"Go Royals! Go forth to serve well. Return with honor!

"Go Royals!  Go forth to serve well.  Return with honor!
This family photo is from August 2003, just before Brad left on his mission to the Philippines, but it remains a personal favorite

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Okay, Fine, I'll Say It: I Loved Brody and Darla, Too!

Brody and Darla with Kelli, February 2011
          Truth be told, I loved Brody and Darla.  I never wanted to admit it, because it was always more fun to dislike them and complain about things like picking up after them (especially the doggy doo on our sweet backyard putting green), having them follow me around the kitchen (studying my every move for any sign that I might accidentally drop some morsel of food in their direction), parking beneath Royal’s high chair as he bent over to drop handfuls of his dinner on the floor just to watch them eat it, Brody’s barking at me each time I walked into the house (even after he knew it was me), Darla sneaking upstairs to sit at a spot where she could see out the front door (even though she knew she was to stay off the carpet), doggy smells, and so much more.  I did not realize just how much I loved those dogs until I finally got my oft stated wish that they be placed elsewhere in a good home. 
Kelli and Brody in 2009, Provo, Utah
            Brody and Darla blessed Kelli’s life and helped her heal.  In an unselfish act of incredible courage, Kelli let them go so she could focus all of her energy and attention on raising Royal.  That decision was beyond difficult, and Kelli had to make it alone, while we were out of town the weekend of May 11th.  She did it without the comforting reassurance of her family.  But, Kelli had made her decision and was resolute that she would place them if she found a good home that would keep these dogs together.  It was something Kelli felt was best for the dogs, best for our family.  I had, after all, told Kelli repeatedly that she needed to find a new home for the dogs.  Maralea supported that counsel.  I still believe it to have been wise counsel.  Kelli agreed.  However, that does not mean that I am not grateful to Brody and Darla for the gifts of love they brought our family.

Brody and Indy were good friends
           I first met Brody when Kelli was a newlywed.  He teamed up with Indy, a sweet Golden Retriever, in Kelli’s newlywed apartment with her then husband.  Brody quickly formed a special bond with Kelli.  During our frequent visits to Provo for BYU football games in the fall of 2008, we became more acquainted with Brody.  I found him rather fun to tease (of course), but noted his complete devotion to Kelli.  It was unmistakable.  There was also clearly a strong bond between Indy and Brody.  They made quite the odd couple - as dogs go.  But, I suppose those two needed each other.  Brody became used to having a friend at his side.
Darla liked sleeping on her back as a puppy
I first met Darla in about April 2010, when she was just a puppy.  Kelli was playing with her on the front lawn of her Orem residence when we visited for Brad’s BYU graduation.  I was surprised to see that Kelli was adding a third dog to their family.  I suspected that these dogs were giving Kelli something she could not obtain otherwise: unconditional love.  She was sadly involved in a very difficult marriage, so it makes sense that she would bond so tightly with these animals.
            Kelli has always loved dogs.  She has a little scar on the left side of her chin as a reminder of a time when she, as a two year old girl, went up to a neighbor’s dog and hugged it and she received a bite that required two stitches.  That experience did nothing to discourage Kelli’s love for animals.  She was born with lots of love and compassion for both animals and people. 
Kelli and Brandy napping, 1995
Kelli was with Maralea and me in December 2002, when we took Brandy to the veterinarian to be put down after we returned home from our family cruise to find Brandy unable to move, incapacitated by a tumor.  I still have painful memories of that occasion.  We all cried together.  I had never allowed Brandy in the house and felt bad about that after her passing, as dogs are social creatures with so much capacity to love.  (We made the mistake of replacing Brandy with a crazy white German Shepherd, Kato, that made a habit of digging up my entire drip sprinkler line in the backyard and stacking up all the chewed tubing in the middle of the yard as though he had accomplished some great feat, who actually chewed up areas of the house exterior - including our new gutter in the backyard.  The kids probably still have nightmares at the way daddy went after that nuisance of an animal.  He lasted only six months.  After that, I was completely done with dogs.  Never again!)
Brody and Darla playing Tug of War through the side of the kennel, 2010
Darla, Brody and Indy were all kennel trained.  All you had to do to send them packing was to say: “Kennel” and they would (usually reluctantly) go directly to their kennel or other place of rest (such as a pillow/bed/blanket).  I did not really begin paying much attention to Darla and Brody until the fall of 2011.  Those two were inseparable.  We saw them each weekend when we would come to stay with Kelli her husband at their Provo home (after they had found their own place).  Darla enjoyed perching herself between the curtain and window by the front door, just to survey the world outside.  She was interest in all her surroundings, inquisitive, affectionate, and generally excited about life.  I compared Darla to Tigger from Winnie the Poo - always the life of the party.  Brody, on the other hand, was far more laid back.  His passion was food and protecting Kelli.  Brody was on the fat side and almost waddled as he walked.  He reminded me of Eeyore from Winnie the Poo - almost the opposite personality from Tigger - walking slow, head down, kind of down on himself and the world.  Brody almost invited my teasing, because he always seemed to assume the worst of me, cowering often as I would enter a room, while Darla (ever the optimist) was always ready to give affection and grab the attention that Brody so often shunned from anyone but Kelli.

