Cristen Vaughn, The Belle Wall Blog


The Belle Wall is a lifestyle blog about reclaiming new life in the Old South.  Learn more here.

Finding Mr. Darcy

Finding Mr. Darcy

“Timing is everything.  The things you are praying for will show up when you are most ready for them.” – Mandy Hale

As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog – of my own…not just the family dog.

A few "tails" of our family dogs...

Gabriel, the dachshund

My first dog was my Mom’s dog, Gabriel (a dachshund), who my Mom got when she was still single and living on her own.  He was her companion for many years before she met my Dad.  Once her and my Dad started dating, Gabriel, would sit in between them on the couch, jealous of another guy competing for my Mom’s attention.  

After I was born and my parents brought me home from the hospital, they put me on the floor and let Gabriel lick all over me in order to get acquainted.  From that point on, Gabriel was my companion.  He would sleep under my crib and growl at anyone who tried to come into my room other than my Mom and Dad.  As I grew up, Gabriel was my steadfast, childhood friend, and we had a lot of fond memories together.  He started declining in health to the point we had to put him down around the age of 16.  It was so sad for the whole family – this was my Mom’s companion, her one and only for many years before she had a family of her own – he was her family.  It made me pine for the day I could have a companion of my own and experience the kind of unconditional love that only a dog can give.

Charlie, the dachshund

After Gabriel passed away, we got another dog, a dachshund named Charlie.  My Brother and I begged our parents to let us buy him from the pet store on a random whim one night – something that my parents didn’t do.  They were meticulous decision makers, so spontaneously letting us take him home from the pet store that evening was VERY out of character for them.  

But how do you say no to a sweet puppy and two young kids with puppy eyes?  Charlie was a hyper dachshund, suffering from over-breeding and a nervous disorder.  Despite his failures, he was a sweet dog, and my Brother and I finally felt like we had a dog of our own as we were there from the beginning and part of the decision to get him.  Unfortunately, Charlie didn’t live very long as he developed back problems so severe that we had to put him down to end his suffering.  

Slippy, the greyhound

A few years passed before we got another dog, and my parents decided to go from small to large, adopting a greyhound instead of their traditional go-to dachshunds.  We decided to pick out an ex-racing dog from the Greyhound Friends rescue organization.  His name was Slippy, and he was a HUGE greyhound.  Although he was large, he still loved to cuddle and would roll himself into a tight ball at the end of the couch to take naps with my Mom.  

He would drink so much water because of his size that every morning he really had to relieve himself in the morning.  To alert my Mom of his need to go outside and do his business, he would come around to her side of the bed and blow (puff air out of his mouth) in her face until she would wake up.  

One year, on the night before New Year’s Eve, the entire household woke to Slippy making a loud, yelping noise.  He was having a heart attack.  As greyhounds are larger animals, they don’t tend to live that long.  My Dad tried to resuscitate him by giving him CPR, but it was too late.

I had to watch my Mom and Dad carry his body to our basement to take to the vet in the morning.  It was one of the only times I have ever seen my Dad cry.

Merlin, the greyhound

After some more time had passed, we adopted another greyhound named Merlin.  Merlin was one of my favorite dogs.  He was black and white and had a gentlemen’s soul.  We often referred to him as “Smiley” as he would lift his upper lip and smile at you when you came to the front door.  He was my friend throughout my teenage years / young adulthood and would always greet me with a smile when I came home from college.  Merlin was my companion through some tough times in my life.  He was an afternoon napper, as most greyhounds are, and would wait for me to tuck him into his quilt covered bed, turn on his nature sounds music, and go to sleep.  He would spin upside down (a typical greyhound trait) with all 4 legs in the air, and his belly would turn pink when he was warm.  

When we moved from the only house I had ever known in High Point, NC (we never moved when I was growing up) to my parents’ dream house on several acres of land near Hanging Rock, NC (surrounded by mountains...YES!), Merlin was in Heaven.  He loved his retirement years from his racing days, taking in all of the smells of other animals and nature on our property.  He lived to an old greyhound age of 11 before we finally had to put him down as he suffered too many strokes.  I will never forget one of the first times I came home after Merlin was gone, pulling up to our house in the woods, walking to the front door, waiting to see Merlin’s familiar smile, and remembering that he was gone.  Thinking about it now, I still tear up.  I really miss his sweet soul.

After that, my parents never got another dog.  Since Merlin, they now have horses and miniature donkeys and spoil them just as they have with every other animal they have owned. 

The journey to my own dog

I’m glad to have had these experiences growing up with our family dogs.  They were my partners, my family, my friends.  Despite the love I shared with these dogs, I still felt like something was missing – my own dog.  I knew what it meant to own a dog and the responsibility that went along with it.  And what an awesome responsibility it is to own a dog, treat them well, and make them a part of your family!  So I waited for years to get one, making sure the timing was right.  In 2014, I finally felt it was the right time for me to get a dog – I was 30 years old, settled in my career, and comfortable enough with the pace of my life. 

One day, someone I knew in Wilmington, NC posted a picture on Facebook of a stray who needed a home.  I immediately replied to the posting in order to adopt the sweet, homeless dog.  I named her, paid for her vet bills, bought a ton of dog toys, blankets, water / food dishes, etc., and booked a dog friendly B&B in Wilmington in order to bond with her overnight before bringing her to my home in Raleigh that weekend.  

Unexpected news

That Thursday afternoon, I drove down to Wilmington to stay with a close friend so I could get up extra early the next morning to pick up my long-awaited, furry companion.  The next morning, Friday May 16th, 2014, as I was about to head out to pick up my new family member, my phone rang with bad news that my future pet had run away, and they couldn’t find her.  

