Rags to Royalty
© Copyright 2018 by Paula Drake
When stopping at the end of the long, dusty, rutted driveway my jaw tightened at the sight of the puppies. I glanced at Sue. Her hazel eyes were fixed on the sight too, four little black skeletons scavenging through a pile of trash. They paid no attention to my friend and me getting out of the truck. Normally three-month-old Doberman Pinschers would have bombarded us with greetings, but obviously hunger overrode playfulness.
The run-down farm house door opened. “Bonnie and Sue, just what I needed, a visit from old friends,” Wendy said.
We plowed through piles of junk getting into the house. I was embarrassed for her. Wendy and I had been close friends for many years. Sue only knew her from summer visits.
Throughout our friendship I made excuses for Wendy’s weaknesses, but the disgust I felt over the condition of those pups would surely strain that friendship.
After we exchanged greetings my friend from California, asked, “Why are those puppies out back so skinny?”
“Oh, that’s their breed. They are supposed to be paper thin,” Wendy said, quickly changing the subject.
Sue glanced a, “likely story” expression my way.
We visited for an hour. After watching Wendy light one cigarette after another I knew what Sue was thinking, there’s money for cigarettes, but not for dog food?
On our way out we stopped to pet the puppies. Three slept in the shade of the lean-to barn, but the dusty fourth plodded over to us. His sweet little tongue gently licked my hand. I reached down to pet him, tucking my long brown hair out of the way.
“Hi dusty; I bet you’re a beauty under that sod,” I said, scratching behind his caked ears.
When we got back to the ranch house Sue asked, “Give me Wendy’s phone number; I want take over some dog food.”
“Oh, we just bought some,” Wendy said. “But thanks for the offer.”
Sue sighed, and hung up.
“Bonnie, the vision of those pathetic puppies is going to haunt me all the way back to L.A. Please, see what you can do for them.”
I told her I would, and I did.
I couldn’t get back to Wendy’s for a week, and when I did she wasn’t home. One puppy had survived. He stood teetering on his legs looking up into the windshield. I opened the truck door, swooped him up, and said, “If you are going to die, fella, I am going to see to it you die with a good meal in your tummy.”
I bathed him; spoon fed him, and put him on a blanket in a cool spot in the kitchen. I got a little warm kiss on my hand with his head not even lifting off the blanket. I said a prayer.
The next morning I held my breath as I turned the kitchen corner afraid of what I’d see. To my surprise he raised his little head, and a valiant wag hit the cabinet. “Hey, buddy, you’re hangin’ in there. Wait till I tell Frank!”Frank, my husband, not too happy with another dog aboard, but when he saw the tiny heap of bones he nearly lost it. I seldom saw Frank misty-eyed as I did that morning.
Day after day the dusty cocoon opened revealing an emerging ebony beauty with a flawless body. He soon looked like a gaited thoroughbred stallion sprinting throughout emerald pastures, a perfect picture of a regal Doberman Pinscher.
Frank and I were caretakers for a millionaire’s cattle ranch–50 lush-green acres. Our house, though quite a nice two bedroom home, couldn’t compare to the “big” house on the hill, but we cherished our home. In the twelve years we had lived there the owners had visited only twice. Loraine, the business manager for the estate, came up from Phoenix occasionally to swim and take R&R in the big house.
The first day she saw “Raven,” my name for the puppy she had a fit. “Where did you get that beauty?” she asked. I told her the story. She grimaced, hand covering her mouth.
Raven circled, pranced, and plopped a ball at Loraine’s feet, playfully showing off.
“Please, Bonnie, may I buy him from you? Please?” she pleaded.
“No, you may not buy him, but you may have him.”
I put an old blanket on her backseat and a bowl of water on the floor. I called him.
“Now sweetie, it’s not as if I won’t see you again,” I said, mushing into Raven’s face. “Loraine will bring you back often.” He kissed my cheek and willingly scooted up into Loraine’s car. When they drove away a piece of my heart drove away too. But I knew Frank was right, two dogs, a cat, a bird, a horse, and two goats were enough.
My yearning for Raven turned into absolute delight the next time I saw him.
Three months passed when Loraine’s Lincoln swung into the driveway. There perched stately in the front seat glistening sat Raven. His strong sleek neck was adorned with a jeweled collar. He greeted me with those precious kisses then bounded off over the pasture.
My heart swelled as if royalty had arrived.
Later that afternoon I called Sue in California. “Are you sitting down? First, grab a tissue, because I have a Rags to Royalty story for you.”