Darla loved her toys!
             During the fall of 2011, it became increasingly clear to us that Kelli was unhappy.  In fact, that had been apparent for the previous year.  We knew things were not well in her marriage.  However, Kelli seemed reluctant to share that with us.  Instead, she chose to suffer in silence, drawing strength in part from her devoted dogs, Brody and Darla.  So, I began to feel some appreciation for those dogs, for what they were providing to Kelli in our absence.  During our visits in November 2011, I remember watching Brody and Darla in the “hair room” of Kelli’s place (where she cut hair), which doubled as their sleeping room.  When I would walk by the room (which had double French doors with windows), Brody would either cower or bark at me, and Darla would eagerly wag her tail with excitement to see me.  By this time, Kelli was more than six months pregnant with Royal.  There was building stress in her marital life that she was not relaying to us.  We could feel it and, I am sure, the dogs could feel it, too.  We could not be there to comfort Kelli and calm her troubled heart.  But, Brody and Darla were ever present.  They seemed to know what she needed and gave it to her freely.

Brody and Darla liked sleeping under blankets
When Kelli came to Las Vegas with David for Christmas in 2011, her husband was expected to join her the following day.  Instead, however, he used that as an opportunity to tell Kelli, his then seven and a half months pregnant spouse, that he no longer desired to be married to her.  She had come to Las Vegas with clothes for only the weekend and had no way to return to Provo without assistance (since both family vehicles remained at her Provo residence).  I had Kelli make a list of things that she would need retrieved from her home.  Brody and Darla topped that list.  Kelli was very concerned about them, what they were experiencing, whether they were being cared for.  She worried about how they would fare in her absence.  They needed her and she desperately needed them.  I have never been much of a dog lover and my first impulse was to simply advise Kelli that I would not be retrieving the dogs, that she had more important things to worry about.  I was sure that the dogs would be fine, but this was a very desperate time for our family.  Our daughter was in great emotional need.  She was going through something that neither of us had ever experienced - complete rejection by her spouse.  It became apparent to me that I would have to arrange for Brody and Darla to join us in Las Vegas.  Our daughter was in need, those dogs were in need and, frankly, Maralea and I were also in need. 
Brody and Darla were never very far from Kelli    
            I went to Provo to retrieve Kelli’s things on or about January 5, 2012.  I hitched a ride with our dear friends Jeff and Kathy Flagg, who had a trailer and were taking things to Provo that weekend for their daughter, Patti, and her husband Kai, who were moving into a new place.  Prior to our arrival, Kelli’s friends (headed by McKinley Molina) went to Kelli’s place and collected all of Kelli’s things, including the dogs.  It was comforting for Kelli to know that Brody and Darla were being taken care of by a friend prior to my arrival.  Still, picking up those dogs was last on my list of things to do during that Provo trip.  I was busy collecting furniture, clothes, and I even went to a furniture store to purchase a rocking chair that Kelli had put on lay away.  Kelli had been nesting, preparing for the arrival of her child, virtually all alone.  She had put the crib partly together in the room she was preparing for Royal, which was packed and moved to Las Vegas.  My heart was heavy during that trip.  I arranged for David to pick up the dogs at McKinley and Gian’s house that Saturday morning.  We drove together to their home, collected Brody and Darla in their kennel, got their other things, and put them in David’s car.  I thought they might be happy to see me.  But, they just huddled together inside their kennel, shaking - clearly concerned about what was happening to them.  They remained that way for most of the trip home.  We stopped a couple times for them to get out and do their business, but they stayed together and almost had to be pried from their kennel.  All the way home on that trip I anticipated the great reunion between Brody, Darla and Kelli.  I knew how much joy those dogs would bring to Kelli.  She needed a lift, and they would give it to her.  How could I hate dogs that give so much to my dear, sweet daughter?  Rescuing them and providing them with a home would turn out to be one of my greatest feats as a father.

