We never worry about her down there, she is so obedient and never is far from Joe or I, even when the other lake dogs are running all around. Around 9 on Sunday night, it was almost totally dark and we were just picking up all of our stuff that was out on the dock and getting ready for the night. Suddenly, very close by(20 yards or so) folks started letting off fireworks unexpectedly. Darby became immediately spooked and took off back down the dock for land. Joe went directly after her calling her and trying to get her to calm down. She was running, and fast, and took off into the shadows. At this point it was totally dark and we couldn't see where she went.
Thus began the longest 16 hours of my life. Seriously. Those without dogs that they totally love might think this is ridiculous, but I cannot think of another time that I have been so distraught and upset. ever. I immediately had a sinking feeling and knew that she had to be scared out of her mind to run and to not listen to us when we were calling her. This started the night hunt that we did for her until 2 in the morning. Luckily, or unluckily, the lake property is not a busy area, in fact very rural. But the unlucky part being that the area is very rural, meaning thousands of acres. Joe started walking the woods at 9 with nothing but a flashlight, and I was looking for her up and down the roads yelling and calling her name. Others at the lake tried to help, but it was pitch dark and only very few flashlights and all of our friends had left. Plus, it was not as big of a deal to the masses as it was to Joe and I that our dog was missing. Lots of "aw, she'll come back"s by many local and friendly rednecks. Though this line of thought proved very unhelpful to me. More fireworks, I knew, were not going to help us find her- and they continued off and on until well after midnight. Still, we look and yelled for her and looked some more. Joe, I know, covered many miles back and forth in the woods with just a maglight. We were so upset and I was trying not to panic quite yet, but couldn't help but just cry at the thought of not being able to find her. I had the worst doom feeling because I knew she was not one to run off, much less just decide to come home if she was that scared. We prayed and prayed. I am definitely not one to waste prayers, but I know the Lord knows how much we love her, though I was resigned to the fact that I know He loves me wether we found her or not. I tried hard not to bargain with Him, but it was super hard not to. I just kept praying we would find her safely.
Eventually we decided to try and sleep and get up at first light to look some more. All night, or the 4 hours we laid down, we kept getting up every time we heard something thinking it could be her. Needless to say that it wasn't much rest, not to mention the fact that Joe got up half way through the night and became sick from all the water that had gotten up his nose from his couple of nasty falls skiing. (I won't go into detail here) At 6, we got up to a completely sinking feeling once we knew she had not returned overnight. And by sinking feeling, I mean a total and complete breakdown. All rationale was out the window and we both were just puddling messes over thinking about our missing bear and how scared she must be. Also, the fact that we know she is a city dog, not a country dog, and her days consist of laying on a padded bed in air conditioning, not being lost in the woods with no food or water. Drinking water out of the lake is as rustic as she gets. After all, she is a Hartsell dog, people! She has a very wonderful life!
With everyone in my family at the beach, I felt even more helpless, but called Leah, the best friend a girl could ask for, to come get me to take me back to Concord so that we could make flyers and so that Joe wouldn't have to be without his car. She came and we were back on the road to Concord by 7:30(it's about a 35 minute drive). We left Joe hunting, while we came to make the flyers. Poor Leah, I cried the whole way home, but she was so supportive and tried to stay calm. It was not a good scene. When we got to the house and I saw Darby's bowls, and then her crate, and then her toys, the breakdown continued. I checked in on her micro chip and even the sweet man at the 24 hr pet watch made me cry even more by telling me to hang in there. Looking through her pictures trying to find just the right ones that showed her shape and size was also heartbreaking.....ones like this of her with her dad made me want to crawl in a hole.
Leah and I made the flyers and headed back down to the lake armed with staple guns, tape, and 400 Lost Darby flyers. This search was no joke people! I had to find my sweet Darby!
By the time we got back, Katie and Haskell had come, Joe's dad had met up with Joe, and Leah's husband Daniel had come as well, so we all split up with the flyers. We put those bad boys up high and low and talked to every person who would listen, was standing outside their house, or looked remotely like someone who would care. So many sweet people gave us words of encouragement, but honestly this just made me cry worse. Every sweet lady in every gas station would say something so nice that I would just cry as I taped up the flyers.
