Prospects for a happy New Year looked pretty grim just after Christmas Day when the headlines were peppered with tragedies, business closings and crime reports.
It was as if the world gave a giant sigh and said "I give up." The stories of generous givers at Christmas were replaced with police reports of people rioting at shopping malls.
If that wasn't bad enough, a man clad in a Santa suit took out several family members before turning the gun on himself in a Fort Worth, Texas home. It was all I could do not to curl up in a ball and pull the covers over my head for a few days.
But then I began to open the mail at the office and there was a letter from Jeanne Belanus of Bridgeport, Ohio. She wrote a lovely note explaining how distressed she was about the classified ad she had noticed in our newspapers. The ad referred to two lost dogs - Gus and Sophie - and how their owners were searching for them. There was even a picture of Gus, the German shorthair pointer. Sophie, according to the ad, is a St. Bernard.
Jeanne, a real animal lover, sent a $10 check along with her note. She wanted to start a fund to help pay for a search for the dogs.
When I contacted Gus' owners, Joan and Donald Dolence of Valley Grove, they were surprised and delighted, too, that someone cared that much about the dogs. However, funds are not needed, they said. Just a few prayers..
Joan explained that Sophie belongs to a neighbor and often "visited" Gus at their rural home. But on Nov. 13, the two pooches went running on their rural property and never returned.
Gus was a gift to Donald from their son and grandson four years ago and has been a "really good dog," according to Joan. The couple misses the dogs and have conducted exhaustive searches for them. They even traveled as far as Mount Pleasant, Ohio where someone thought they may have seen the dogs. But they weren't there.
Now these two pooches sound a bit too large to be overlooked running loose. That means they must have been taken by someone. The family hopes that if they were picked up, they are at least being treated well.
Gus is a friendly but shy dog, yet Joan believes he would never leave Sophie. She said they have received lots of calls from people about the dogs but so far, the dogs have not turned up.
Recently Joan and Donald were in a store in St. Clairsville when someone heard them talking about Gus and Sophie. The bystander remarked that it sounded like a love story.
The Dolence family has not given up hope of the dogs coming home, but are concerned because they had always returned from their jaunts. Whatever the ending to this story, the Dolences are grateful for people like Jeanne Belanus because she cared about their dilemma. And I thank Jeanne for restoring my faith in mankind. Thanks to people like Jeanne, the world is a better place for people and dogs
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.