Many of you already know that our daughter has been serving in the Peace Corps since March 2009 in the Dominican Republic. This has been the realization of a long held dream of Jean's that began when she saw a movie in middle school about the Peace Corps. (If any of this isn't accurate, rest assured Jean will tell me, and probably in the comments following this post! Hi Jeannie!) She's always been a people lover, a people person, and very interested in other cultures, travel, and the world at large (a.k.a. the "Global Community").
After graduating from college in 2006 with a degree in International Relations with a Latin American and Caribbean concentration and a minor in Spanish, Jean worked as an Admissions Counselor at her university for almost 3 years. It was about a year and a half into her time at that job she began talking in earnest about the Peace Corps, and ultimately began the long process of applying, and the longer process of extensive medical clearances once she was accepted. She was (and still is) thrilled with her placement in the DR, because it would allow her to use her Spanish (boy, did it and does it!) and it put her in a beautiful and lush tropical island country with rich heritage and history, as well as a place where the Peace Corps has had a presence since almost the beginning of its existence. In fact, 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, and there will be a huge celebration later this year in commemoration.
So - Jean left in early March of 2009 to begin her service, and has loved it from the beginning. After their initial 3 month orientation in the capital city of Santo Domingo, the volunteers were placed in sites (cities, towns, villages, barrios) according to their sector (or area of specialty) where they would spend their time of service, which, by the way, is usually 2 years following orientation. Jean was placed in a little town called Janico, sort of centrally located in the country, where she has worked in Education and Information Technology both helping establish a computer lab at the local high school and teaching both Computer skills and English. There are countless other projects and areas in which she's become involved in her little town as well. Early on she lived with a wonderful local family until she found her own apartment a few months into her stay.
Something, er... someONE else happened early into her time in Janico, actually before she moved into her own apartment. (Trust me, we're getting to the dog =)! )... While Jean was settling in to her town and getting acquainted with it's delightful and friendly inhabitants, one of her volunteer friends, Amanda, placed about an hour north of Jean, was doing the same in her town of Imbert. Amanda was walking through the streets of her town one day and happened upon 4 very young puppies who were huddled together and alone. Concerned and taking notice, Amanda checked early the next day and found the puppies still huddled together, still alone, and likely abandoned by their mother. So she did what any dog loving Peace Corps Volunteer would do....she gathered them up and took them back to her house. Within a very short time, she found homes for 3 of the 4 dogs in some of her closest volunteer buddies - one of whom was Jean.
Jean was thrilled beyond measure to be "chosen" as a doggie mama, and took the responsibility seriously and with crazy love. CRAZY LOVE! She named her quarter of the litter Walker Percy, after a favorite author, calling him "Wally" for short. About a month after she got him, Jean and Wally moved into their own cute little 2 bedroom apartment and set up housekeeping. Wally and Jean have been inseparable ever since. It was roughly September when Jean and Wally got their own place, and 2 months later, Hubby and I went to visit and got to meet our first "grandson", as well as see Jean in action as a PCV. It was a glorious trip that you can read about here, and here . Below are a couple of pics from our visit of the canine of the hour:
You extremely intuitive blog readers have probably figured out that the dog we have now is Wally. What happened is that Jean decided several months ago to extend her time of service in the Peace Corps DR by 13 months, rather than coming home this May as most of the volunteers in her group decided to do. She was given the opportunity to serve as a Volunteer leader for the extra time, meaning that she will be a resource person over newer current volunteers throughout the DR. This position necessitates her moving to the capital, and will require a lot of travel throughout the country so she can visit the many volunteer sites. While in Janico - a very small town, she's had many friends who can keep Wally when Jean has to be away, and the layout and size of the town is such that it's easy to have a dog. Being in the large and busy capital is a different ballgame - lots of traffic, congestion, busy streets, much faster pace, and fewer local connections with whom Jean could leave Wally while she travels extensively.
Soooo - she asked if we would be interested in having Wally during this last year - so she could know he was being well cared for, loved, and doted on in the manner which he'd become accustomed under her Doggie Mama crazy love. We'd been discussing this for quite awhile once Jean made the decision to stay the extra 13 months. This has been an agonizing decision for her because she and Wally have been joined at the hip for the past 21 months, but ultimately she's found peace with it because the short time she had Wally with her in the capital illustrated clearly that it isn't a good arrangement for the dog - or for Jean. So with sadness but certainty of the soundness of the decision, she arranged for Wally's trip to the USA.
The timing of our trip to Atlanta for our youngest's graduation turned out to be perfect and providential, because the aforementioned savior of the original 4 puppies, Amanda, happens to be from Atlanta, and she was flying home (and terminating her Peace Corps service) while we were there last week! She was flying in Friday, the 13th, with her own pup (one of Wally's brothers), so she ended up bringing Wally too. A huge undertaking - bringing 2 dogs back into the country, via baggage claim, from a 2nd world country (at best), through customs...you get the picture. So that Friday, we went to Atlanta airport and met Amanda, her mother, and the 2 dogs, and got Wally to bring home to PA.
Driving to the airport, I was so excited it felt like we were going to adopt a baby from Russia!
Here is the first glimpse of the dogs in baggage claim we saw:
Seriously - don't tell me dogs don't smile!
We're loving having Wally - of course he can't replace our dear Lou who we lost about 6 weeks ago, but turns out we were ready for the pitter patter of doggy feet up and down the stairs. We knew we'd have canine love again, but didn't expect it so soon! And we couldn't be happier. He has adjusted quite well, though I'm sure he misses Jean. Turns out he'll see her in less than a week as she's coming home for a family wedding and will be with us for several weeks. I absolutely cannot wait to see her!!
Thank you so much for slogging through this long post - if you did. If not, I understand. Truth be told, this post is mainly for our dear Jean, who has been missing her baby, calling daily to check as to his well being, grilling us about whether Wally seems depressed, lonely, traumatized....the answer to each is no....and trusting us to love him as much as she does. She's been waiting patiently to see the above pictures of Wally since he deplaned in Atlanta - and finally she can.
Have a great weekend, and after this I'll be back to blogging as usual, beginning with my Sunday weigh in tomorrow that I'm sort of dreading. The week hasn't been as clean as I'd intended, and my exercise has been truncated due to endless rainy weather.
And Jean...I love you! Can't wait to see you and Wally reunite Thursday night.