Brody, perched at his couch top lookout in Provo
           The moment of the Kelli, Brody and Darla reunion came as the Flaggs drove into the driveway of our Las Vegas home.  I knew it would be great.  It was.  Brody and Darla were a bit more relaxed by the time we arrived home.  I removed their kennel from the Flagg’s vehicle, opened the kennel door, and instructed the dogs to go find Kelli.  They got out of the kennel and as Kelli appeared on the driveway, they went nuts.  Those dogs were leaping on Kelli and wagging those tails so hard I thought they might fly off.  Darla was so excited she actually peed.  Those dogs were happy.  All their stress was over, relieved - they had been reunited with their one and only true love.  I was grateful for them as they helped fill a hole in our daughter’s aching heart, provided her with hope and, most importantly, love.

Brody & Darla resting in our family room
         Brody and Darla settled down in the short hallway between the bathroom and utility room of our home.  All Kelli had to do was put their pillow there, and they knew it was to be their place each day and night.  We purchased gates to try to contain them when necessary.  When the gates were up, Brody would stay on the pillow while Darla would walk up to the gate and look around in the hope of getting someone’s attention.  She was oh so social.  We got to where we did not even secure the gates between the walls, but would just kind of lean them up against the two walls across the hallway - because the dogs never touched the barrier.  They did not attempt to move past it.  When it was up, they seemed to know that they were not to breach the border.  They were really good dogs.
           I had hoped that we could train Brody and Darla to do their business somewhere other than the putting green we had in the backyard.  Brody seemed easier to guide to the east side of the backyard than Darla.  After a while, I just gave up and let them poop all over the putting green.  Kelli was pretty good about cleaning up after them.  If not, then I did it on Saturdays when I would clean the yard.  I enjoyed complaining about the dogs . . . and tormenting them.  They did not like being in the backyard when I was working - especially if I had the blower.  I think I scarred them emotionally when I chased them around the backyard with the blower once.  After that time, any time they saw me anywhere near the blower they ran for cover.

Brody with Royal, July 2012
Taking the dogs for walks was always a fun, relaxing thing to do.  If you ever said the word “walk,” their ears would immediately perk up.  Brody would get all excited and stare at you to see if you said what he thought you said.  If you confirmed that he was, in fact, going to go on a walk, Brody would start wagging his tail and yelping with excitement.  Walking Brody and Darla was a bit of a challenge, as they had to be near Kelli and each other.  When we would let them run, they would take off together and Darla would always kind of nip and Brody’s feet and ears.  She seemed to like picking on Brody . . . just enough to let him know she loved him.  Darla was the more dominant personality and Brody seemed fine with Darla in charge.  They really got along well together - a perfect match.  As Royal got older, he enjoyed taking control of the leashes, and would kind of handle the dogs as though they were set up for the Iditarod.  It would be a tad dangerous if the dogs were pulling the stroller with Kelli in front, because they would go crazy to catch up with her.  However, if I took the leashes and walked out of the house ahead of Kelli, they would resist leaving.  Darla was the most demonstrative.  She would sit and lean towards the house, waiting for Kelli.  Darla was stubbornly loyal to Kelli.  Oh, I could snap her out of it and drag her along.  There was not much she could do about that.  But, Darla would then be constantly looking behind her to see if Kelli was be coming along.

