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Inspiration comes from a great big Lug of a dog

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Dolly Withrow Dolly Withrow

Dolly Withrow is a columnist for The State Journal and the Charleston Daily Mail. Contact Dolly at

"Grandma, that dog doesn't have any eyes." 

"What do you mean that dog doesn't have any eyes?" 

On the morning of Dec. 21, 2012, heavy snow had layered the landscape and large flakes were still falling. The day was bitter cold, and already roads and walkways were slippery. Wilma Davis walked out her front door and across the large porch. She was en route to her office, located in a white building behind her house. As she walked past the garage, something seized her attention. Looking to her right, she saw a snow-covered dog leaning against the garage door. She walked slowly toward the dog and discovered it was so tired it could hardly stand. 

She opened the garage door and entered. The dog followed. In a few minutes, she brought out a blanket, food and water. After drinking and eating, it collapsed. Later in the day, her grandson went out to walk the newcomer and that's when he learned it had no eyes. It was wearing a collar, but the collar had no identification. 

Wilma kept the dog in her garage where it would be warm and well fed. She already had two Himalayan cats and a frisky 7-pound yorkie-poo with a curly black coat. She didn't need another animal. She kept the dog from Friday until Wednesday, the day after Christmas. All her grandchildren got to see the dog, and Wilma called him her Christmas dog. 

Later, she called the Kanawha County Animal Shelter and asked the woman at the shelter if anyone had reported a missing dog matching the description of her new guest. The woman said no one had. Wilma then mentioned the dog had no eyes. Bingo! Yes, the woman said she had received a call about a missing dog with no eyes, and she gave Wilma the woman's phone number.

Wilma called Diane McDonald, who had lost her eyeless dog. Diane said Lug had been inside an electric fence and the battery in his collar must have died. The two women met and Lug was back with his family. To travel from his home to Wilma's house, Lug had walked at least a mile, going under or over at least two fences and then crossing busy Big Tyler Road. Wilma and Diane agreed that a guardian angel had safely guided Lug down the street to Wilma's house. They believed the journey was a miracle.

One day, Wilma called me and said, "Do I ever have a story for you." Following her call, Wilma and I sat on Diane and Mike McDonald's front porch. Like those in my family, the McDonalds rescued all their four-legged family members. They also have cats, ducks, roosters, hens, at least one prissy turkey and several other dogs. Lug came to me on the porch, and I rubbed his head. When he became weary of being petted, he sauntered off. Diane said his main character trait is his independence. Lug ambled across the porch with a body profile like a buffalo — head lowered toward the ground. He approached the edge of the porch where the steps descended, and I said, "Oh, he's going to fall down the steps." 

Mike and Diane smiled, and Mike said, "No, he won't fall. He has a routine. He walks down the steps and onto the dead-end street. He strolls down the middle of the road and after passing our house, turns and comes back in the yard. Then he climbs the steps on the other end of the porch." I watched, and that's what he did, head close to the ground all the while.

Lug is 14 years old. He was the oldest in a litter of 13 puppies. For the first 10 years, he was healthy, but his corneas began to enlarge. Mike said he was bug-eyed and couldn't close his eyes. He was also in severe pain. They took their chow-shepherd mix to the vet, and received bad news. They had two choices: have Lug "put down" or have his eyes removed. Diane said it was a tough decision, but she said, "Animals are not disposable." They opted for the eye surgery. Lug wore a cone collar for one month.

"He's a smart dog," said Mike. "He sometimes stands in front of the electric fence and listens to the buzz his collar generates. When the sound dies, he runs across the fence. Now, though, Lug is also almost deaf, but he's not helpless. He knows how to work the bungee cord on the chain-link gate. He goes through the gate and the bungee cord springs back in place. The other dogs can't work it. Once inside, Lug joins his partner, Widget, and the two dogs go hunting for duck eggs. But every day, Lug makes his rounds, down the steps, in front of the house and back up the steps. When I asked how his blindness changed his personality, Mike laughed and said, "He's a much nicer dog." Lug lost his sight but kept his intelligence, and he gained some wisdom along the way.