Byline: Ellie Oleson
Winfield Lang of Manchester, N.H., later North Carolina had a big heart, despite living with a congenital heart defect for 73 years.
His daughter, Tracey Lang Baltrucki of Gardner, contributed to the Telegram & Gazette Santa Fund in his memory. She made the donation from some of the dogs her father loved.
"For his last six months, Tommy and Molly never left his side,'' said Ms. Lang Baltrucki, a nurse. "When Dad died, they pined for him.''
Dogs Tommy and Molly remain in North Carolina with Mrs. Lang Baltrucki's mother and daughter.
Tommy, a miniature pinscher, threw himself into the family's arms several years ago.
"I was walking with my daughter one day, and she said she wanted a man in her life,'' Mrs. Lang Baltrucki said. "At that moment, this little dog jumped into her arms. We took him to the pound since he had no collar or anything, and he snapped at the girl there and jumped back in my daughter's arms.''
When no one claimed the feisty dog, the family bowed to the inevitable and adopted him.
Molly, probably part Rhodesian Ridgeback and possibly part boxer, is also a rescue dog.
Mrs. Lang Baltrucki said her father often sat in an easy chair with a hand on each dog in his final months, which she spent caring for him.
"He was a very generous man, who loved children and animals,'' she said.
Her husband, James Baltrucki, was a teacher for 20 years in North Carolina before he retired, and the couple returned to their New England roots. They live in Gardner with their dog, Ruby, a miniature pinscher-terrier mix adopted from a shelter when no one else wanted her. She was to be euthanized.
"Ruby is amazing,'' Mrs. Lang Baltrucki said. "She should be on TV. She is so trainable! She's a real daddy's girl.''
Her gift to the T&G Santa is from Tommy, Molly, Ruby, Chloe and Major.
The last two dogs live with her daughters in North Carolina and Ohio. Chloe joined the family when she was 4 weeks old and a neighbor adopted her from a homeless woman with a box of puppies.
"Our neighbor couldn't keep her, so we took her,'' she said. "We have no idea what kind of dog she is. She looks like a lion and sort of slinks like one.''
She said she donated to the T&G Santa "because that's what my father would have wanted. He was a big advocate for anyone in need, human or animal, and was big on Christmas, so this is just right.''
In its 75th year, the T&G Santa Fund collects thousands of donations from generous readers and area residents to...