Tuesday, March 17, 2009, My Turn • Here’s why I live here

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, March 17, 2009 edition of the Lassen County Times.

If you are considering moving away from this community, think hard about what you might be leaving behind.

This past weekend I witnessed nothing short of a miracle in Susanville, and I know this kind of miracle happens quite often. Whenever someone is sick or needs help in this county, everyone comes together. I experienced this phenomenon firsthand over the past few weeks after we learned my son’s dog, Mercy, needed very expensive orthopedic surgery.

Mercy had been abused as a pup, was saved by Lassen Animal Rescue and later adopted by my son, Tyson Schroeder. We don’t know if she was kicked or what exactly she went through when she was young, but as a result she had what’s called medial luxating patella, which basically means her kneecap was sitting over on the side of her leg instead of where it should be. She avoided carrying any weight on that leg. The operation to correct it entailed deepening the bone trench that holds the kneecap and then shortening and repairing the tendon that holds it in place.

Tyson and I wracked our brains to figure out how to pay for it. We were told Mercy needed the operation as soon as possible because her bone was rubbing on bone. Our very good friend, Angela Tinsley, suggested having a yard sale to raise money, and offered to have it at her house.

What followed was a three-week long flurry of activity, and I have never been so overwhelmed by the care and support we received from so many people. You might have seen the ad we ran in the paper with Mercy’s picture, or maybe you heard Tyson on the radio advertising the sale. Maybe you were one of those big-hearted people who donated so many items. We can never begin to thank everyone enough.

Many, many people called us with donations to be picked up, or they dropped them off. It seemed everyone wanted to help in some way.

Since it had snowed so heavily the week before the sale, Angela cleared out her downstairs so we could store stuff inside. For an entire weekend and every night after work we brought loads of items to her house.

Her downstairs began to look more like a warehouse than a home, and we started wondering how we were ever going to get it all priced and organized, and worse yet, outside on tables with all the snow. Angela lived and breathed this yard sale for at least two weeks, sorting and pricing every day. The rest of us came after work and sorted until late at night. We didn’t sleep very much and many times I thought about the heroes of the Lassen Humane Society and Lassen Animal Rescue who have giant yard sales every year to raise money. How on earth do they do it?

It was amazing to me that all of the donations we received were nice things, some very expensive things too, and all of it was clean, folded, dusted and well cared for. I could feel people’s hearts going out to this injured dog with every item I touched.

My boss, Mike Taborski of Feather Publishing, donated advertising space, and his wife Keri put a note on the office bulletin board in Quincy, and we received boxes of donations all the way from our Quincy office, which traveled by special courier over icy roads to get here.

Tyson’s boss, Rod Chambers at KSUE/JDX, let Tyson advertise the sale during Swap Shop, and then donated a night’s stay at Circus Circus in Reno for a drawing at the sale.

The day before the big event arrived to find Angela outside shoveling snow. She wanted to make room for the tables we borrowed and make it safe for people to walk. We arrived much later, one by one, after we each got off work. I was one of the last to arrive that night and I was amazed at all the work our friends had done moving everything outside.

When it got late and they all went home, I stayed and folded clothes and organized some of the rest as best I could. I had the same feeling I always do on Christmas Eve:  the silent, magic anticipation. I was too wound up to sleep much that night, as I doubt any of us did.

The next morning, we were all there at dawn putting the rest of the stuff outside because we had been afraid to leave it out in the cold the night before. It promised to be a sunny day, and we hurriedly started carrying items out to set on top of dressers and tables, only to find they slid right off because everything was icy.

Amazingly we were ready, or mostly ready, before the people started coming, and when they did it was unbelievable. They came in droves. They all had smiles on their faces as they shivered. In 16-degree weather, many of them petted Mercy and asked for details about her upcoming surgery. With teeth chattering they bought and bought and bought. Many of them donated money without buying anything. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. People kept coming all day, some even still bringing donations. One young man came to me with $4 and said he didn’t want to buy anything, but he wanted us to have his only money to help Mercy.

It all happened so fast. So many generous, giving people descended upon us, and even though there were about seven of our close friends helping, we couldn’t keep up with it all. I apologize if we were unable to help someone who had a question or maybe needed something carried to their car.

The musicians made a valiant effort to provide the live music we had promised. Sam Williams, Mel McCormick and Joan Harris deserve a big thank you for playing for us, even though I’m sure their fingers were frozen solid.

At the end of the day, we began packing up the unsold items to be donated to the Lassen Humane Society and Lassen Animal Rescue. I was beyond exhausted, but a smile had been permanently stuck somewhere beneath my frozen nose. Tyson came up to me and very carefully told me the final tally, watching my face. It was nearly enough to pay for the surgery! It sounds silly now, but I was so surprised and happy I started to cry. He would never admit it, but he looked misty-eyed too. The people of Lassen County had really come out for an abused dog who needed help.

Tyson took Mercy to Anderson for surgery last Monday, two days after the sale. A big surprise awaited them: Lassen Animal Rescue had made a huge donation directly to the vet! Her leg was successfully repaired, and we are happy to report she is recovering nicely, and on her way to being a normal, happy dog. Because of the giving people in this community, she will be able to romp and play on all four legs for the rest of her life.

 I will never forget this whole experience as long as I live. The outpouring of love for a dog from the many citizens of Lassen County is something all of us should be proud of. I, for one, can never imagine living anywhere else.

Mercy, so aptly named, was shown a lot of mercy by our friends and neighbors in this big-hearted community, and she sends her thanks to all of you.