Royal and Darla, August 2012
          Brody was the quiet watch dog.  He worked at being more intimidating to strangers and was sometimes over the top with his barking.  I just expected it each time I would return home, unlock and open the front door, and enter my own house.  There were some rare occasions when Brody would not bark as I entered the house and each time I figured that Brody was finally getting used to me.  Perhaps he was, but that still did not keep him from growling at me every once in a while, just to let me know he had his eye on me.  Something that always kind of amazed me was how the dogs would respond when I would get up before dawn and go downstairs.  They never made a peep.  They knew it was me, knew there was no threat, and just relaxed.  However, if I were to enter from outside after being away for a bit, they would have a tad different response . . . until they saw it was me, at which point Brody would put his tail between his legs after barking, knowing that he was going to get (at a minimum) a little comment from me about who owns the roof over his head and all that good stuff.  As I have entered the house without Brody’s barking this past week, I have actually barked to announce my arrival.  Isn’t that strange?  I miss being welcomed each time I enter the house, even if it was just a little Brody yelp.  Brody’s biggest negative was his barking; and yet, it was his greatest asset.  Brody was a great night watchman.  If anyone came close to the house at any time, he would let us know.  I actually stopped turning on the security alarm at night because we had Brody and that was better than the alarm.

Little Royal enjoyed visiting Brody and Darla at their quarters in the hallway
           Brody and Darla were great in helping Kelli get through her pregnancy under her very sad circumstances of abandonment.  They were at home with her during the hours when Maralea and I were working, keeping Kelli company, loving her, helping to fill the painful hole in her heart.  I could not put a price on that.  I wondered how Brody and Darla would adjust to Kelli coming home from the hospital with Royal.  From that time forward, they did not receive the kind of attention from Kelli to which they had become so accustom.  She had something more important - a son.  It did not take Brody and Darla long to figure out the connection between Kelli and Royal.  If there was jealousy (which would be understandable), Brody and Darla never displayed it.  They always just gleefully accepted any attention they could get, and loved being a part of the family (especially during dinner time).  In time, Royal became intrigued with the dogs.  Once he started crawling, Royal would enter the dogs’ domain, and sometimes hug them like they were little stuffed animals.  When Royal began walking, he seemed to fancy himself as one of the dogs.  They were fine with Royal feasting on their dry dog food (which they didn’t really seem to like that much anyway), and Royal was fine with Brody and Darla camping beneath his high chair so he could drop food for them while bending over to watch them go crazy for his latest offering.  (When Brad and Whitney were visiting in March 2013, we found Royal and Beckham in the utility room with hands and cheeks filled with dried dog food, as though they had found the proverbial mother lode of treats.  Royal never lost his taste for dog food.)  Royal’s first words were: Go and Darla.  Both related to those dogs, which I suppose is fitting.  (The word Go is what Kelli would do when she simply needed the dogs to vacate the vicinity immediately.  All they needed from her was one word: Go, and they listened.  Well, Brody listened.  He always went away on the first command and landed in his bed.  Darla was a different story.  She would usually take a few steps in the direction of her bed, walking with Brody, but would usually take a short little detour and return.  It was rare to get Darla to actually Go with just one command.  She was far too reluctant to leave the family.)  Royal got to where he would say Darla whenever he saw any dog.  He would even call Kelli Darla.
A very festive Brody, December 2012 

           At the end of each day, we would have family scripture reading and prayer, followed by our family cheer.  The dogs picked up on the routine.  They knew that event signaled the end of the day.  As we would kneel down to pray in the evenings, Brody would quietly begin his walk to bed (he knew what was coming next, and did not seem concerned about going outside for one last potty break).  Darla, on the other hand, would stay with us, savoring every moment she could get with the family.  (Brody and Darla were so much like Eeyore and Tigger.  That comparison never got old.)  Whenever it was time to go outside for a potty break, Darla was quick to leap into action, while Brody sometimes had to be forced outside (almost pried from his bed).  When they were done outside, Brody and Darla would camp by the back door, sometimes give short little barks to let us know they were done and ready to join the family.  Darla would occasionally resort to whining and scratching on the back door.  (She was always more assertive than Brody.)  Then, once the back door would open, just a little, Brody and Darla would just shove it open (no way they were going to hesitate in case anyone happened to change their mind about letting them back in). 

