I am smiling as I write this because I know the ending to this part of Serenas’ story.
It had been ten days since my dog, Serena went missing. Ten days with no word at all, made me assume she was dead, gone for good. After all, I had contacted everyone I could think of. I went door to door to the neighbors, begging for information. They all understood how much it meant to me. We had contacted the local radio stations, newspapers, and animal shelters. All the vets in the county knew about Serena.
I was grieving as if I had lost a child. Everyone was so deeply sad and sorry. It was a gruesome week. The hours dragged by. Sleeping with my husband but without Serena made us both feel something important was missing. Our Queen size canopy bed with chintz bed-hangings and feather bed beneath the sheets was cozy but somehow empty.
Heathfield was a busy place, there were usually several people around, helping with animals, working on the farm, or cleaning the house. They all loved Serena since she was so special and so friendly to all of them. My personal assistant Susan was heavily pregnant with her first child. She had helped me make up cards saying “Missing dog” and she helped me make calls to vets and radio stations. I knew she cared deeply for my dog because Serena made everyone love her with her sweet personality.
Everyone treated me carefully, and kindly. My heart literally felt as if it were breaking, I felt I could not breathe. I felt so helpless, so hopeless, and finally resigned to losing her. My children were in college or boarding schools. They knew about Serena being lost, but could not help. As a real estate broker, I had a busy work life. My days were often filled with appointments to show or list property. This particular day, the 10th day since losing Serena, I was in Middleburg at my office trying to concentrate on work.
The secretary at my office said, “You have a phone call from Susan.” My heart seemed to stop as I picked up the phone, I was so afraid of what she would say. It was so scary at that time, knowing the end seemed all I could hope for.
“Serena is found! She is alive, and well.” She said with a smile in her voice. “She is fine, I have her with me now”
It would be impossible to describe my joy and my disbelief. In my heart, I had let her go. My hope of a happy ending had vanished after 10 days lost. If it was true that she was found and OK then I was on top of the world!!! But what happened? Where had she been? How did Susan happen to have her, now?
Asking all these questions at once, in my mind, I drove home in a state of high anxiety and great hope. This was before cell phones but because of my business, I had an old-fashioned type of phone attached to the floor in my car. So I was able to talk to Susan and she told me the story.
She was found by one of my neighbors! This woman I barely knew, but one I had contacted about my lost dog. The woman kept horses in a neighboring field that she rented. That day dawned clear and pleasant after so much rain. She had gone out into the field to check on the horses. She walked out to the center of the large semi-wild paddock where her horses stood. She heard what sounded like a dog growling. She looked around but could see nothing. Still, she heard the growling continue. She followed the sound and then she saw an old stone-sided well, nearby. It was an unused stone well that had been filled in with dirt. It was not too deep and the bottom was packed with solid red clay. But the sides of the well were too high from the inside for an animal to escape once it got in from the outside. We think Serena must have been chasing something from the field and somehow this creature seems to have led her into a trap and then escaped. Unable to get out, probably due to her short dachshund legs, she simply had to wait to be found. So when my neighbor looked there, inside the round stone sides of the old well, stood my little dog growling. It made me smile when I heard the story because you would think she would be yipping for joy, but no. She growled.
The woman who found her was afraid to reach down and get her out because of the growling. But she knew I had lost a dog and she called my house. Susan answered the phone and went immediately to the place where the woman lived, a few fields away from our property. She was directed to the dry well and looked down into it to see Serena now frantically wagging her tail at Susan. And even though she was so very pregnant Susan was able to lean down and pick up the dog and carry her to the car. She was alarmed because she saw blood on her hands and on her dress. She thought Serena might be wounded. She drove her immediately to the vet in Marshall Va. for help. It turned out that the blood was coming from a scrape on her tail, from wagging it so vigorously against the stone sides of her prison, when she saw Susan. Other than that there was not a scratch on her body. She was slightly dehydrated, and she had lost weight. She was now a slender dachshund instead of a chunky one. Her extra weight had given her the fat she needed to survive starvation. What really saved her life was the constant hard rain we had had while she was missing. She had been able to drink from puddles that formed on the floor of the dry well. Lucky dog.
I was overjoyed. So amazed and so grateful, I just could not believe it. When I arrived home Serena and I had a sweet reunion. She was thrilled to be home and to see me. And words cannot adequately describe my gratitude and happiness. In my mind the fear had barely subsided, it was hard to get myself to believe she was safe. And she was beautiful. That ten days had restored her youthful figure. Several people in my family teased me after that saying that they should put ME down a well for some time to take off my excess weight. They had a point, Serena was really sleek and it made her look very young.
I went over to the lady who found her to thank her with all my heart. I brought her a potted plant with an envelope containing $100 which was a nice reward back in 1985. I would have given her anything she asked. She was embarrassed and said, “I did not do anything special.” But I thought she was an angel.
That day I learned a lesson about not giving up hope. Even though the facts looked bleak. Don’t worry about the facts, keep hoping. So many people told me stories after that about dogs or other animals that had miraculous luck in getting back to their owners. It is a good lesson for us all. Miracles do happen. Sometimes they are not really miraculous at all. And sometimes they are.
A year or so later, my nephew accidentally backed over Serena with his truck. He was going very slowly but she was beneath the wheels. His truck tires ran over her middle as she lay crosswise behind the truck. My nephew was so horrified, he came and got me immediately, terrified. It just seemed impossible. “Oh, Serena! What trouble you get into!”, was what I was thinking. But I was hopeful. The dog seemed to have 9 lives. I picked her up and she appeared in shock, very quiet, with no blood, shallow breathing, but clearly NOT well, clearly hurting. I got in my car and someone put Serena in my lap across my knees wrapped in a towel. I began driving to the vet, and she just lay there. (I thought she was dying). I was so scared I did not say anything, I was just praying silently. Then it occurred to me that I should talk to her instead of driving silently. It might give her hope and a reason to live. So I began to croon to her, telling her it was going to be OK. I told her how much I loved her and that I needed her to get well. As I talked to her I felt her begin to respond. It was the most amazing thing. It was almost as if she came back to life. It was almost a 15-minute ride to the vet in Haymarket because it was Sunday and most vets were closed. By the time I reached it, Serena was much better. It turned out that her insides were bruised but nothing was ruptured. No bones were broken and she was just going to be sore, but she was going to live. The vet told me this when she finished examining her. She gave me some medication and sent us home to recover. And she did recover. Serena was a very resilient dog.
That experience showed me that we must never give up hope. Even if it seems hopeless, it is important to go forward with the expectation that it will end well. And prayer helps too. Many people were praying for Serena that day as I drove away to the Vet.
Serena was a very special dog. Her descendants were all throughout our family, friends, and even strangers who bought puppies from me over the years. She was lovely to look at and her sweet disposition made her a favorite with anyone who came in contact with her. We all love our animals but a few are transcendent. They enrich our lives and the lives of others. Even now I am grateful that I had Serena for so many years. She was the best.
Copyright©. 2022 Bonnie B. Matheson