Everyone needs a little sweetness in their life - by Carol Rutkowski

Our Sweetness went to her eternal home in heaven on July 19, 2005.  We had her for 3 years and 7 days.

Backtracking, let me start by saying that we fell in love with Dalmatians when our son, Ryan, was attending the Brayton Fire Academy at Texas A&M. We were directed to a firefighter for the City of Carrollton whose dog had had puppies and that was ready for a home of their own. We met both of the parents and they seemed to be quite handsome and well mannered. We spent the afternoon watching the puppies interact with each other and decided on the one who actually picked us. We took her home and named her Cinder and agonized during the puppy chewing stage as to what piece of furniture would survive her wood cravings. We learned quickly, but not quick enough, that crating your dog is far better than shutting it up in the master bathroom while we were at work. $1,000 damage to wallpaper was the deciding factor. As Cinder grew older she became quite the little guard dog - she owned her backyard, alley, front yard, and sidewalks on both sides of the streets in front. Anyone or thing entering her space were immediately barked at until they left. If anyone came to the front door and rang the bell she was up like a shot jumping at the door and barking to beat the band. You cannot know how we used to dive for the remote control' mute button when the Domino's commercials came on. For nine years Cinder greeted anyone coming in the back door like family and acted whatever way a family member needed her to act. We learned about Dalmatian smiles and that a dog can finally learn manners no matter how many schools she has flunked out of.

One day the doorbell rang and she barked so hard at whoever was on the other side that she suffered a heart attack and died on the spot. We were in such pain that our family member was gone that we would not even consider another pet for a long time. We finally decided that we had heard good things about black Labradors - so we found a great kennel with a good reputation and drove to East Texas to pick out one. We had done our homework but evidently not too well - there are two types of Labs - companion dogs and hunters. Well we got a hunter. The kennel allowed us to return her, we told them to keep the money because we just wanted her to be happy. She is now winning blue ribbons in Field Trial Shows.

When we returned the house seemed way too quiet. Our son had grownup and moved out years before and we knew we had a lot to offer a pet. I got on the Internet and found Dalmatian Rescue of North Texas. Ann Rutledge, the director, and I e-mailed each other for over a week. She told us about an event in Coppell where we could meet a couple of ladies and see what we thought.

It was very hot outside when we got there. The little girl Ann told us about just was too worn out from her heartworm treatments and she just looked miserable. Ann had told us about another lady named Hope. Hope had been found wandering the streets in Oak Cliff. No one knew how old she was. It was obvious that she had had several litters of puppies. The group had treated her for heartworm and we walked with her around the fire engines at the event and each firefighter she walked up to just bent over and talked about how sweet she was. We signed up on the spot to foster her until she could get over all her ailments. Ann was amazing during our foster period. It was obvious this woman was devoted with all her heart and waking hours to finding homes for our spotted friends.

We took her home and she was in shock that she could be inside an air-conditioned house and not penned up. She has since learned what it means to be house broken. We kept calling her Hope but she just looked at us with a blank stare. Walter, my husband, and I kept talking about how sweet she was. Finally, it hit us, being former Chicago residents we grew to admire the play and life of Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears. His nickname was Sweetness. We figured that if it was good enough for him it was good enough for Hope. It seemed like when we started calling her Sweetness it turned a light on within her eyes. She responded immediately. We grew to love this gentle dog with a limp, a white seven on a black ear, broken teeth, and saggy belly. She is so unlike our Cinder that there never was a time that we felt any confusion in memory or action between the two. If anything they were polar opposites. We got her through surgery to fix her leg where a car must have hit her at some time and many infections, bladder, kidney and ear. We finally got her well enough that we were allowed to adopt her.

She has since transferred to a Vet in the neighborhood where we live who has had his hands full in trying to diagnose all that ails her. She has allergies and stomach problems and had surgery to remove a rare, as it turns out, growth that just appeared on her back one day. We need to give her an antacid pill in peanut butter a half hour before we feed her the special bland dog food and learned to accept that sometimes she needs to eat her dinner twice in order to keep it down. She has gained weight and is never apart from at least one member of our family at any one time. She smiles only at my husband, doesn't want her feet touched and it take three people to trim her toenails. She doesn't bark except when she is out in the backyard, and we would give anything to know what she is saying to the dog down the street. We often wonder what her life was like before she came to us. She does not know how to play and must sleep on the bed between us each night. We still don't know how old she is. All we know is that we love her so much. No matter how many days, months or years we are allowed to have her in our lives, we will consider ourselves the lucky ones to have experienced the life force that began as Hope, to the Sweetness she has become today.

Because of all the joy our Sweetness gave us, we know we will adopt again. She had so many medical problems, but that tail kept thumping along until her last day. We hope to find another sweet lady someday - more on the puppy side if possible.  Sweetness never learned how to play and we miss that. 

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