Glenda Drier of Scenic Ridge Labradors in Augusta was at home working on her taxes one day back in mid-January when a phone call came in that changed her life.
Drier, along with her husband Bob and their children, have been breeding and selling Labador puppies for 10 years now, and have placed hundreds of dogs with families. She often gets calls from customers wanting to tell her how special and meaningful the dogs turn out to be, but this one was both the most gratifying and yet saddest call she has ever received.
It was from Sarah Decareaux, whose husband Dave and son Dominic of Millstadt, Ill., had adopted a puppy they named Bear back in November. The name didn’t initially sound familiar to Drier, and she assumed the purpose of the call must be about some problem or concern with the puppy, but it was quite the opposite.
Sarah was calling to express her deep love for this dog and what he had done for her children, how he had clearly tried his best to save their lives.
Suddenly Drier made the connection — this is the family who had been in the headlines all that week.
David Decareaux and his sons, 10-year-old Dominic and 8-year-old Grant, had died after being lost on a narrow trail in Mark Twain National Forest during a sudden and strong rain- storm that caused temperatures to drop quickly from about 60 degrees down to below freezing.
Drier had followed the story on the news, but never picked up on the detail about the family dog who had been on the hike and was found with them lying on Grant in an effort to protect him from the cold. The dog was the only one to survive.
When Drier suddenly made the connection, “I felt like someone had hit me on the back of the knees,” she said.
“(Sarah) had wanted me to know how much the puppy meant to them . . . when they found the boys, they were a little distance from their dad and Bear had apparently tried to pull the little one (Grant) up to where the dad was, because there were little tear marks on his shirt.”
Dominic was actually Bear’s master, Drier noted, but the puppy was likely lying on Grant because he was the smaller, more vulnerable child.
It had only been about a week since the tragedy when Sarah Decareaux called Drier to express her gratitude for this animal.
“She was so thankful that he was there with them . . . she knows he was a godsend to them.”
Drier couldn’t help but feel moved. She knew instantly she wanted to do something to help this family.
Sarah is now a widow and single mother to the couple’s three remaining children — Katie, 11, Finn, 4, and Elise, 2. She was a full-time mom and even homeschooled all of the children.
“She’s doing all she can now to make life as normal and happy as possible for them,” said Drier.
Drier decided that a fitting tribute would be to donate all of the proceeds from a new litter of puppies soon to be born by Bear’s parents, Abby and Samson.
When she shared the news with Sarah, she was “very thankful,” said Drier. “Grateful.”
Earlier this summer, Abby gave birth to seven puppies so that means a total donation of $3,500 for the Decareauxs. Drier said she has had all of the buyers write out their checks directly to the family so they can use the money for whatever is needed most.
“(The buyers) have all been very supportive and happy to help . . . all happy to be a part of it,” said Drier.
Others from the local community who had heard about the Driers’ connection to the family have stepped forward to make additional donations too, and Drier is willing to coordinate more donations for the family if others are interested in helping. She plans to mail all of the checks at one time to Sarah Decareaux.
People can call Drier for details at 636-459-0679.
She has tax-deductible forms that she can send to people who would like them.
A memorial fund also has been set up at First National Bank of Waterloo. Checks can be made payable to the Decareaux Family Memorial and mailed to 110B Osterhage Drive, Waterloo, IL 62298
The bank can be reached for more information at 618-939-6194.
Another sad twist to the story is that nearly one month to the day after David, Dominic and Grant Decareaux died, Sarah’s dog, which she had long before the family adopted Bear, was hit by a car in front of their house and killed.
She had told Drier that up until the day she lost her husband and two sons, she had almost nothing to do with Bear — he was Dominic’s dog, and Dave and Dominic cared for him. With their passing, however, Sarah has come to feel a special connection with Bear as she now takes care of him.
Drier, who went to visit the Decareauxs back in June and then welcomed the family to her home in Augusta earlier this month to play with Abby and Samson’s newborn puppies before they were sent home with their new families, said the circumstances that have brought them all together are horrific, but at the same time getting to know this family better has been “a blessing to my life.
“She has a faith that can move mountains,” Drier said of Sarah Decareaux.
“I’ve gained a friend for life.”
For more information on Scenic Ridge Labradors, people can visit the Drier family’s website at www.scenicridgelabradors.com.