That Night With Lady
In January 2013, my dad, Barry Fulk, retired from his job at a textile mill in Winston-Salem. He retired as a supervisor, with 44 years and four months at the same company, at positions that included machine mechanic and welder. This type of loyalty is unheard of these days. I am sure there were days he wanted to quit and other days that were the best of his life. But he stuck it out through layoffs, downsizing, company buy-outs, and even a few fires.
He had worked at the mill a year longer than I am old. As I think back on all he has done for me and our family, I think back to a day 30 years ago in King, Stokes County, where he and my mom, Carolyn, live to this day. When I was just 14 years old I had a special dog named Lady. Lady was a mixed breed herding dog who was extremely smart and loved me like no other animal could. She was solid black and weighed about 40 pounds. Lady was my girl, and I loved her just as much as she loved me.
Lady had a certain spot on our dirt gravel road where each day she waited on me to get off the bus. It was a ritual for us to meet every afternoon. One afternoon I got off the bus and realized immediately that Lady was not there. I began to yell her name over and over. A sickening feeling began to come over me. The longer I went without seeing her, the more frantic I became. As I walked the dirt road home, I looked desperately for her, and I knew in my heart something was wrong.
When my dad got home from his job at the textile plant, I was standing in our driveway waiting on him. He could not get the door open fast enough for me to tell him that Lady was missing. He listened and said maybe she would be home later. I was satisfied for a few minutes, but I knew something was wrong. As dark began to fall, my dad could see the concern in my eyes and asked me if I wanted to ride around in the car and look for Lady. Of course I said yes.
As we rode down some of the nearby roads, my dad drove real slowly, and I yelled out "Lady! Lady!" over and over. All of a sudden I heard Lady yelp. I yelled at my dad, "Stop!" I bolted out of the car and ran toward the railroad track, and there lay Lady. She had been hit by a car, and it was bad, real bad. Her right rear leg was severely mangled with open lacerations. I had never seen such an injury, and I was nearly gasping for breath. I yelled for my dad, and he pulled the car off the road and ran over. Dad immediately knew it was bad, too. He took off his thick welder's jacket and laid it on the ground, and then we carefully moved her over onto it. Lady was yelping and crying. She was in pain.
Dad carried her to the back seat of the car with blood going everywhere. He didn't care that the car was getting all messed up. I got in the back seat with Lady, and Dad mashed the gas pedal to the floor. We went back to our house where Dad ran in and told my mom to find a 24-hour vet. Mom tore through the thick Winston-Salem phonebook frantically and found a vet 25 miles away in Winston-Salem.
Dad and Mom hopped back in the car with me and drove the 25 miles to Winston-Salem. Dad drove as though a person was in the back seat dying. We got to the vet, and they were waiting on us. Dad scooped up Lady and took her in to the table. When the vet looked at her leg and took an X-ray, I read his face as though it were an open book. His facial expression said "This is serious." He turned and looked at us and said at the very least her leg needed to be amputated, and there were internal injuries as well. In other words, she needed to be put down.
I knew the whole trip down there that she had life-threatening injuries, and that this was a possibility. But that didn't make it any easier. I knew in my heart that it was the right decision. I loved her as much as I loved some people I knew. Finally I agreed to let my friend go. It was hard. I cried and gasped for air as I lay on her and told her good-bye. My mom tried to comfort me as moms do. She wanted to make Lady better, but she couldn't.
Even though this was more than 30 years ago, I have never forgotten the love my dad and mom showed when Lady got hurt. They had little to no extra money, but they pulled out all the stops to try and help Lady. Textile workers have never been rich people who had money to throw around. That night I am sure they spent money on Lady that took months to make up. Twenty-four-hour vets are expensive now, and were then, too. My dad and mom didn't care. They were only worried about me and Lady.
Thanks, Dad and Mom, for everything, especially for trying to save Lady. Congratulations, Dad, on your retirement. You and Mom deserve all the good things that come your way.