In December 2009, just before the first big snowstorm of the winter, someone abandoned a skinny, young black and brown dog on Rakes Road in Franklin County.
The abandonment of unwanted animals along wooded sections of this road is a common practice, according to residents of the area.
The dog started sleeping on the ground at a green mailbox, belonging to Dawn Lynch at 775 Rakes Road. For several days, residents and passing motorists saw the animal and didn't think much about it.
However, when the Dec. 15 storm hit and dropped 15 inches of snow, the dog began to draw a lot of attention. Throughout the heavy, wet snowfall, the dog continued to sleep in the same place at the mailbox. Residents mused the animal was waiting for its master to return for him.
Wilbur and Geraldine Lynch, whose brick ranch house overlooks the mailbox area, had a bird's eye view of what was going on with the dog. And he maintains a large number of cattle at various locations, so he often travels Rakes Road while feeding and tending to his animals.
"I would pass some days during and after the storm. At times, the dog would be curled up on the ground almost covered with snow," Lynch said.
The dog would always be curled up in the same place, sleeping or keeping warm in the snow next to the mailbox, he added. It was safe behind the snow barrier created by VDOT plows scraping the road.
Then something unusual happened. From the window of his home, Lynch noticed vehicles stopping in the middle of the road. The drivers or occupants would get out and leave food for the dog.
Dale Greve, a nearby resident, was one of the people feeding the dog. "The dog wouldn't come close to me at first," he said.
Several other people would stop and feed the animal, too.
Then the second storm arrived at the end of January, dumping another 10 inches of snow. It seemed even more people became concerned about the dog's well-being.
"I never stopped to count, but I'd say on some days the dog was getting fed six or seven times. I know there were people from Falcon Ridge Road stopping along with those who live on Rakes Road," Lynch said.
At one point, someone even left a blanket for the dog.
The dog, despite its good fortune of being fed, remained distant and skittish when people stopped with food.
"I finally got him to take food from my hand, but I've never been able to touch or pet him," Greve said.
Residents who cared for the dog continued their routine of making sure it had something to eat. Before long, the animal was no longer skinny. Its sides began to fill out as it gained weight.
Before the third big storm on Friday, Feb. 5, someone built a sturdy dog house and placed it several feet directly behind the mailbox.
"I have no idea who built or put the dog house there," Lynch said. And neither does Greve.
In addition to the well-constructed shelter, a large plastic bowl was placed in front of the door.
Lynch said it is possible the dog slept in its new house, but every time he saw the animal, it was lying next to the mailbox.
After the latest storm passed, something strange happened. While Lynch was out taking care of his cattle, the dog approached Lynch, displaying friendly gestures, and followed Lynch home, where the animal now resides.
After trusting one friendly human, the dog befriended the Lynch's grandson, Wyatt Lynch. He's the 8-year-old son of Junior Lynch. The boy gave his new friend a name. Now "Peanut" and Wyatt are close and were romping in the snow Tuesday afternoon with Wyatt's black lab "Chico."
"I don't know that he's ever been treated badly, but he acts that way. It took me a little while to gain his trust," Lynch said.
Lynch also noticed the dog, which he estimated to be about a year old, had been neutered.
Now at night, Peanut sleeps close to the house in one of Geraldine's flower beds. The dog has never gone back to stay or sleep at the mailbox.
"I guess he'll always be a true outside dog," Lynch said. "I'm thinking about going down and bringing the dog house up here to the house. I just don't know if he'll sleep in it or not. Guess I'll find out."