Friday, March 26, 2010

Fast Dogs--Part IV

My eyes watered and bulged as I listened to the pretty, young veterinarian give me and my husband the run down on Little Paint's surgery.

"She lost a tooth and a toe, and I can't tell you how many stitches that chest wound took."

I groaned.  Shut my eyes and pressed my palms into my eyebrows.

"Look on the bright side," the vet said.  "Her chest doesn't fall open like an oven door when she stands up now."

I bent to look at Little Paint where she lay sleeping. 

"But I can still see pink stuff," I said.  "Looks like pork tenderloin.  Raw.  In between the stitches."

The vet nodded.  "That's healthy muscle tissue," she said.  "Over the next month, that'll granulate.  Start looking like red cobblestone.  And the skin'll close up."

I grimaced and crossed my arms.  My eyes prickled with the threat of tears. 

"Promise?  'Cause if she'd be better off dead, if the best thing would be to--"

The vet held her pointer finger in front of my mouth.  "She's going to be fine.  Really."

Over the weekend, Pawprints gave Little Paint lots of hugs and drugs.  Hosed her chest wound every day.  Renamed her Wonder Dog. 

"Do you pray?" the vet asked me on Monday when I came for a visit.

"Uh hunh.  Why?" 

She didn't take her eyes off Little Paint.  "Pray we don't find any necrotic tissue."

 I wrinkled my nose.  "Necrotic?"

"Means dead," the pretty vet told me.  "If the tissue around the edges of that chest incision dies, we'll have to put her under again.  Cut it off and sew her back together, even tighter.  Like a Hollywood actress."

I gulped.  "Anything else?"

"Can you get her to eat?" the vet said.  "'Cause she won't eat for us.  Not even wet food.  She's losing weight, and that's not good."

I thought a minute.  "Carrot juice."

The vet tilted her head.  "Excuse me?"

"I read in a natural pet care book about some guy who brought his Dalmatian back from the brink of death by giving her carrot juice."

"Give it a try," she said.  "Might want to add some raw hamburger too.  For protein."

A week later, I was begging the fresh-faced girl vet to keep Little Paint Lou just one more day.

"You'll do fine," she said.  "She'll be much happier at home, and you won't have to run her homemade food up here twice a day."

She pressed discharge papers and a bag of meds into my hands. 

"Now, remember,  it's Memorial Day weekend.  We'll be closed until Tuesday morning.  If anything goes wrong, if you have any questions, call the emergency vet clinic in Fairmont."

I slept on the kitchen floor with Little Paint Lou that night.  Me on a 40 year-old sleeping bag.  Painty Lou on a soft blanket.  Sometime in the night, she crept onto my sleeping bag.  Tucked herself behind my legs.

Daisy May was upstairs having a sleepover with the Middle Child.  Daisy had decided she hated Little Paint when she came home from a week at the vet's.  Well, she didn't exactly hate her.  She just wanted to eat her. 

Daisy held her head low to the ground and a soft but gravelly growl came out between her bared teeth.  Little Paint tried to look fierce too, but her patchwork of shaved parts and her ribs sticking out made her a liar.

We made it 36 hours before we took Little Paint to the emergency vet clinic.  Her stitches were popping open left and right, revealing more and more pork tenderloin.  The kids wouldn't go in the kitchen 'cause they were scared to look at her.

"Be really sure you can't handle it any more before you take her there," a friend told me.  "It's $150 just to walk in the door."

"What's $150 when you've already invested $2,500 plus?" my husband said as he lifted Little Paint into the car.

If Little Paint Lou was Wonder Dog, the emergency vet was Boy Wonder.  He looked like a high school linebacker.  I could see his quadriceps muscles through his scrub pants. 

"I'm going to put your dog back together," he said.  "But she's going to look like Franken Dog afterwards, okay?"

I nibbled my lip.

"I'll use whatever it takes to hold her together," he said as he massaged Little Paint's ears, inside the big, white plastic lampshade she was wearing.

"She's going to be just fine," he said.  "I'll do the procedure around midnite.  You all can pick her up at 11 tomorrow ."

Boy Wonder grinned as he brought Little Paint into the waiting room the next morning.

"Sit, girl," he said.

She sat.

He looked at us.  "Lean down here."

