Lance, a border collie and the main character in the book Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, was purchased from what may very well have been a puppy mill in an attempt to make a dysfunctional family more functional. This is the classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Not only did that family remain troubled, but Lance, only a few weeks old, was unceremoniously kicked out of the house and tethered to a stake with a heavy chain. This all occurred during the Christmas season.
Although a neighbor did her best to care for Lance, he spent the next ten Christmases and every single day in between them in the not-so-great outdoors, stuck on his hostile owners’ property. The photo on the left shows the entirety of Lance’s world for the first decade of his life.
Just before his 11th Christmas, I met Lance by pure accident. I began walking him from his “prison” on a regular basis, feeling guilty every time I returned him to it. One thing led to another and my wife and I rescued Lance over the Fourth of July weekend in 2002. Six months later Lance celebrated the 12th Christmas of his life inside a home where he was welcome, and in grand style as the photo in the middle shows. He never spent another Christmas trapped outside.
At times I feel a tremendous sadness reflecting on Lance’s life but, thanks in large part to Lance himself, I find much to chuckle about. For example, that first Christmas we bought Lance all kinds of cutting-edge dog toys, figuring we'd try to spoil him and make up for at least some of what he'd missed out on growing up. Wouldn't you know he had no interest in the toys (possibly because of his age?). What interested him was what those toys (and everybody else’s gifts) were wrapped in. Once a gift was opened, he’d wait for me to roll the paper it came in into a ball and throw it to him so he could shred it, as he's doing in the photo on the right. Having found out he had such inexpensive tastes, we spent a lot less on him during subsequent Christmases. I’m confident Lance wasn’t upset at all.
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).