At year's end, it's always interesting to look back at all that happened and realize that so little of it was anticipated while some of it was neither wanted nor appreciated.
We lost family this year, none of them expected, and each one came with the expensive price tag of tremendous sorrow.
On the Rondarosa, though, we gained new loved ones so we like to celebrate the new beginnings rather than dwelling solely on our heartbreaks.
The first to join us was a three-month-old puppy that we rescued from a drainpipe nearby as a winter's storm was approaching.
We accidentally discovered the pretty black and white pup (a mixture of beagle and pointer) while looking for our neighbor's dog that had gotten loose (she was found).
For two days, I left food at the mouth of the drainpipe while the scared puppy barked furiously. On the third day, I took a freshly-baked buttermilk biscuit. The moment she smelled it, she scampered out of the drainpipe and into my arms.
"Hello, Biscuit," I said, hugging her. Tink had just left on a flight to Los Angeles so I took her home, making her a cozy bed in a huge kennel.
"This is just until the weather gets better," I told her. "Then, you have to move outside."
My friend, Debbie, laughed. "Trust me. That dog will NEVER move outside. I say that every time I bring a dog inside."
"Oh, yes she will," I promised.
No, she didn't.
She's a bit over 30 pounds now, smart as a whip, and has huge, expressive eyes. Several people had offered to take her if we didn't want to keep her.
Tink, though, had been saying that the Rondarosa needed a farm dog. He got what he wanted. She runs alongside the tractor, wanders happily through the pastures, plays in the creek with joy, and greets our mail carrier and the UPS and Fed Ex drivers at the gate, jumps in and rides with them to the house.
Two weeks later, our new dachshund puppy, a gift from Debbie, came home from the breeder's.
She is half the size of Dixie Dew, who died just short of her 15th birthday, so we named her Dew Drop. These two make quite the pair.
"The Big ‘un and the Little ‘un," Tink calls them. Every night, around sundown, they spend at least half an hour wrestling and playfully biting each other.
"It's like the North and the South during the Civil War," I commented one night as Dew Drop jumped on Biscuit who is three times bigger.
"There's no way Dew can win but she's got the spirit and spunk to think she can."
After an exhausting battle, they collapse into a heap on top of each of other and sleep peacefully.
Four beloved rescue cats, named in honor of SEC football, disappeared within a month of one another back in the summer.
Mississippi, Georgia, Auburn (our favorite), and Archie Manning vanished.
Tennessee, Tuscaloosa and Kentucky managed to escape the peril of the others and stayed safe.
When our dear friend and vet, Dr. White, called and asked if we would take an abandoned kitten she had at the clinic, we took the orange cat and broke with our SEC tradition to name her Clemson - Clemmie - in honor of the school's quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who is a nice young man from our hometown.
We've nicknamed her Squeaky Leaks, though, because she leaks with squeaks.
This menagerie, which includes two horses and a miniature donkey, earned us the front glossy cover of Atlanta Pet Life for December/January, reminding us of our blessings in the midst of heartaches.
With that said, our prayer for you is the same as it is for ourselves: We pray that you won't lose a single loved one in 2017 and that more love will wander into your life.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.