Tuesday, July 07, 2009

From Rags to Riches

Among all of my Mom's papers I found this story that I wrote for her years ago. Some 20 years ago my mother had some neighbors with a lovely dog. I heard all about this dog from my mother, wrote up the story and she typed it up. Of course I showed the story to the neighbors and they concurred that it is a true story. I guess I'll change the neighbor's names but I swear the rest of it is what I heard…

I'd like to tell you a story of a dog named Delilah. Actually, I never knew Delilah all that well, but my mother was her neighbor and she keeps asking me to "write up Delilah's story" – which gives you an idea of what a devoted fan Delilah had…

One morning Mr. Moore and his two boys made their way to the local animal shelter (otherwise known as "Dog Pound") to see if they could find a nice dog to become part of their family. The pound people really weren't too sure of Delilah's history, but supposedly the dog was nearly nine months old and had belonged to a young couple who had had to move. They left the pup at the shelter with fingers crossed that she would find a good home before her time ran out. God must have been smiling down on Delilah that day, because she was promptly adopted by the Moores and brought to her new Southern California home.

It was easy to see why Delilah would catch the Moores' eye. She was a friendly and beautiful Golden Retriever puppy with silky, golden fur. They named her Delilah, and the name certainly fit her. One wonders what her former owners might have called her. She didn't look like a "Happy" or a "Lovey". She looked like a "Delilah" with just a touch of regalness in her tresses, and thus the Moore children christened her.

Right away, I'm sure; Delilah could see that she was starting on a bright new future. The Moores' home was settled back away from the street and hidden by trees and hills. Actually, the whole neighborhood was hidden away, and there were five or six houses that lay beneath the trees and were connected by steep paths and rolling driveways. My mother's house was to the right of the Moores', and to get there the Moore children would climb a short wall, go past horse corrals, and over deeply pine-needled paths.

Next to my mother's home lived Dr. and Mrs. Johnson and behind them were two or three other homes. Mr. and Mrs. Moore would often take Delilah on strolls around the neighborhood, or Delilah would just meander by herself. Most of the neighborhood dogs were left free to go where they will, and I suppose Delilah enjoyed visiting my mother. That was how they became friends.

The whole neighborhood was like one large family, and often the neighbors would gather at one house or another for home concerts, swim parties, or an Easter brunch. Delilah had surely been adopted into a loving extended family, and all welcomed her with open arms.

Delilah's immediate family consisted of Mr. Moore, a tall man with a very distinguished beard and a wonderful British accent; Mrs. Moore, a pretty and charming woman who devoted her energies to church and family; and the Moore children. The two boys had large, bright eyes, curly hair and dimples. Perfect storybook children everyone said. There was also a cat that sort of ruled the Moores' side of the neighborhood, and it was with this family that Delilah lived and enjoyed herself.

I never heard anyone speak poorly of Delilah. For the first few months she did have the bad habit of chewing up shoes or legs of furniture. But really, she was only a puppy and puppies do tend to do those things. I think as the months wore on, she outgrew that habit and life settled into peacefulness.

Now I must introduce a couple of other people into my story. They will become most important to Delilah in the future, as you shall see. They are Sir Oliver and Mrs. Moore. Sir Oliver and Mrs. Moore were Mr. Moore's parents and they lived in England. You notice that title, "Sir". Sir Oliver had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth. (Actually, I think he'd been knighted more than once. But I guess they don't title them "Sir, Sir".)

He and Mrs. Moore lived on an estate outside of London. I don't know what a British estate is, but for me it certainly conjures up images of cobblestone walks, ivy-covered mansions and rolling lawns. For all that, when I first met them, Sir Oliver had on what appeared to be an old fishing hat, and Mrs. Moore was wearing a huge straw hat and was holding a turkey sandwich. Not my idea of nobility, but I can't say I was disappointed. Actually, I was surprised at how warm and friendly such classy people could be.

One summer the Moore family decided to spend a couple of weeks in England with the grandparents, and my mother was approached about feeding Delilah and the cat while they were gone. Well, my mother was more than pleased to do so. While the cat was the type of cat that could take people or leave them, Delilah was definitely a people dog and Mother was fearful as to whether or not she might become lonely while her family was away.