We leaned.

"No way," my husband said.

"Buttons?" I said. 

Boy Wonder smiled and nodded.  "Yep.  Six of them," he said.  "I cut 'em off a coat from the lost and found box.  Sewed the buttons into her chest, then wrapped the suture around 'em.  It takes the pressure off the tissue.  Works every time."

He patted Little Paint's head.  "You ready to go home, girl?"

She looked up at him with adoring, caramel-colored eyes.  Her tail brushed his leg over and over.

My husband stood and shook Boy Wonder's hand.  "Thank you."

Boy Wonder smiled.  "My pleasure," he said.  "You've got a great dog there."

Two weeks later, PawPrints was abuzz.  I heard the whispers, the yells into the back.  "Wonder Dog's here!" 

Pretty Young Vet sat on the floor and touched Little Paint's buttons, one by one. 

"Amazing," she said.  She looked up at me.  "We've been trying to recruit that guy for years."

Vet techs and vets lined up to inspect Boy Wonder's handiwork.  Little Paint decided her chest was getting too much attention and her head not enough, so she deposited a pineapple-sized poo pile on the floor. 

The pretty young vet grinned and picked up the poop with an inside out ziplock bag.  She turned the bag right side out, zipped it, and tossed it in a corner.  Then she crouched in front of Little Paint.  She took Painty Lou's face in her hands and kissed her on the nose.

"You're going to be just fine, Wonder Dog," she said.  "No way you'd be better off dead."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fast Dogs--Part III

It was 11:39 a.m. when I answered the door.  I remember.  A 50-ish woman was on the porch.  Her eyes were kind.  A young boy, about six, with butter-colored hair, seemed velcroed to her side.  He wouldn't look at me.  A thought flitted through my mind:  He's afraid of me.

I cracked open the screen door and smiled.  "Yes?"

The woman fiddled with her hands before she spoke.  "Do you have a brown dog?"

My smile grew.  I stepped out on the porch.  "Yes, I do," I said.  "Do you have her?"

She winced.  The little boy disappeared behind her.  

"No.  We just saw her get hit by a truck."

A truck?  I sagged against the door frame. It felt like a Shop-Vac was stealing my breath.  "You what?  No!  Where?"

"I followed her here," the woman said.

I looked left, then right. 

The woman pointed behind me.  "I'm thinking she's on your back porch."

I stepped back in the house.  "Y'all go around," I said through the screen door.  "I'll meet you."

Our middle child, the drama queen, turned 13 the day Little Paint lost her battle with a celery-colored, Ford pick-up truck.  Little Paint had gotten away from me when I went to put her in the dog run that morning.  I spent 10 minutes looking and calling for her.

"She'll come back," I told Daisy as I brought her back in the house after a bit.  "She always does."

There she was.  On the back porch.  Lying down, sides heaving.  She doesn't look so bad.  She's just resting.  I let my breath go.

I stepped out onto the porch.  Little Paint didn't look up. 

Kind Woman appeared around the side of the house.  She approached slowly.  Hands extended.  Palms up.  "Easy, girl."

"Thank God she's okay," I said.

"I don't know," the woman said.  "Look at the contusion on this side of her face."

I had to step over Little Paint to see.  A gaspy squeak escaped me.  It looked like a racquetball was inside her upper lip.  She didn't blink.  It seemed she was looking past me, or through me.

Kind Woman didn't take her eyes off Little Paint.  "She was bleeding around her rectum.  I don't know if she has a laceration back there or not.  Could be internal bleeding."

The Shop-Vac stole more air.

"And her chest," the woman said.  "It's the worst."

I whimpered.  I caught the reflection of my eyes in the storm door.  They  looked like Little Paint's.  Dull.  Shocky.

I held up my pointer finger.  "Can you watch her a minute?  I've gotta call my husband."

Kind Woman nodded. Before I went in, I glanced out in the yard.   The blonde boy stood about ten feet away from us.  He was staring at me.  It was like he thought I might self-destruct and he didn't want to get anything on him.

"Call Pawprints," my husband said.  "Tell 'em you're coming.  See if the woman will help you get Paint in the car."

I nodded, as if he could see me.  I called Pawprints.  Shut my eyes and groaned when I heard, "Anh!  Anh!  Anh!"