Darla hanging with Kelli in the backyard
          We had a few doggy accidents here and there, which I guess is just part of having dogs.  They were really far and few between, limited to our downstairs office.  I learned to be more careful about feeding the dogs from the kitchen, because the subsequent vomiting on the carpet is not so cool.  We did not have a doggy door, so they needed our help getting in and outside.  For the most part, they were great.  We had a few problems with digging in the backyard initially, where the dogs would find sprinkler heads and chew them up.  Of course, I complained about it.  Kelli went after them, as though they could understand her.  In a strange way, I think they did.  It did not take long before Brody and Darla were cured of their sprinkler digging and chewing.  Kelli made sure of that.  She ordered it, and they obeyed.  The last thing Brody and Darla wanted to do was disappoint Kelli.  She was their everything, their world.

           Brody and Darla loved visiting Mom and Dad’s house, and hanging out with Luke and Romeo.  Luke was less interested in the doggy parties than Romeo.  At first, the four dogs would run around the house like crazy, but Luke would then break away to return to his place next to Dad in his office or wherever else Dad might be.  Romeo, on the other hand, enjoyed hanging out with his new friends.  We had some gatherings at the Pine Valley cabin, where the dogs got to run around freely (although any doggy accidents were blamed on Brody and Darla . . . even though we all know it was Romeo, who makes a habit out of doing his business inside the  house).  Mom would complain about Brody and Darla being right under her feet in the kitchen. That is where you would always find them if there was any kitchen activity.  Brody was pretty much a dud in life for the exception of four circumstances: 1) he is playing protector (barking); 2) he is getting any attention from Kelli; 3)Darla is engaging him to play; or 4) I enter the kitchen.  Whatever Brody thought of me, whatever reservations he had about me regarding our relationship were completely tossed aside when it came to food.  Whenever there was a possibility that some morsel might come his way, Brody gave his full attention, studying my every move.  There were times when I actually thought he could read my mind by carefully watching me, reaching some kind of sophisticated, scientific calculation as to when, how, what and where I would be dropping food onto the kitchen floor.  That was clearly his forte.  Darla would sit back and play off Brody.  She would let him do the work, then swoop in and get first crack at the food.  There were occasions when Darla would turn her nose up at food, such as a marshmallow, grits, etc.  Brody would then kind of shyly walk up to the item, rather nonchalantly, and eat it.  Brody was a much less discriminating eater than Darla (which explains the general physical difference between the two: again Brody = Eeyore (fat and waddling), Darla = Tigger (skinny and bouncy active)).
Brody and Darla prepare for a sled ride with Kelli, Maralea and Royal, December 2012
           As Royal began walking, he was often drawn to the sleeping/eating quarters of Brody and Darla.  Sometimes he could be a little rough with the dogs, but they would either quietly take it or anticipate his arrival by quickly zigging as Royal was zagging in order to avoid being strangled.  Sadly, over time, it became apparent that Brody and Darla might be better off in another living situation.  Royal would hit at the dogs on occasion and we would have to remind him to be soft and nice.  Brody and Darla were very patient with Royal
Royal and Beckham invade the dog dish, March 2013 (notice Royal's puffy cheeks - yum, yum)

