Friday, September 2, 2011

finding hope in the most unexpected of places...

It's been almost 15 weeks since a tornado profoundly affected life in the area that we live in.  The most amazing thing about living here during this time after the tornado has been hearing the incredible stories of hope.  One such story has come in the form of the most adorable little dog, Hershey.   My friend Erin, Hershey's owner, wrote the story of Hershey, the magic dog and it was too inspiring not to share.  I've reposted Erin's story (with permission, of course) below.  I'd encourage you to read through this amazing story of hope and grace...

I was asked to write the story of how Hershey came to be a Replogle.

Let me start by saying, Jason and I are not dog people.  In fact, we used to mock people who treated their dog like an actual member of their family.  And we used to roll our eyes anytime we'd hear about a dog having surgery.  I've even said, "It's a dog.  It's shouldn't be that expensive to have it put down.  We have to remember there are starving PEOPLE and children who need homes.  Really?  A dog?"   That's really how I viewed dogs.

Until  the days following May 22nd, 2011.

My family survived an EF-5 tornado that blew through Joplin, and leveled houses just a few blocks from us.  Needless to say, "the storm" was the center of every conversation throughout an entire day.  And it was wearing on my kids.  I could tell.  Ryan- age 5, tried to be brave in his speech when recollecting the day in the hallway under the mattresses when trees hit our house and our roof was ripped off.  Lauren- age 3, seemed to ask lots of questions about God, and good vs. evil because of our scary experience.  (And Kate was only 4 months old.  She didn't say much....except for screaming something to the tune of. "I don't care if you don't have water or electricity.  I want a bottle, and I want it NOW."  HA!)  But needless to say, our whole family was a bit shaken, and anxious at the thought of any impending storm. 

So, to calm myself, I browsed facebook (who me?).  A friend posted a picture of a chocolate cocker spaniel with the caption "Help Find Hershey a Home."  His previous owners lost their house in the storm and were forced to get a rental with no pets allowed.  Awwwww, sad story.  But I kept scrolling......remember, I'm not a dog person.

The next day, a new post, "PLEASE.  Hershey needs a home."  I got this hair-brained idea that if we got a dog, it would give my kids something else to talk about and focus on, other than devastation and chaos all around us.  But I knew my husband would never go for it. AND I realized I was crazy, and very sleep deprived.

The next day, a new post, "Hershey is a good dog.  He needs a good home."  OK.  Seriously.  It was like this little ball of brown fur had these soulful eyes that were staring directly at ME!  I mentioned the idea to my husband.  He thought I was crazy....and wondered if I had Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.  HA!  (Did I mention that our 3-year-old daughter was terrified of dogs?  Minor detail.)  My husband thought I was crazy to think that getting a dog could help Lauren conquer her fear of dogs.  But he did agree with me about giving the kids something to focus on, other than a tornado.

YES!  We called our friend, Steve, and went to look at the dog.  (Meanwhile Lauren was taking short, shallow breaths and trying to remain calm.)  Something about that Hershey dog....we knew right when we saw him that he was going to be good for the kids.....or for Ryan anyway.

But we decided that a dog was not in our budget (and seeing how my husband had just lost his job with Joplin schools being closed.....ADDING to the budget was just plain dumb!) 

But there was something about that dog.

We agreed to make it work, and give him a home.  That's when our friend Steve handed Jason $100 to get Hershey's shots and food!  What a blessing.  So far, having a dog hadn't even effected our budget.

It took Lauren almost two full weeks to warm up to Hershey.  She talked about him A LOT, and mentioned how she "wanted" to pet him, but she just couldn't do it.  Then one evening, the family took Hershey on his nightly stroll through the new neighborhood.....and Lauren worked up enough courage to pet the poor soul.  The rest was history.  She loved on that dog like he was a new, plush Build-a-Bear.  My husband and I stood wide-eyed, as if it were just a dream.

It was good timing.  The very next day, we had a thunderstorm.  Nothing major, no reason to be alarmed.....normally.  But every person (and dog) who was in Joplin on May 22nd felt a sense of alarm and panic at any sound of thunder.  Hershey, who was outside when the tornado leveled his house, was terrified of the thunder.  Jason (my husband) was pacing the house, gathering flashlights and bottled water.  I could see the anxiousness of the kids, and the constant asking about the weather radar on the TV.  We needed a distraction (or I was going to throw up).  So I told the kids their job was to get Hershey to calm down.  We had brought him inside (which I would have never done in the past.  Dogs belong outside.  Humans belong inside.)  But the poor guy was trembling with fear.  The kids hovered over him, pet him nervously, and repeated to him that he was going to be okay and that he didn't need to be afraid.  Funny thing happened, they started to believe it.  They calmed down.  *Thank you, Hershey* 

Jason and I knew that Hershey was going to be a blessing in helping the kiddos new-found fear of storms. 

After Uncle Hershel had been in our family for about a month (and had acquired 42 nicknames), we entered into one of the hottest summers Joplin has ever seen.  Heat indexes of 113 degrees most days.  Poor Hersh-Diggety, stuck outside, lethargic under the back steps....the coolest place he could find.

I dared to ask my husband about making Hersh-Diggs an indoor dog.  He shot me a look of disbelief.  And later wrote his facebook status as, "Who is this woman I'm married to?"  HA!  But once I pulled the kids in on it, Daddy was toast.  There we all stood, big brown eyes, pouty lips, begging the head of the house to let the dog live inside.

