"One man's trash is another man's treasure." How often have you heard that? Maybe you know someone--or even are someone--who can go to a yard sale, buy the clunkiest looking bunch of stuff, and turn it into something gorgeous. I suspect such people are related to the ones who actually know what they're doing when they browse the aisles at Michaels.
They're the same people who can go to a flea market or an estate sale, buy a moldy old piece of furniture for a song, and refinish it so that it regains its former beauty. Or buy a fabric remnant and turn it into gorgeous curtains or throw pillows or placemats. Or find something in a consignment shop that not only fits but looks as though it had been made for them.
Some castoffs don't need refurbishing, like the copy of Silver Chief, Dog of the North (picture book edition) I found on the internet and bought because it reminds me of sitting and reading that book with my grandfather. It was someone else's castoff, but it's now my treasure.
Of course things aren't the only castoffs. People and animals also can be. Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay Saga is about four castoffs. The heroes of the initial trilogy are three men adopted as abandoned, abused adolescents by a college professor and his wife and molded into a family.
Now their mother is dead, and their father has taken in another abused stray--who may or may not be a blood relative. On his deathbed, he demands that they keep the boy, Seth, and they promise they will. Now these three happily single men with very different goals must remake their lives to provide a suitable home for a troubled, wary boy.
In the story arc of the first three books, they untangle the mystery of Seth's background and, of course, find true love. What starts out as a promise to their father becomes something they want to do for Seth. They come to treasure this boy who so desperately needs a family. (Seth later got his own book, Chesapeake Blue, and dealt with his abusive mother decisively)
Each of our dogs has been someone's castoff, too. As newlyweds, we adopted our first out of an ad in the paper, "Free to good home, 7-year-old golden retriever." We'd thought of going to the pound but realized neither one of us could be happy to come home from there with just one dog, or even just two, but were more likely to end up with a small pack.
This dog's family didn't feel they had time for her since they had a toddler and a newborn. We visited, saw how great she was with the toddler, and figured if they were crazy enough to give her up, we'd take her. She graced our lives for the next nine years and was the boy's much loved companion in his early life.
Anytime he was on the floor as a baby, she was between him and the rest of the room. Walk out of the room with him, and she would heave a mighty sigh, drag her aging bones up, and follow. If he ran a fever as a toddler, he liked to snuggle up against her while he waited for the medicine to bring it down, and they napped together.
Our second dog was a casualty of marriage. His owner's bride didn't feel their small house had room for two goldens, our guy and his mom, so the dogs became yard dogs (never a happy fate for a golden retriever). Then they decided the mom was too old to tolerate the extreme heat outside and brought her in, leaving our big guy outside alone.
He was terrified in thunderstorms, huddling under his doghouse, and bored the rest of the time. So he did what bored goldens do--he escaped. Unfortunately, he also visited a female dog down the street with er, productive results.
So he went up for adoption through a rescue group. Our golden girl had just died, and our house felt horribly empty, as houses do when their resident pets are gone. He quickly settled into our routines and became dh's devoted shadow, my daytime guardian, and the boy's happy playmate.
He was lonely, though, having lived with his mother most of his life, so we got another dog from the rescue group to keep him company when we weren't home. She was a golden retriever/Irish setter mix (we think), a pound rescue who had spent a lot of her time chained in a yard. We had to work on breaking her toilet-drinking habit, but we eventually prevailed.
She was zany while he had the demeanor of an Edwardian gentleman, and they made quite a pair, a true study in contrasts but with sweet, loving hearts.
One of the boy's proudest days in elementary school was when his dad and I walked the dogs up to the school for show and tell and all his classmates adored them. Being retrievers, they reciprocated. The boy's little chest puffed out like a balloon.
Unfortunately, our zany girl died of cancer. We gave her, and received in return, six years of love, but they ended too soon. Not long after that, some friends considered adopting a yellow lab from a teacher who was going back to school and couldn't give the dog the time she needed. Some of you will recognize her picture from earlier blogs.
Our friends decided they couldn't take her because their yard wasn't fenced, but she seemed like she would be a good companion for our lonely, grieving old guy. And she was.
Six months later, she became loving consolation for us when arthritis sent him across the rainbow bridge. She seemed to like being an only dog after he was gone, and so we just had her. This summer, as any of you who saw me the Thursday of National know, she died unexpectedly that morning, after surgery. We were devastated. This time, there was no warm, furry companion to bump up against us and ease the loss. Our house again felt empty and much, much too quiet.
We couldn't understand how anyone could give up such loving, sweet creatures. These dogs were all castoffs but gave us great companionship and joy.
There are, and probably always will be, lots of dogs who need homes. In September, we adopted a golden retriever whose owner had surrendered her to a rescue group. The owner's house had burned down, and she was heartbroken that she had no place she could keep her three beloved goldens. So one of them (along with her stuffed toy) has come to us, and the house doesn't feel so empty anymore.
Yes, we let her on the furniture. The lab had the unfortunate habit when she came to us, and we didn't have the energy to stay on her 24/7 and break her of it, so the precedent was set. With doggie scent on the cushions, merely telling this one to stay off wasn't going to do it, either. So we've become resigned. And have again delayed re-covering the couch.
We're all still getting to know her and vice-versa, but we can tell she's going to be a treasure for us, too. Even if she does have an unfortunate tendency to cruise the kitchen counter and sees trash cans as her toy boxes. *sigh* We're working on that.
Some of you may remember that bandita Donna MacMeans contributed a story to Lori Foster's Tails of Love anthology. All author and agent royalties from the book go to support the Animal Adoption Foundation, a no-kill shelter in Ohio. This seemed like a good book to feature today, considering the theme of this blog. This is a collection of romance novellas featuring animals.
Have you ever taken a castoff and made it a treasure? Ever marveled at how someone else did? Ever tossed something you later wished you hadn't (which is the reason I so rarely toss)? Do you have a favorite story a hero or heroine who was a castoff?
On a different tack, if you hit the Black Friday sales today, what's the coolest thing you found?
I'm giving a copy of Sea Swept to one commenter and a copy of Jeanne Adams's fabulous Deadly Little Secrets, seeing as I happen to have an extra, to one commenter. You have to answer at least one of the questions, though, to qualify.