            On April 12, 2013, Kelli posted the following on Facebook: “Sadly, I think I'm at the point where I need to get rid of my dogs (two mini Dachshunds ).  I would like to keep them together, locally if possible, and to a good home.  If you know of a family who might be interested please let me know!”  I do not know how much of Kelli’s decision related to my complaining about the dogs, but I am pretty sure I had a lot to do with it.  There was no timetable to place Brody and Darla, but Kelli had a goal of June in mind.  I was not sad about the prospect of being without Brody and Darla.  I basically coexisted with them.  They knew it.  We were not pals, but I was good to them at the same time.
Darla was okay with Royal invading her space 
           A few weeks ago, as Maralea, Kelli and Royal were walking Brody and Darla in the neighborhood, they were approached by a man who was impressed with the dogs.  He asked if he could pet them.  The gentleman said he was visiting a friend, and told Maralea and Kelli that he knew a couple that had lost a Dachshund that looked much like Brody, noting that they had been in mourning since their dog’s passing.  Kelli mentioned that she was in the process of trying to place the dogs together in a good home.  Shortly thereafter, Kelli was put in touch with Walter and Elsie Steigman.  She spoke with them on the phone and learned that their dog had passed away about a year ago, that they were thinking about getting another dog but were not sure if they could handle two.  They agreed to have a trial weekend with the dogs on May 10-12.  Before the trial, I reminded Kelli that she did not have to give the dogs away, that she could keep them.  I wanted it to be her decision . . . not ours.  Maralea and I were out of town on May 10, 2013, when Kelli delivered the dogs to the Steigmans.  I felt bad about that, as I learned of Kelli returning home crying by herself, without having anyone around to console her.  I know that must have been very hard for her.  Kelli’s plan was to return to the Steigman home in a few days and deliver the rest of the dog things if they decided to keep Brody and Darla.  Of course, there were times that Royal would go wandering down the hallway home of Brody and Darla looking for them, calling out: “Darla!?  Darla?”  The initial separation was quite painful.
Kelli and Royal prepare to take Brody and Darla for one more walk
          Kelli called the Steigmans on Sunday, May 12, 2013, to see how the trial was going.  Walter said that it was great, that Brody and Darla were seated on Elsie’s lap at that moment, and that Kelli “would probably have to pry them away from us at this point.”  That news was rather bittersweet for Kelli.  It was really a best case scenario for Brody and Darla, being in a home with a couple that absolutely loves Dachshunds and has nothing else to do but take care of them.  But, Kelli also would have been happy to take them back.  Kelli made arrangements for us to visit the Steigmans the following evening, where we would deliver the rest of the dogs’ things and take them on one last walk.  I knew it would be an emotionally heavy experience for Kelli and was glad to be there for her this time.  However, what I did not anticipate was how much it impacted me.

          As we entered the Steigman home, Walter welcomed us with a bright smile.  Brody and Darla went crazy for Kelli.  They were delighted to see her again.  Walter said: “They show us a lot of affection, but nothing like that.”  Truly, Kelli had a special bond with Brody and Darla that they shared with no one else.  It was fun watching Royal.  He was far more interested in exploring the Steigman home than playing with Brody and Darla.  And, it did not take Royal long to locate the dog food dish, which he knew how to operate, removing the top lid which allowed him to dig in both hands deep into the dried food pile and fill his mouth with that disgusting stuff.  (What a crack up.)  We got Brody and Darla ready for a walk.  I said the word “walk” and Brody started yelping with excitement.  Kelli got the leashes on the dogs, and Royal picked up the leashes like he was ready to say mush!  As we took Brody and Darla outside, I think the Steigmans were a bit concerned that we might change our mind and choose to take them back.  We assured them we would return soon.  Maralea put Royal in the stroller and tied the leashes to the stroller.  Kelli then walked in front and the dogs pulled the stroller like a couple of Santa’s reindeer, both equally eager to catch up with Kelli.  In fact, they pulled with so much force that they nearly toppled the stroller.  Fortunately, Maralea caught it in time.  My role was to play photographer.  I was taking pictures, making a video of these last moments together with Brody and Darla.  It was fun at first.  However, as we turned to make our way back to the Steigman home, I began to feel heavy and sad.