The easiest solution to that problem was to have Delilah stay at Mother's house, and so it was arranged. The Moores flew off to England and Delilah moved into my mother's house for two weeks. It was a delightful arrangement for both of them. They had each other's company and Delilah got loved and cuddled while my mother's feet got warmed at night with Delilah sleeping beside her.

All was well, and Mother – being a very conscientious neighbor – one day decided that she must write to the Moores and let them know that Delilah was healthy and happy. Delilah was napping in the living room and Mother was typing her letter in the kitchen (she always types). She wrote how she and Delilah fed the donkey together every day, and told the Moores to enjoy themselves and not to worry. I suppose she decided to go and get a few personal comments from Delilah herself before closing the letter. So Mother wandered into the living room to where she'd left Delilah sleeping a few minutes before. Horror of horrors! Delilah was scrabbling around on the carpet, her eyes rolled up into her head, and choking!!

"Delilah! What's wrong?!" Mother cried out, flinging the letter aside. Delilah responded by heaving once more and then limply falling to one side. Delilah was dead! Mother was panic-stricken! How could this happen? How could Delilah be sleeping peacefully and then suddenly die like that? What was she going to tell the Moores?

"…P.S. You dog just died on me…"

Half sobbing and panicky, Mother raced out the front door and ran all the way to the Johnson's where she pounded on the door and collapsed in their back pantry.

"Delilah's died and I don't know how it could have happened, and what am I going to do?"

Dr. Johnson, like most doctors who don't get too upset about things, said,

"Well, I don't know… Do you want me to come and see?"

"Oh yes, please!"

So Dr. Johnson and Mother climbed the hill back to Mother's house, Mother clutching and unclutching her hands and saying over and over, "What am I going to tell the Moores?" and "Poor Delilah!"

At the walkway she stopped and said, "I'm not going back in there. Poor Delilah is in the living room."

So Dr. Johnson headed into the house alone, with Mother standing in the driveway wringing her hands. Pretty soon he was back.

"Well, where is she?"

"She's right there! Right in the living room!" said Mother, a bit exasperated.

"Well, I don't know. I don't see her there now."

Mother came stomping into the house. "Well, she's there. She died right in the middle of the floor!"

But Dr. Johnson was right. No sign of Delilah.

"But she was here. She was jerking and then fell over right here!" said Mother, while Dr. Johnson eyed her strangely.

Who should stroll into the room but Delilah!

"Delilah!" shouted Mother as if she'd witnessed a miracle! "You're alive!"

"Well, I guess she's O.K." said Dr. Johnson. Mother was just all too happy that Delilah had been resurrected to wonder how such a thing could be.

Later it was determined that Delilah was epileptic and Mother had just witnessed one of her fits. Delilah seemed quite normal afterwards. The Moores, too, when they heard of all the excitement, felt it was a minor matter. They only regretted that it had nearly resulted in heart failure for my mother.

Life went on and Delilah grew more and more beautiful, and more and more stately. It was decided that she should be bred, and not long after, eight puppies appeared in the backyard, all miniature replicas of Delilah. The backyard was sectioned off by a short white fence so that the puppies wouldn't escape, and Delilah ruled her brood with a proud but gentle air.

All the neighbors came to greet the new arrivals and the puppies welcomed the visitors by crowding around the fence and pushing their noses out between the slats. It was a sight that cheered everyone. Mother, of course, was over at the Moores's snapping pictures of the new family and sending the pictures off to friends and to me, just like a proud grandmother.

Even so, when the Moores approached Mother about taking a puppy, Mother refused, saying she just couldn't handle a frisky puppy anymore. About the same time, Sir Oliver and his wife came for a visit and they, too, were enchanted by Delilah and her pups. Mrs. Moore suggested to Mother-in-law Moore that they might want a puppy to take back to their estate. But as much as the grandparents loved the dogs, they too felt a puppy was not for them. They entertained too many guests, and a bouncing puppy just would not do.

Besides, what if the dears had inherited Delilah's former habit of chewing things? There was all that antique furniture at the estate, not to mention oriental carpets that wouldn't take to an un-housebroken puppy. No, a puppy wouldn't do…

But Delilah? They very much loved Delilah and she already had stateliness and calm. Yes, it was Delilah that Sir Oliver and Mrs. Moore wanted, if the grandchildren could be parted from her. So not long after the last puppy found its new home, (one in the neighborhood), Delilah was flown off to England to begin a new chapter of her life in elegance and grace.

