Our life with Shiloh the Wonder Dog

Shiloh after her first bath, just before coming home with me.

In September of 2018 I became a rescue “mom” of a large white husky mix dog.

I work for Compassion Coalition, an organization in Knoxville that helps churches, organizations and businesses help people in need in the community of Knoxville, Tennessee. Compassion Coalition runs a call center where people in need, church benevolence staff or caseworkers can call in and find community resources for a variety of needs.

On this particular day in September I answered the phone and spoke with a local caseworker who assits the senior population. She had been called on to do a wellness check for an elderly gentleman who had been put in the hospital. Seems he didn’t have water at his home and had walked to the corner store to get a case of bottled water for he and his dog when he became dizzy and passed out on the walk home. A couple driving past saw this and stopped. In the hospital he became very concerned about his dog at home alone with no water.

The caseworker, with his permission, went to the home to find living conditions in such a state that no human or animal should have to live. By this point they knew the elderly gentleman would not be able to return to his home with his health condition. He prayed for a good home for his dog while he was getting better.

Now the caseworker was tasked to find assistance for a dog, Shiloh. After telling me the story of the elderly gentleman, I recommeded a vet that would come to the house and access the dog’s physical condition, which was in a terrible state. She was filthy and covered in excrement, so badly covered you could not tell that she was a white dog, she had sores all over and was so overweight she could barely walk.

The vet then called me and told me about the state of the home and the dog. The Spirit told me I needed to help this poor animal. So sight unseen, I decided to become a foster-mom. I didn’t even tell my husband. I met the vet and the caseworker at the gentleman’s house and the neighbors let us use their garden hose to give Shiloh a much needed bath. I called my husband and told him what I was doing and asked him to meet me there after he got off work. He just laughed at me and said ok.

After 3 hours of scrubbing the matted, smelly fur a different dog emerged. I was stunned, my husband was speechless. God works in mysterious ways. She bore a striking resemblance to the husky we had for 16 years.

Snow our 1st Husky is on the left, Shiloh the Wonder-Dog is on the Right.

The vet was amazed that she was still alive, considering the conditions of the home. It was so bad, the vet wore a mask and waders into the home to retrieve the dog’s crate. So from that point she was dubbed a Wonder-Dog.

Shiloh sat still through the 3 hour bath and seemed to enjoy the attention, but was so heavy she couldn’t climb into the backseat of my Kia Soul for me to take her to my farm. We had to lift her the 3 steps into my house when we got there.

We began the joyous journey of nursing Shiloh back to health. I say joyous because it is such a miracle to see the joy of life return to one of God’s creatures. Dog’s really do smile. To see actual wonder cross her face as she got healthy and explored the outdoors was such a gift to me. Again she earned her name as Shiloh the Wonder Dog. We walked 3 times a day, we enjoyed playing ball in the yard and chasing rabbits. Her wounds healed and she loved life on the farm. The vet was amazed at her progress. She went from 140 lbs to 85 lbs and had pep in her step again.

The elderly gentleman who owned Shiloh, loved her and she was his only companion for the 6 years after his wife passed away. He was heartbroken and fell into depression, suffered from PTSD and without family thought he had no resources to help him. His caseworker was able to get him the much needed treatment he needed and get him into an assisted living home where he now has a community who cares about him and he is doing so much better. He was unable to take Shiloh to the new place, so we became her forever home. We asked if he wanted to see her, but he didn’t want to confuse her. He was just happy that she was happy and taken care of.

Shiloh was a happy dog who never complained, but liked to talk, like most huskies do. We often had “conversations” about life on the sofa. After just over two years with us Shiloh crossed over the rainbow bridge yesterday. She will be missed, but I didn’t want her story to go untold. Had it not been for Compassion Coalition I would have missed this opportunity to make a difference in the life of this sweet doggie and the difference she made in my life is a blessing I will never forget.

Never pass up your opportunity to do good in this world. It will benefit you more than you can imagine.

Daddy’s Girl

Photo of Charmin, Homer and Wendy
Me, Daddy Homer and my best friend Wendy – Circa 1969

Children are great observers of all that goes on in their world. They absorb things like a sponge. Adults often think that children won’t be affected by what the grownups do, but that is far from the case.

While kids see and soak up all that is going on around them, they are not mature enough to properly interpret what they see and feel. This can lead to wounds that run deep, especially when there is no one to help them correctly process what they see and feel.

After my adoption at 4, we lived in Illinois until I was 7. For those first few years after the adoption, things were okay. I enjoyed being a kid, for the most part. The age difference between my new siblings and myself made me feel like an only child. I think I was a likable kid, I was best friends with the little boy who lived behind us and with another little girl, who like me had been adopted. I had cousins who visited often, were close to my age and we had lots of fun together and loved them all.