Come 1 in the afternoon, we had put up the majority of the flyers and talked to everyone we could. I was starting to make my plan for the rest of the week....move down to the lake, go get my computer so I could try and work and figure out a way to have someone down there at all times in case she came back. Joe at this point was the walking dead since he hadn't slept and had now been hiking the woods for some 6-8 hours. My mom, who I had called at 6:30am at the beach in a total state of ridiculousness had also just arrived- they left the beach as soon as she could get the car loaded to come help. So she set off with Leah to hang up more flyers. Joe and Daniel had run out of the flyers and had stopped in at the house to get water. I was making Joe sit down for a second, when no more then a few minutes had passed and the house phone rang. We jumped up to get it and it was a man who Joe's dad had spoken with at the nearby Boy Scout Camp earlier that morning, which by the way, is located on 1000 acres. Katie and Haskell had also taken some flyers by there. He called to say that he had our dog! Let me tell you what relief we felt!!!! We couldn't stop smiling, though I really wanted to lay eyes on her before I truly believed it.
The man at the camp had been keeping a lookout when he said he found her in one of the campsites that wasn't being used that week. I could've kissed this man!!! He had no clue how much of a panic we had been in and what it meant to have her back. Darby was slapped dab worn out. Weak on her feet, covered in briars(did I mention poodle fur not the best for woodsy activities) and limping because her poor paws were basically rubbed raw. She had NO energy and I am so glad we found her when we did. I am not sure how much longer she would have made it on her own in the state she was found. Completely dehydrated, her nose was covered in mud from where she was trying to find water in a mud puddle(silly dog, come home and there is a whole lake you can drink out of). I have never felt such dread followed by such elation in such a short amount of time. So, the ordeal was finally over! From 9pm until almost 2pm the next day we searched high and low for her. So many friends offered support and help and I am so thankful to all of them. I know that if we didn't do ALL we could, I would have never forgiven myself if it did not have a happy outcome. And super thankful to our friends who gave up basically their holiday to help us. Joe and I truly truly owe each of you, BIG TIME!
After we had all calmed down, and our adrenaline finally gave out, my mom said to me "Now you know what it will be like when you have a child, how much you will worry....". I said to her, "Oh, now I definitely know!!!!! That nearly killed me!" Which, in hindsight was a good lesson to learn considering we will get to test that theory come December.
That's right, in case you missed it, Baby Hartsell due this December:) We were planning to "go public" this week and this seemed like the right time to announce it after all we have been through this weekend and after all the love and support we were given by so many. If this baby is loved near as much as Darby, he/she will be in pretty good shape....and I can only image how much MORE it will be loved, as it already is so much even right this second. I guess now would be a good time to post the infamous ultra sound photo, but we don't have a digital copy so far and I have another ultra sound next week that will be much more up to date...so I will post one then. In fact, next week we will find out what we are having! I know! I am sure life will be super different this time next year, but we are so excited for the journey and can't wait to see what is in store for us as parents. We have had some time for the news to soak in personally for us, and we are just too excited and can't wait to be a mom and dad and grow our family together. Besides just being super exhausted(oh yea, and this was right around the time LeAnn got married, a nice combination), I have been very lucky so far...no morning sickness, which is how I have been able to keep on keeping on without skipping too many beats. May was a little rough with my fatigue, but that was the worst of it so far. In fact, we have already shot 7 weddings since finding out! If I was a little slow on my turnaround in May and early June, consider this my official apology:) Nobody knew we were preggers and the fatigue had me sleeping sometimes more than I was able to work. All in all, though, it has been a great process for us so far.
As far as weddings this year go, we were pretty lucky in how the whole thing worked out, so we will not miss anything that we already have booked:) So thankful to get to work with all of the brides we have scheduled this year! One thing that may be a little different towards the end of the year would be Christmas photos and Christmas mini-sessions, but I plan on working all of that out soon and posting it on my facebook fan page and then on the blog.
I know this was a super long post with lots of different news, so thank you for taking the time to read it!! We will resume regular photo goodness tomorrow:)