise taught my entire family so many lessons about dedication and about grace.
That same year, my childhood dog passed away from cancer. She was twelve years old, and went down fighting; she never sacrificed her spunk, even in the last days of her life. While still mourning her loss, my mom and sister one day visited the Humane Society, the same place where they had gotten Ellie, just to say “Hello.” No one was ready for a new dog quite yet. My poochie was still missed too terribly. While they were playing with some of the dogs that day, though, my mom noticed something funny on a small dog’s crate. The dog was named Lilly, exactly the same as ours who had just passed away. My mom’s heart both sank and leaped simultaneously. She asked to play with the puppy, and fell immediately — don’t think I’m exaggerating — in love.
Mom brought the little rat home and renamed her Annabelle…we couldn’t bare having another Lilly around. She was meant to help my mom heal from the loss of our beautiful Lilly dog. She was meant to be a companion to my mother, whose children were all growing up and out and whose husband was still working. She was meant to be someone that my mom could play with in our big backyard, and someone to accompany her to the nearby lake. And guess what? That puppy was none of these things.
Annabelle had been bred perfectly, exactly half poodle and half maltese, and was meant to train and grow into an award winning show dog. The only problem with wanting an award winning show dog, though, is that you have to want a dog in the first place. I don’t think Annabelle’s original owners were aware of this fact. Our shelter was not an intake shelter; that is, they did not take in dogs directly, but instead got them from kill-shelters. So, when Annabelle was brought in by her owners, the Humane Society tried to turn her away. The moment that they were told she would alternatively be left on the street outside, however, they changed their hearts.
So, we came to find this dog. I’m not going to say lovely, because she wasn’t. She was meant for my mom, but would have nothing to do with the woman. Whenever any woman would so much as go near the poor puppy, she would run. She was just as terrified of women as Ellie was of starvation. Whomever Annabelle’s first owner was, she was clearly never taught what it meant to respect another of God’s creatures. Soon after we got her, we found scars on her head from the abuse. This dog broke my mother’s heart. She was naughty as a dog could get, too, and entirely unremorseful. If you were to reprimand her for failing to do her business outside, she would find away to get back at you instead of learning her lesson and going outside the next time like a normal dog. She’s the smartest dog we’ve ever had, and the problem is that she knows it. She pushes her limits, getting away with everything that she can manage, much to our occasional frustration.
Still, my mom followed in her daughter’s footsteps, and showered her pup with all of the love and affection that any dog could want. We gave her baskets full of toys and cuddled her at every opportunity. She was like a little teddy bear, just the perfect size and softer than any dog I’ve ever met before. We would even share our wine with her — if only because she’s such a wino that she would find a way onto the table to steal an entire glass for herself if she weren’t given a sip or two. It took much time and affection, but she eventually came around. She’s still spoiled rotten to the core, but we love her that way! And I have never seen anyone obsess over something the way that Annabelle obsesses over my mother. She can’t stand when Mom leaves for work, and won’t even go for a walk without her. Most of her days are spent waiting by the door, awaiting Mom’s return…which is exactly where she is as I write these words.
Now, our dogs aren’t perfect. They still have their quirks, and they are still healing from the lives that they lived before entering this home. Just the other day, we caught Ellie roaming the house with four (yes, four!) bones in her mouth — all Annabelle’s. The poor little dog just had to watch helplessly while all of her bones were taken away from her. Later, though, when Ellie was taken outside, Annabelle got her revenge. She let Ellie keep all of the stolen treasures, but got away with the one bone that she knew was Ellie’s favorite. Then, to add insult to injury, she didn’t eat it. She just carried it around for an entire day, playing with it and showing it off like a prize. If we’re not careful, they’ll eat one another’s food…and sit back watching one another do it, too! They bicker like siblings, but at the end of the day, it’s those two who are cuddled up on top of one another on the couch.
So, as beautiful as this home is, and as much work as my mother has put into it, it’s secondhand charm has nothing on our dogs. They’re clever and feisty and we love everything about them. They both transformed in the years that we’ve had them from scared, unloved creatures into the beautiful family members that we all cherish. I can’t imagine living here without them…and all because the beautiful ladies in my life have hearts filled with abounding love.