Not long after my adoption my birth mom moved in across the street with my older sister. That sounds strange, right? It was both good and confusing.

I suppose I should interject here and say that after my adoption, I knew what had happened, my adoption wasn’t ever a secret from me. I wasn’t allowed to call her mommy anymore, but I knew she was my birth mother and she always tried to live close to us. Which again, was both good and confusing.

My new Sissy got married and moved to Alaska, my new Brother went into the Army and was stationed in Germany.

The vibe in my house became tense around the time the older kids were close to moving out. As a kid, you don’t know exactly what is going on between the grownups in your house, but you hear things and pick up on the unpleasant feelings. You know things aren’t what they should be and you piece things together, your picture may not be quite right, but it is your reality. I knew trouble brewed and just three years after my adoption, the marriage of my new mom and dad fell apart.

This prompted my new mom to move to Kentucky where both sides of my family were from. My Daddy built my Mommy a house, but he didn’t come to live with us in it. He brought me presents for holidays and birthdays, but was never there for the cake. I remember crying, wondering why he didn’t want to spend time with me.

When we lived in Illinois we would sit together in his recliner and watch Hee Haw together. I felt safe, I felt special, I felt like a Daddy’s girl. He was there and I loved him deeply.

Then he wasn’t there. My Daddy’s girl phase was shortlived. I was seven, and I thought it was my fault that yet another person I loved cast me aside. From the time I was seven until Daddy died when I was ten, I saw him a handful of times, and it broke my little heart. Once again I was fatherless.

On the day Daddy Homer died, I knew I would never be a Daddy’s girl, never have a father who would watch me grow up, cheer me on, be proud of me on graduation day, or walk me down the aisle, I vividly remember because I lost two fathers that day.

I was in 5th grade. My birth mother came to the school to get me, in the middle of the day, and that never happened. I always rode the bus home. I remember being nervous when I got in the car, I was excited and anxious, I knew something was up, but couldn’t figure out what it was.

She told me she had something to tell me. I don’t think it was easy for her, she seemed to rush through it as she said Daddy Homer had a massive heart attack and died. I just remember feeling numb and what sounded like bees buzzing in my ears as I tried to make sense of it.

After several minutes of quiet, I had to ask a question that I felt led to hope. What about my birth father? I had wondered about him often; if he knew about me; if he cared about me; where was he? We had had conversations about my birth father before, I would ask questions and she would answer. Did I looked like him (I have his mouth); what does he look like (he was 6’3″ and thin, stawberry blond, ruddy complexion, smile that would light up a room); things like that. I always enjoyed those talks, it connected me to family somehow. I wanted to know where he was in all this? If I would ever know him?

Me with my birth parents, Floe Smiddy and James Monroe – Circa 1967
One of only three photos I have of my birth father.

I think we all long to know about our lineage. We want to know where we come from, what’s our family history? We long to be connected to something larger than ourselves. I think that is why there are so many verses in the Bible about who begat whom. And why Ancestory.com has such a huge following.

But back to my story, after the questions about my birth father poured out, my world crashed again when I asked if I would ever meet my birth father and she told me no, she was sorry, but that he had died too. Not only had he died, he had died a violent death from a gunshot in a bar fight.

He was dead. No reunion, no stories about how he had loved me from afar, he would never know me, never be proud of me, never love me. And BOOM, just like that, a little girl’s childhood dreams of having a Daddy, being Daddy’s little girl vanished.

My hurt was quiet and deep. Honestly, it hurts me to this day. Father’s Day became a day I ignored.

I longed for a traditional family, one that made sense. I had a hard time explaining my family tree to my friends. Heck, I still have a hard time explaining my family tree.

I struggled with resentment, abandonment issues and people-pleasing. That feeling of restlessness and not fitting in plagued me. I couldn’t make sense of the pain inside me. It would be an ongoing struggle throughout my life.

In high school my best friend and her family loved on me and took me to church with them. They introduced me to a Daddy who will never leave me.

In John 14:18 Jesus says; “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He sees me, lost without a father. 

2 Corinthians 6:18 And,“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” He knows I need Him, He knows I need the feeling of family.

I didn’t know at the time just how much I would need that unconditional love that God offers, but I am so glad I accepted it. I can’t imagine how I would have made it through life without being able to rely on God’s love for me. As I said in a previous blog, my story has many chapters and in all those chapters I needed something I could rely on.

Have a railed against God? Yes! Have I complained and cried and asked for things to be different? Yes! Have I blamed God? Yes! Have I been angry with God? Yes! I am human, I make mistakes, I screw things up, I get things wrong. We all do.