Kelli with Brody and Darla, saying goodbye to these wonderful friends who helped her so much
          We took a few more pictures just outside the Steigman home, then as we returned into their home, we delivered things like the dogs’ pillows, blankets and play toys.  Brody and Darla immediately went to lay on them.  I showed the Steigmans how the dogs would obey to words like: “blanket” and “kennel.”  I opened the kennel we brought with us and said: “Kennel.”  Brody and Darla immediately raced into the kennel, with tails wagging, as though they were thrilled to think we would now be taking them back home.  I then had to coax them out of the kennel, back to their blankets.  As we prepared to leave, Walter handed Kelli a check for $200.  She did not ask for any money, but it was very thoughtful and sweet.  We took some pictures of Kelli with the Steigmans, then prepared to leave.  As we were starting to walk out the door, Walter gave Kelli the stuffed animal Dachshund they had kept on their couch since their dog had passed away a year earlier.  It had provided them with great comfort in quiet moments.  Now, with Brody and Darla, they did not need it.  However, perhaps recognizing that Kelli would need some comfort, they provided their precious stuffed animal to Kelli.  As we walked to the front door, Brody and Darla were wagging their tails, following us.  Then, as Kelli stopped in the doorway and turned around to say goodbye, Darla stopped about six feet from the door.  She looked at Kelli, then up at the Steigmans, then again at Kelli.  Darla then sadly dropped her head slowly, as though she knew that this situation was now permanent.  It was all I could do to keep from crying at that scene.  Those dogs so loved Kelli.  She so loved them.  They had given and meant so much and to each other.  Now, however, they both were moving on with new chapters in their lives.  Kelli noted that Elsie Steigman had a dramatic change in countenance since they met a few days earlier, that she radiated with happiness and even seemed more healthy.  Clearly, Brody and Darla were a blessing to the Steigmans.  That provided Kelli with great comfort, to think that she and those precious dogs may have been a direct answer to prayers.  Also, it is nice to know that Brody and Darla are not far away, and that we can visit them any time.  The Steigmans have provided us with an open invitation.

Kelli with Walter and Elsie Steigman, the very happy new owners of Brody & Darla
(Notice the stuffed toy Dachshund in Kelli's right hand . . . and Royal getting into the dog food at the bottom left)
          We stopped to have some Nielsen’s Custard on the way home from the Steigmans Monday evening.  We all needed something to help us feel a little better.  My heart was weighed down with guilt, feeling that Brody and Darla were now gone (at least partially at my insistence).  I did not sleep well Monday night.  I woke up Tuesday morning with an achy heart.  David called to discuss some issues he was having with his car, and the subject of Brody and Darla came up.  As I described our experience of leaving them with the Steigmans the night before, tears welled up in my eyes, my voice cracked, and I found myself unable to speak.  I was so incredibly emotional.  David probably thought I had gone mad.  He had heard me complain about the dogs many times.  (Sheesh, Dad, get it together.)   Later, as I went into work, I was relating the experience of giving away Brody and Darla to my assistant, Linda, and later to Greg.  On each occasion, I had to fight back tears.  In fact, I simply could not talk about it.  The emotions were just so powerful.  I had a deposition on Wednesday morning and met with the witness to prepare.  I happened to mention my experience with Brody and Darla, and learned that the witness has three dogs.  He could identify with the feelings I was expressing.  Once again, I had to fight back the tears as I related details surrounding Monday evening’s last walk of Brody and Darla.

Darla studies the kitchen area for food
           As I write today, I feel more at peace.  Yes, emotions were high a few days earlier, but only because I so clearly saw the blessings that have come into my life through Brody and Darla.  They comforted our dear sweet daughter in so many of her dark and lonely moments, helping her mend through a long, painful divorce, and giving us all a joy in our home that we would never have experienced without them.  Yes, I complained about them. Complaining is, sadly, something I do quite well.  But, with all the love, candor and appreciation I can muster, I extend my deepest gratitude to Brody and Darla, for unconditionally loving Kelli and Royal, for even accepting Maralea and me into their special, tight knit circle of friends, and for sharing their healing powers with the Steigmans, who can now feel joy again with the sounds and activities of Dachshunds again in their home.  It was a very selfless act for Kelli to deliver Brody and Darla to the Steigmans.  She loved them deeply, found them a good home, and said goodbye with the hope and expectation that she will have them again in the next life.  Surely, Heavenly Father would never allow for such close bonds to exist between mankind and dogs if such loving devotion cannot continue forever.  Thank you, Brody and Darla.  You won my heart (although I would never before admit it).  I love you two, too.

Brody gives Kelli a kiss, April 2009

Brody and Darla chasing Kelli and Royal at the Pine Valley cabin, December 2012
Our last walk on May 13, 2013