Late yesterday afternoon I was headed to Tom and Jenny's ranch in the Hill country of Texas. About 75 miles northwest of Austin. I had a car to drop off in Austin, but the customer wouldn't accept delivery until early next week, and I needed a place to stay. I couldn't think of a better place to stop for Christmas, and Jenny was thrilled when I called to say I was coming. She said she had a big surprise for me. I assumed that meant she had more new dogs, as she takes in all the abandoned dogs that folks drop off there.
When I arrived, I could see I was right. There was an entirely new structure and fenced in yard down the driveway from their home. Many new dogs there. When I pulled up in front of the house, Jenny came running out to greet me. Tom was close behind her, and 8 dogs ran beside them. She and I embraced, and she kissed me on the cheek. "Bill-dog, Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas to you," I said.
"Hey dog," said Tom, as he gave me a manly hug. "Glad you could join us for the holidays, we don't get many out of town guests."
"I can't wait to show you our surprise," Jenny told me with joy. "We have a new addition."
"I already saw it driving in. You have a new building for dogs and a nice yard fenced in so they can run around."
"Built it myself, Bill-dog," Tom said proudly.
"Yeah, I figured so."
Jenny shook her head. "Yes, but that's not the surprise."
"Then what is it?"
"Come on inside," she said.
I followed both of them towards the house. "How many dogs do you have now?"
Tom laughed. "40 at last count."
"42 as of yesterday," Jenny corrected. She led us into the house, and I nearly tripped as all the dogs pushed their way through the door at the same time as me. I stopped short when I saw the surprise, and didn't immediately understand. There were 3 little girls there. "Bill, meet Angie, Lily and Tammi."
"You're watching someone else's kids?"
"Kinda," answered Tom.
"Long term," Jenny explained. "Angie is 7, Lily is 4, and Tammi is 2 years old."
"How did... I'm not sure I understand."
"Their parents got entangled with some Imperial troops," said Tom.
Jenny chuckled. "He's making a STAR WARS reference for your benefit."
"Yeah, I got that. The Police?"
"Yep." Tom shook his head.
Jenny nodded sadly. "The parents got busted for selling large quantities of pot."
"Again," added Tom.
"And for cooking crystal meth."
"Again," added Tom.
"We're their friends, and we didn't even know they were into all this. I mean we knew they puffed pot a bit, but thought they were smart enough not to sell or manufacture stuff." Jenny sighed.
Tom huffed. "You can't do that when you have little kids, Bill. You just can't."
"I understand. So you took the kids in?"
"We had to," said Tom.
"Otherwise they would have become wards of the state, and that would be awful for them." Jenny's eyes became moist.
"The way I saw it, we didn't have any choice," Tom said with real conviction. "They needed a home, and God gave us the privilege of providing one for them."
"What else could we do?" she asked.
I sat down, taking it all in. The girls all wandered out the open door into the yard, and a few of the dogs followed them. "How long will you be keeping them?"
"As long as it takes. As long as they need us," Jenny told me.
"They are now our responsibility, and you probably know by now that we don't take responsibilities lightly," Tom said.
"God sent them our way, and we will take care of them."
I swallowed hard. "I've always been very impressed that you take in all these dogs and take care of them."
"And find homes for most of them. Some take longer than others," she said.
"But this is huge. Taking in these small girls. It's like... well I don't know what it's like."
Lily came back into the house and ran up to me. She held out her hand, which had a fistful of weeds in it. Jenny smiled. "She thinks they're flowers, she wants to give them to you."
I took the weeds gently out of Lily's hands. "Thank you, Lily, that's very sweet." The girl giggled and ran back out the door.
"They are some good kids, Bill. We've grown to love them, and will take care of them. Feed them, clothe them, protect them." Tom nodded. "It's just the right thing to do, you know?"
I don't think I've ever been so filled with the Christmas spirit. And I'm overwhelmed by the love and sacrifice my friends are making on behalf of these kids. If every person who has something in the world could reach out and help those who don't, even a little bit, what a great world this would be.
I slept good last night, and when I got up this morning I so enjoyed watching these little gals open their presents from Santa. Tom and Jenny took good care of them. I took a break to sit at the computer and write this Blog. Now I'm going into the kitchen to see if I can help Jenny prepare the big feast we're having today. I hope that everyone has as warm and wonderful a Christmas as this driving fool.