Being a child of God is NOT about BEING perfect, it is about acknowledging that YOU AREN”T PERFECT and turning your life over to the One who is, who can help you carry your burdens and insecurities, listen to your troubles and guide you through the deepest, scariest wilderness into the light.

My life has been a wilderness in a lot of ways. I have gone waaaay off the rails, but He has always guided me back. I will never be perfect this side of heaven and God knows that. He knows and He loves me anyway. God is love. And love is what He wants from you.

I recently read Father Gregory Boyle’s Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship. The quote below resonated with my soul.

“Moral outrage is the opposite of God; it only divides and separates what God wants for us, which is to be united in kinship. Moral outrage doesn’t lead us to solutions – it keeps us from them. It keeps us from moving forward toward a fuller, more compassionate response to members of our community who belong to us, no matter what they’ve done.”

You see, if I am outraged that I missed out on being a Daddy’s girl, if I hold on to that hurt and anger, if I hold on to that outrage over anything someone else does, it separates me from God, not by His doing, by my own. It becomes me pulling away from God and not moving forward. God wants us to be near Him, He wants us to find solutions through Him and love others no matter what they’ve done.

Sometimes we become so caught up in religion and the “right way” to do things we forget, it is not about the building or the pastor or even the service, it is about the LOVE. How we walk with and care for each other. God is Love. God loves everyone. He calls us to love everyone. So I will leave you with this verse.

John 13:34 – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

​The Random Puzzle Piece

I have often felt like the random puzzle piece picked up and tossed into the wrong box, never really fitting in anywhere. Have you ever forced a puzzle piece into a place it didn’t belong? Even though the shape is almost right the picture doesn’t match. That piece always gets pulled out and thrown back into the pile, hoping to find the right fit later.

Child holding a puzzle piece of home

It took me years to be comfortable in my own skin, to own my own space, and be content with who I am.

I was a “surprise” child, with a different father than my 4 older siblings. I didn’t fit in their puzzle.

My birth father had a family of his own. Somewhere on the planet, I have 6 half-brothers and sisters (one within a month of my birthday) I have never met. So that was not the puzzle I fit into. Although, I have always been curious about them.

Baby Rhonda with a neighbor in Cincinnati Ohio
Me with one of our neighbors, circa 1967.

I was born in Cincinnati and lived there until I was 2. My mom was going through a divorce in the 60s and in a dysfunctional relationship with my birth father, so I had barriers to overcome from the beginning. As a broken family we struggled (being a newly single mom in the 60s couldn’t have been easy) we moved a lot and there wasn’t a lot of stability.

I remember being sad, my mom cried a lot, spent a lot of time in bed, she had headaches. As kids, we were shuffled about between sitters, friends whoever could look after us. My older siblings went to live with their dad, but that wasn’t my family. I think the younger of my brothers, who is seven years my senior, struggled with same feelings, not fitting in the family mold. He must have spent more time with mom in my early days because we have always had a bond. I think the break made all of us long for that perfect family.

Boby Rhonda's first birthday
My first birthday.

One of my first technicolor memories is of me stealing my brother’s matchbox cars, which were sacred, when he tried to take them back I hit him with a little wind-up music box that looked like a TV. Even though I wailed on him, we were tight.

Another of my early memories is being shuffled into the back seat of a Ford Mustang very late at night with everything we owned rolled up in a pink chenille bedspread. I remember it vividly because the chenille left a pattern on my face where I had fallen asleep on top of it. I was probably two or so. When I woke up we were in a new place, Lisle, Illinois, in a house with new people, my aunt and uncle. I don’t know if they knew it then, but they were soon to become my new mom and dad.

James Monroe sitting at the kitchen table among beer and booze bottles
My biological father, James Monroe.

My mom struggled with depression and at the age of four, my mom’s relationship with my father had fallen apart, she had a breakdown, couldn’t hold down a job and was struggling. She gave me up for adoption to her sister, my aunt. My two cousins, became my brother and sister, I think they were 16 and 18. While my new family loved me, took care of me, fed and clothed me, I still didn’t seem to fit. I didn’t understand what had happened to my family, what happened to my brother, where did he go? I had so many questions but as a kid, I didn’t know how to ask them and if I did, I couldn’t process the answers.

I remember riding on the elevator for my adoption hearing. It was in a big building and I was afraid of the elevator. I didn’t want to get in. I was told if I behaved, we would get milkshakes afterward. Isn’t it funny, the things that you remember? After that day, I became someone else. How strange for a 4-year-old.

At the adoption my name was changed, not just my last name, but my first name, too. I remember struggling with that, not knowing when or how to answer people. I think it started as a nickname before the adoption, as I was named after a country song, and when it played, I danced. But that day everything shifted. I had a new mom and dad, new brother and sister.

