“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”
I am learning that some of the very best stories hold a lovely old dog in the bones of the tale, and those who have loved a dog enjoy the telling even more as years roll by. The story of one incredible dog weaves her way in to so many of our family stories, and it seems to become ever more admirable with time.
One recent day, as we gathered under a shade tree to say our good-byes to a litter of English Shepherd puppies, one by one, the story of Darby rose to the story-telling circle once again.
An older fellow who Doug had known for a long time once wanted a sound and reasonable mature farm dog, not a puppy. Darby, a beautiful black and tan shepherd, had weaned her second litter for us, a whopping litter of 15. Deciding we did not want to put her through another marathon whelping, we decided to offer her to this nice dairy farmer with the agreement he would have her spayed and give her a forever home.
She could run and enjoy life on his large farm, back off the road where she would be safe. He lived in the next county, far enough away from us that we didn’t ever stop to visit, thinking she would be happier without our interference.
A year of changing seasons went by, with Doug inquiring about Darby many times, and all was well. One chilly winter day, our young son and I were out in the yard playing. Way over toward the edge of a woods, about 300 yards away, Cort made mention of a dog he had seen and wondered who she belonged to. An hour or so later, Cort said, “Mommy, that dog is still there, looking at us. I think it looks like Darby.”
I felt certain it couldn’t be, as she had been gone from us for a year, happy on a far-away farm, but I cupped my hands, let out a whistle, and called “Darby” loudly. Dang if that dog didn’t come running like a gazelle on the home stretch. And double dang, it was Darby. She was rail-thin, hungry, and incredibly happy to see us.
This dog, who had never once left our home until the day she went to live on a dairy farm a county away, somehow, incredibly, had crossed over unknown terrain, several major state roads, through rugged woods and fields and small towns, to find her way back to us.
Darby was the daughter of Miss Murphy, who we often say helped us raise our children. Murphy greeted Darby, and licked our hands as we fed Darby treats. It was a shocking realization, after a phone call to the farmer, that it had taken a year of missing us, then a full month of traveling on her own.
With a huge dose of luck and amazing canine majesty, Darby had persevered and met her goal. She had found her way back to us, and she was home for life. Even in the re-telling, it still seems wildly impossible, filled with wonder and a large sprinkling of magic. It is, without question, one glorious story we will never forget.