Mine is a family that absolutely loves dogs! Amazingly, among my extended family, we have 10 dogs. Most of our dogs are from shelters and none of them are alike.

I learned that my dog, Patty Girl, led a dreadful life before becoming a member of my family. She was one of a group of 26 dogs saved from the Oklahoma floods several years ago. She was trucked with the other dogs to our local Animal Care League, where they named her “Patty Girl.”

They concluded she had been abused because they found wood chips in her gums and several teeth missing. She had probably been hit with a wooden stick or bat. From her size, coloration, handsome fur, and her shepherding and sedate manner, they classified her as an Australian Sheep Dog.

I visited the Animal Care League with my dog, Fuzzy. We were both mourning the loss of my sweet 16-year-old dog, Freckles. Poor Fuzzy was as sad as I was, and I thought adopting another dog would be good for both Fuzzy and me.

Patty Girl was the last of many dogs I saw at my visit. She had survived the trip from Oklahoma, and then most recently sired five pups. During the whelping period, Patty had been fostered by Donna LaSage, a dear and caring woman. For me, meeting Patty and Donna was love at first sight.

Patty proved to be a balm to the sadness that both Fuzzy and I felt. Although extremely different, Patty and Fuzzy became fast friends. Fuzzy was a friendly, jumpy 12-pound little guy, and Patty, by contrast, was and continues to be a quiet and calm 25-pound gal of considerable intelligence. However, loud noises and angry male voices frighten her.

In early December about eight years ago, I took Patty and Fuzzy to the River Forest Town Center for holiday photo-taking. The noise, the crowds, and the holiday clanging chimes terrified Patty, and before I was able to put her back in the car, she thrashed, breaking her leash, and then bolted out of the parking lot. I was frantic! I worried she’d be hurt, and I didn’t know what to do. I drove up and down River Forest streets calling out her name, but to no avail. My niece made posters and placed them in store windows, at local fire and police stations, hoping someone seeing her photo might call. I reached out to Donna, seeking her help and we searched for Patty for the next two weeks. It was a harsh icy December, with temperatures hovering around zero, which added even more urgency, and fear, to our pursuit. We were frustrated and losing hope that Patty would ever be found.

Adding to this trauma, I fell on some ice and fractured my hip. Dear Donna continued her search while I recuperated from surgery and then a stint in rehab at Rush Oak Park Hospital. On Christmas morning, I received a call on my cellphone from the diligent River Forest police. They had kept a flyer, picturing Patty, in their patrol cars, and one of the officers believed he spotted her on the grounds of the Oak Park Country Club.

They were surprised when I mentioned in that phone call that I was in the hospital. They questioned how best to follow up on their possible sighting of Patty. I contacted Donna who cleverly decided to pick up Fuzzy from my home, hoping that Patty would respond to seeing Fuzzy and come to Donna … and she did!

My Christmas miracle of retrieving my dear dog, missing for almost three weeks at that time and in frigid weather, all came true thanks to the River Forest police, Donna, and the chef at the Oak Park Country Club. I can’t imagine another police department being as concerned with finding a lost dog. After I was discharged and back home with my happy, healthy (although quite slender) Patty, I contacted the Oak Park Country Club to personally thank their observant chef who left food out for shy Patty. Using food, he tried to entice Patty inside, but she was too fearful. I will be forever grateful to Donna, the chef, and the local police for their kindness and assistance.

Patty Girl rarely leaves my side now, and like most family pets, she relishes being a fully participating member of the household. Dogs are loyal and loving to their human families.

Would that we humans could be as loving to our fellow human beings as these precious pets are to us.

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