Devastated and heartbroken, I spent the rest of the day driving to adoption centers all over New Hanover and Pender counties trying to find a dog to adopt.  I just knew that when and if I found the “one” that it would click, and I would be going back home to Raleigh, NC with a new-found friend.  Unfortunately, none of the dogs I met that day worked out – I just couldn’t bring myself to take one home – nothing felt “right”.

I spent the next few days collecting my thoughts and reanalyzing my situation.  I knew I had to do some soul searching in order to find my dog.  After many hours of contemplation and remembering all of the good times with my old family pets, I decided to look for a whippet.

Whippets look just like greyhounds, only smaller.  It’s really hard to adopt whippets, however – they are a special breed and are rarely given up for adoption.  Whippets are simply great dogs.  So I started searching for breeders in NC and VA.  That proved difficult as well as they aren’t heavily bred like many other popular, mainstream dog breeds, such as labs and golden retrievers.  I filled out countless applications online and put my name out there, hoping and praying that I would find my whippet.

On a random Saturday, while getting ready for a first date who I had met on an online dating app, I got a phone call.  It was a whippet breeder out of Concord, NC whose prized show dog just had puppies a few weeks beforehand.  Ecstatic and filled with nervous energy for my potential pet and upcoming first date, I drove to the restaurant my date and I had chosen for our first encounter.  Thoughts raced through my head on my drive…was I finally going to have a dog to call my own?  Could this guy be a match?  Was this a sign that it was all finally starting to work out…the dog I had always wanted…the right partner I had been seeking after going on so many other dates…?

(As an aside, after my boyfriend of 5 years dumped me in 2011, I had a string of years where all I did was go on countless dates, none of which resulted in a lasting love.  Some were nice and some were just downright awful, but hey, if you don’t try, you won’t succeed, right? Nonetheless, I was starting to get burned out from dating and not finding a long-lasting connection.  At this point in my life, I was tired of being alone…no relationship and no pet…I felt it was about time for one of these things to finally work out.)  

While seated at the bar of the restaurant, my date kept texting me that he was 5 minutes away…then he hit traffic…then he had to get gas…then he got lost…then there was construction.  In my mind, I started thinking…I’m about to be stood up.  This was the only time in my life where I had ever been stood up for a date.  I thought this one might have been special (just as any girl who wears her heart on her sleeve does for potential dates).  I had gotten my hair done, put on a nice outfit, and was ready for whatever the night handed me…everything except being stood up.  Just then, I got a text from my supposed date saying he wasn’t coming and that he was very sorry.  I left the restaurant in tears.  Being stood up was hurtful, and I was tired of being hurt by cruel, careless men in the dating scene.  I went home to console my bruised emotions and tried to focus on the next best thing, my potential dog.

Over the next few days, I put aside all thoughts of finding a human partner and focused on my animal partner – filling out all of the necessary paperwork, paying my deposit, picking out which of the 5 puppies I wanted, and anxiously waiting to pick up my whippet that July (2014).  I had to wait until he was old enough to take home.  The days couldn’t go by soon enough!  I wanted that unconditional love that only a dog can truly give.  

Meeting my puppy

Finally, the day came to pick up my forever pet, so my Mom and I drove to Concord, NC, contemplating that first lick and puppy breath.  When I walked into the place, I saw my puppy. He was sitting patiently with his Mom while his brothers ran around the enclosed dog area. As I sat down on the floor, he left the comfort of his Mom’s side, ran over to me, and nuzzled into my hair and shoulders as if he had known all along that I was his Mom.  My own Mom was even surprised at our instant connection – this was my dog, and it just clicked.  

As I arrived back home in Raleigh, NC that day with my new fur-child, I filed his paperwork away and got him settled in his new home.  As I was filing his paperwork into the stack of other important documents I kept in my desk drawer, I noticed his date of birth – May 16th, 2014.  No way!  My dog had been born on the day that I was supposed to get the other dog in Wilmington, NC – the day I had been so heartbroken to learn that the dog I thought I was going to get didn’t work out!  Chills ran down my arms as I realized that God had another plan for me all along.  He knew who He wanted to put into my life.  The universe knew.  

The perfect name

I decided to name him Mr. Darcy as Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels of all time – Mr. Darcy was the man I wanted – heck, I’m sure a lot of women would love to find a Mr. Darcy!  And at that point, although I hadn’t found a human Mr. Darcy, I had my dog.

Mr. Darcy and I are best friends.  He never leaves my side, always greeting me with pure love in his little heart.  I will always be loved by him and never stood up.  I’m so happy we found each other.

A few things I learned...

The story of Mr. Darcy, my dog | The Belle Wall

Having dogs growing up taught me to understand cherish time spent with others in life as you never know when that time will end.  Appreciate every precious minute you get to spend with loved ones.  Live for those moments of joy.

This experience also taught me that things don’t always work out the way we want them to.  We get hurt feelings when things don’t come together, and we get mad at the universe and God for denying us what we think we want and need at the time.  We get stood up by life sometimes – for very good reasons…reasons that we might not know of for many years, if ever.  This experience has taught me to be patient – that when one door closes, another door opens.  

Don’t let bad experiences affect you to the point where you only have negative energy around you.  Even if you feel ready for something in your life, you might not be ready.  Oftentimes, you need to experience loss or poor timing to really appreciate when things do work out.

Understand that things may already be in the works that you know nothing about yet – remain positive, and you too will find your Mr. Darcy.

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necklace from High Strung (LOVE Caroline Lytle and her High Strung styles)

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