She was allowed to ride in luxury in a black limousine (a pastime she adored), and at night she was given the honored place on the bed between Sir Oliver and his wife. It was about then that Mother and the neighbors would comment, "What a life for a dog that came out of a California dog pound!"

Not long afterwards, Sir Oliver and his wife were appointed as the British Ambassador and Ambassadress to the U.S.A., and of course Delilah accompanied them to Washington, D.C. I'm sure she was very impressive to foreign guests who were entertained at the Ambassador's mansion. A massive golden dog seated gracefully at the Ambassador's side or comfortably reclining at the feet of the Ambassadress at tea-time. A perfect companion.

Most of the time, Delilah played her role well. Her only deviation would be when a limousine would pull up at the front steps of the embassy to escort an honored guest home. The moment the chauffeur would open the rear door, Delilah would bound down the steps and throw herself into the car. The chauffeurs around D.C. became very adept at hauling Delilah out of the car and picking dog fur off the upholstery (and themselves) before the distinguished guest entered.

There was one afternoon when the Ambassador and Ambassadress were entertaining Prince Charles and Princess Diana. When it came time for their Highnesses to leave, Delilah flew out the door, straight into the waiting limousine. Maybe the chauffeur was new on the job, or maybe he was just slow. But at any rate, when the Prince and Princess were ready to enter the awaiting vehicle, there was Delilah smiling up at them from the back seat.

The Ambassador, of course, was very embarrassed and had to explain that Delilah loved going for rides. Prince Charles and Princess Diana were very nice about it and offered to scrunch over in the seat to make room for Delilah. But since they were on their way to tea with President Reagan at the White House, and since it would mean that Delilah would have to be chauffeured home alone later, the offer was declined… and the Ambassador himself hauled Delilah out of the car.

When my mother heard this story, she was delighted. For weeks she told everyone she met about how Delilah was mixing with royalty.

There was one other time when Delilah got to fraternize with the royal family. I think this time she was visiting at the White House. At any rate, there were many people around and Delilah was getting her share of attention. Prince Charles and Princess Diana were there again. Since they were already acquainted with Delilah, they had spent a few moments speaking with her. Delilah was heading up the walk, not far ahead of the Princess when… she began trembling and fell over (Delilah, that is). Poor Delilah, a fit and right in front of all that royalty! Princess Diana reacted not unlike my mother, and immediately sent for her personal physician who travelled with her. The royal physician checked out Delilah's heart and eyes and announced that she was still alive and would probably be well again in a short while. Of course, Delilah was, and all that attention just gave her publicity as "that lovely dog that lives with the Ambassador and Ambassadress."

Delilah enjoyed a few more years in America before returning home to her English estate when Sir Oliver retired from his position as Ambassador. Delilah continued to be pampered and loved. And she had a long and happy life stretched out between her illustrious master and mistress, dreaming of puppies and neighbors, dog pounds and princesses. Truly a story of Rags to Riches!


Allie said...

On Tanya, what a great story!!! I am so glad you shared that! I can't wait to read it to my boys. Thank you!

CT said...

Tanya, what a beautiful story! thanks for sharing it with us!

roberta said...

tanya, you often leave us speechless!
Love, roberta

Mimi said...

You have wonderful stories.

Thanks for sharing.


BrendaLou said...

great story...it would make a wonderful children's book!

G'G'ma said...

What a wonderful story...and it's true!! I'm going to keep it and read to the greatgrands when they get old enough to sit still for that long. I agree that this would make a wonderful childrens book. Thanks for sharing.

Janet C said...

What a delightful story! I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

Diana said...

Thanks for sharing such a great story. I agree--it would make a good children's book!

Elaine Adair said...

I read every word! 8-)))

Yes, a good kids book! Go for it.

Anonymous said...

Tanya, you have such a gift for writing....words just seem to flow from you....guess that's why yours is the first blog I read every morning! Thanks for sharing....

meggie said...

Thankyou for sharing this wonderful story!