Baby Rhonda with a neighbor on a blanket in the yard laughing
Me with neighbor, circa 1966.

All in all, I think I was a pretty happy kid, even though I couldn’t make sense of so many things in my world. I spent a lot of time with cousins when family came around. My mom’s family was a big one and most of my aunts and uncles had 3 or 4 kids. So when cousins got together we could get pretty loud. I loved those times of family. I always wanted to be like them, they knew each other, they got each other. They fit. They belonged. Their puzzles were in tact.

I’ve never been able to pin down why I always felt so out of place, so different. Was it inherited from a father I never knew, from a mother who struggled with feeling like an outsider herself, was being shuffled around as a kid? In the long run, does it matter? I think that feeling set me up for struggles along the way and it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized, everyone is different, no family is perfect, no story has only one chapter.

Different is what challenges us to search within ourselves, to search out God and what He has for us.

In Psalms 142 David prays while he is in a cave. He is alone, afraid, isolated, he prays for God to bring him out. I love the way The Message reads, in verse 3 David says, “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then you knew my path. Later on in the chapter, he says, “Get me out of this dungeon so I can thank you in public. Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!”

I want to encourage you. If you are feeling different today, that’s ok. If you feel like a missing piece of the puzzle, that’s ok. Don’t let your past bog you down, that’s the enemy. That’s only one chapter. Please believe down to your soul that you are fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works. (Psalms 139:14) It may be your struggles and works that give someone else strength and courage.

My story has many more chapters, some good, some bad. Stick with me and you will hear more as I unravel all that is me.

All of those chapters make me the person I am. I am thankful for that gift. The person God created me to be, that person is different, has lots of flaws, is wrong a lot of the time, that person is vulnerable, but that’s ok, too. Too often people try to make a puzzle piece fit that just doesn’t. They think that if you have faith, you have to be perfect. In our weakness we are strong. Jesus didn’t die for perfect people, he died for the broken and we all broken.

The good chapters in my life give me the strength to withstand the bad that comes my way. The bad allows me to grow, to sharpen the gifts I am given, gives me the opportunity to lean into God and cry on His shoulder, to grow my relationship with Him, and it gives me experience that leads to wisdom. Wisdom is a gift to share.

Sharing lets you know you are not alone. Know that you are never alone. So come out of the cave with me and thank Him in public, praise Him in the sunshine and surround yourself with His people and dance in the showers of His blessings.

On a Roll with Charmin at Gallery Nuance

Check out this video on YouTube: it’s me, at Gallery Nuance face painting. Thank you Sherry Disney! 

An update to this article, sadly Sherry had to close her gallery in September so she could spend time with family. We miss having Sherry and her bubbly personality on the 100 block of Gay Street, and we hope she comes back soon.

 

Hello Again Readers…

It’s been a while since I’ve written in the public forum. I am sure I am a little rusty, but hey, let’s see where this leads.

Since my exodus from the paper, I have had several people ask me to write again. It’s not like I actually stopped writing, I do it every day at work, it is just a little different. Now I am the one sending out the press releases instead of wading through them to see what is noteworthy.

For those of you who wanted me to blog, I hope I don’t disappoint you. I’m sure a lot of my ramblings will talk about my faith, if that bothers you, change the channel. For those of you who know me, I am who I am and I make no apologies for that. If you know me, you also know I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be. I have done many, many things that I am not proud of but I can only hope that I have learned from them. I may share some of those lessons as we travel along this path, we’ll see.

Sometimes I have been called the Queen of Too Much Information so be aware that I will say things that may you may not want to know. I have tried to improve with age. I have been told that if you don’t want to know my opinion then don’t ask me. I don’t that was meant as a compliment, but I took it as one. In any case, I will do what my hubby, Andy, usually does when he meets someone new. I will apologize before-hand.

Here goes. Dear readers, I will at some point offend your sensibilities, for that I apologize now.

Just so you know my husband is the King of Too Much Information and the Duke of Inappropriate Conversation.  He has a good heart, but there is no stop between his brain and his mouth. I am sure he will be the topic of much conversation. He is a great source of material. I’m just glad he loves me and knows me well enough to understand my ramblings.

Many people say I am too nice and I always look at life with an optimistic attitude. To that I say, I am diplomatic, not necessarily nice but I try. Life is too short to spend it angry, I’d rather laugh. As for my outlook on life, I have an odd perspective, one that usually takes some explaining, and that can make things interesting.

Well, I hope I can share some laughter and enough strange perspective with this writing endeavor to keep you interested. Thanks for tuning in and not changing the channel, yet. I’ll post again soon.

Thanks for reading.