The next day, a friend gave us an extra kennel, and I got Hershey's bed all set up inside! :)  (Sometimes, big brown eyes and pouty lips can be such a handy resource!)

It wasn't until we "lived" with Hershey, that we realized just what a good doggie he was.  He would lay by Ryan and watch him play legos.....wanting so badly to nose his face around in the bucket of tiny blocks. 

And he would lay on the bed, wearing a pink princess cape that Lauren adorned him with, and watch her twirl around the room.  (Although, when I took his picture once, he looked at me like, "Oh great.  Please don't show this to Nigel." our neighbor's dog who had quite the alpha-male battle with Hershey at times.) 

Hershey even let the baby swat his face and pull his whiskers.  Yeah, I know.  We didn't know how we got so lucky to get such a good dog.

Then, last Tuesday, my husband woke me up well before the sun came up. "Honey, I need to tell you something.  Last night, Hershey chewed up part of Lauren's tea-set.  I scolded him and tossed him outside.  When I went to call him in, I noticed he had broken the fence to the garden and got in it.  He dug up all the pepper plants and most of the green beans.  I was so irritated with him.  He came flying out of the garden and his paws were matted with mud.  He came running inside the house and jumped up on the couch. When I called him to go outside, he peed on the couch.  I'd had it.  I lost my temper and I threw him outside.  His leg hit the step and he yelped pretty loudly.  He's not putting any weight on his leg now."

My first emotion was anger.  How hard did you throw him?  Why did you let your temper get the best of you?  What are you gonna tell the kids?  Can I keep Hershey and find you a new home?  (only kidding about the last one....kindof!)

I went to check on Hershey and he wouldn't come out of his kennel.  I made an appt with the vet and thought his hind leg might be dislocated.  Meanwhile, my husband couldn't eat breakfast.  He said he felt like a monster.  I told the kids that Hershey ran out the back door and slipped and hurt his leg.  We would take him to the vet as soon as we could. 

Ryan was home from school with strep throat.  So I loaded the two older kids, the baby, and the dog into the van and headed for the vet's office.  We had to leave Hershey there, and the dr was going to look at his leg in-between surgeries.  As we walked out of the vet's office (and after I spilled an entire cup of coffee into my purse), Ryan got really upset.  "Mom, we can't leave him here.  What if they cut his leg off?"  TRUST ME, SON.  THEY WON'T.  "But what if they do?  I don't want them to cut Hershey's leg off."  After I reassured him MANY times, he settled down and we headed home.

Then, I got the call that afternoon.  "Hershey hit his knee at just the right angle.  It broke the bone and the femur right above the knee."  Then the word.....amputation!  I lost it.  Ryan and Lauren were staring at me, knowing that whatever was being said on the other end of my phone, wasn't good.

I was a mess.  I was so sad for my kids.  But I was also so mad at my husband.  (Even though I threw Hershey out the back door once when Baby Kate crawled up behind Hershey while he was eating a bone.  His instinct took over and he growled at her.  I grabbed his collar, scolded him big time, and tossed him out.)  But this time, this time was different.  Hershey was hurt.  Bad.  All because my husband lost his temper.

I called Jason.  On the other end of the line....silence....then sobbing. 

I talked logistics.  I said, through sobs, there was no way we could afford the $900 amputation fee.  It would cost $40 to put him down.  We had no other choice.  Jason.....wept!  He said he would sell anything and everything and he would come up with the money.  But in the end, there was just no way to pull it off.

I hung up the phone and went to talk to the kids.  I told them that Hershey WAS actually going to have to get his leg cut off.  Then, I saw my son's face.  I lost it.  He'd lost trust in me. 

I told them it was very very expensive to have Hershey's leg taken off, and Mommy and Daddy were trying to be wise with our money and get our family out of debt.  So, the dr would give Hershey some medicine to help him fall asleep, and he will stay asleep forever.  Both of my kids started crying.  Ryan pleaded, "You can have our piggy banks.  Honestly, everything in them.  Right Lauren?  Can she have yours too?"  "Yes.  Yes.  Take my piggy bank, too.  Just don't let them make Hershey go to sleep.  Please Momma, please."  

I walked out of the room, got on the computer and looked up numbers for every vet's office in the 4-state area.  Finally, I found a dr who said she could amputate his leg for $400.  Done.  I'll figure out how to find an extra $400 somewhere, anywhere.....just please don't take my kid's dog away.  

So, after talking with the kids about the new plan to pay for the surgery...they wanted to help raise some money.  (And I didn't have the heart to tell them that doing extra chores still came from MY bank account.  HA!)  So we put our heads together and thought of an idea.

Jason is going to build them a "lemonade stand" and they will sell homemade dog treats and cookies with HERSHEY kisses on top.  They have been rolling dough, cutting bone-shaped treats, and bagging the baked goodies ALL DAY in preparation for Saturday's sale. 'Hope for Hershey' might not raise enough money to cover the entire vet bill....but it's a start.  And a great lesson for my kids!!!

And speaking of husband says he'll be sharing his house with a 3-legged dose of humility every day!  ;)

Thank you, Hershey.  You're a magic dog!


As Erin wrote, her sweet kiddos are selling homemade dog treats in a "Hope for Hershey" sale tomorrow! If you're local,  why don't you take a few minutes to buy a treat for your pup and give this sweet dog, who has given hope to a whole family, a little hope. :)


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing this story!

  2. I just don't know how I feel about this story, honestly. I am an animal lover so this really hurts my heart as I know it hurts the man that has to look at the 3-legged dog and know he did that to the poor animal.


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