PAGE TURNER: Adventures with Darlington

The sun was barely upon us when I dropped Darlington off at the vet Thursday.

I took my time that morning brushing on rosy cheeks and painting on black eyelashes as I knew it would be a long day. A day filled with a vet trip, work and a fundraising event in the evening. But before I made it across the parking lot and to my car, I was a sobbing mess.

My face was a multimedia art display that morning and emotions were dripping onto the pavement.

The entire drive there I was fine. I was preoccupied with my coffee in hand and my puppy in the passenger seat beside me. But leaving, leaving without my pup, that was a different story. I was not OK.

Thursday morning our little love, who is really a BIG boy and one of the best things to ever fill my heart, was scheduled for surgery. The type of surgery that will ensure there aren’t 10 little more Darlingtons running all over the hills of Tennessee and eastern Kentucky.

Wednesday evening and the early morning hours of Thursday were difficult. Dar couldn’t have anything to eat from 8 p.m. on Wednesday evening until I got him to the vet on Thursday morning. This doesn’t sound like that long of a period of time but it’s no secret I spoil my little shelter pup and he gets treats often — homemade treats at that.

He went to bed early Wednesday night and I thought we were in the clear. But sometime around the stroke of midnight Darlington made his way off the bed, down his doggie steps and walked himself into the kitchen.

I panicked.

I got up and went to the kitchen in hopes that he would just be at the door wanting to go outside.

Of course not.

He was standing in front of where his water and food bowls typically sit. But they were gone. I’d put them out of reach before we went to bed.

Darlington paced around a minute in disbelief and to make him feel better I assured him I loved him. I read somewhere that they know what that means. I don’t know, but just in case, I tell him often.

He flipped the mat that his bowls sit on upside down and drug it to the middle of the kitchen. He flopped down on the hardwood and laid there starring up at me.

I told him I understood and I’d be just as mad.

After several minutes of silently staring at each other I asked him to come back to bed. I’m convinced it was due to confusion that he followed me back to bed where he slept until morning. He must have willed himself a good night's sleep because he hardly moved laying at the end of bed snuggled against my leg.

That morning while I was preparing for the day and getting us ready for the drive to the vet I could tell he was even more upset about the food restrictions than when he woke up for that midnight snack. Darlington was fussy.

My assurance of love was doing nothing for his hunger. But I do wonder often if he knows how much I love him.

I think the random strangers at the vet's office Thursday morning could feel my love for him as well as my anxiety.

As I was asking the check-in clerk about four too many questions regarding post-op, a gentleman in the lobby spoke up and said, "I’ve had several animals in my life and this is the only place I’d ever bring them. They are great and this little guy is going to be fine."

I was embarrassed. I was obvious and he was on to me. I thanked him and explained this was my first pet. Then as usual, I went into too much detail and told everyone about how I must have been suddenly called to love animals because I hadn’t always.

Then I was even more embarrassed.

I let Darlington go with the staff members who explained to me I was welcome to call as often as I liked and I excused myself from the office.

I don’t know why the flood of tears broke from my eyes and poured down my cheeks as I got into my car but that was the situation I found myself in. I checked my phone and saw messages from friends checking on my pup. This made me laugh, lightened my load and made me realize that loving the 30-pound furry wild thing was OK.

Since we adopted him in January he’s been my daily door greeter, my heater on cold nights, my source for laughter and joy on the bad days, my bee and butterfly chaser, couch companion for lazy days, the alarm clock for the kids and the winner of every tug of war game.

I’d be lost without him.

My friend and knower of all things dogs Vikki Crook told me once she heard it described as an awakening of the heart. You hear the call and respond.

If you have heard the call, I urge you to respond and adopt a shelter animal. They can be life changing. Most of the shelters in the Tri-County are at full capacity or close to it and need you to love these animals if you can.

A special thanks to the London Veterinary Clinic for taking good care of Darlington and his momma on Thursday, to Vikki for answering all my questions day or night and everyone who reads and listens to my many Darlington tales.

And as always, adopt a shelter pup.

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