I stepped out on the porch and knelt down.  I gently pressed three pellets of arnica inside Little Paint's mouth.    I saw the woman's eyes narrow. 

"It's arnica, a homeopathic remedy for trauma to tissue."

She nodded.  Her shoulders lowered.

I stood up.  A blob of blood caught my eye.  It was there on the hem of my shirt.  That's when my brain seemed to register everything.  I looked out in the yard again.  Before I choked out a word, before the first tear fell, I saw the blonde boy step back and cover his ears.

"I looked for her.  But it's my daughter's thirteenth birthday.  So I came back in.  To get ready.  She wants an Oreo cheesecake."

I put my hands over my nose and mouth and smeared snot and tears across my cheeks and into my hair.  I held my sticky hands in front of my face.  They shook, like I'd had way too much coffee.

"She always comes back," I said, between sobby hiccups.  "Or someone calls.  And I go get her. Daisy too.  That's her sister.  They usually escape together."

The woman's mouth pulled to one side.  The boy was in my neighbor's yard now.  The kind eyes followed my gaze.

"That's my grandson, Owen," she said.

I snorted snot and waved.  "Hi, Owen."

He looked at me.  Crossed his arms.  Shut his eyes.  Didn't open 'em back up. 

I turned back to the woman.  "Can you help get her in my car?"

"Sure.  If she'll let me.  Sometimes hurt animals--"

"Yeah.  I know,"  I looked past her.  "Larry!"

The woman's forehead furrowed.  I pointed to the yard where Owen was.  My neighbor, Larry, a pastor, had walked out on his back porch.

I took a couple steps toward him, my hand on my chest.  "Little Paint just got hit."

I saw his lips move, but I couldn't hear what he said.  Couldn't tell if it was serrated or not.  Maybe he was praying. 

I inhaled little raggedy breaths.  "Can you help us get her in the car?"

Larry came quickly.  In his socks. 

I got my keys and beeped the car.  I ran to open the back door for them.  Larry and Kind Lady grabbed the front and back of the porch rug Little Paint had collapsed on.  She didn't growl.  Didn't budge.  She looked high.

I got in the car and murmured to Little Paint as they settled her on the back seat.   Larry shut the door.  He and Kind Woman waved at me as I drove up the alley.  I saw Owen peeking around his grandmother's side.

"Thank you!" I said, as I looked at them in the rearview mirror.  "Thank you so much!"

"Please don't die, Little Paint," I said as I turned from alley to road. 

I looked through the blue at the top of the windshield.  "God, please.  Keep her alive 'til we get to Pawprints."

"How much is that doggy in the window?" I sang.  "Do you like that, Sweetie?"  I looked back at her when I stopped at the intersection of Grand and Wilson.  Her tail rose and fell.  Once.

"Where, oh where, has my little dog gone?" I chanted the rest of the song as I drove the road my husband calls the goat path, between Sabraton and the Mileground. 

When I was stopped at the traffic light before 705, I heard a long, low moan.  I clenched my teeth before I looked back.  The Shop Vac seemed to have gotten a hold of Little Paint's breath too.  I reached in back and waved my arm around.  "Please don't die, baby.  We're almost there."

I pointed to the right.  "See?  There's Exotic Jungle.  That's where I get your pig ears." 

I wiped my nose on my sleeve and looked up again.  Have mercy.  Please.  On Little Paint.  On me.  Pretty please?

I pulled into the turn lane and waited for a break in the line of oncoming cars.  I glanced in the back seat again.  Little Paint opened her eyes for a second.  They were more white than brown.  I heard my sinus drainage go down my throat.

I pressed the gas and we jerked in front of the approaching traffic.  A car horn sounded like it was cussing me out. 

"Stay with me!" I said to Little Paint.  I caught a glimpse of my face in the rearview mirror.  It looked like a sidewalk chalk portrait that got rained on. 

"Stay awake, girl.  See?  We're here.  It won't be long now!"

I found the last spot in the parking lot.  Shoved the gearshift into park.  Jumped out.  Didn't bother to close my door.  I flung the clinic door open and leaned against it. 

"Someone please help!  My dog just got hit by a car!"

The receptionist jumped up and leaned across the counter, searching the floor.  I pointed outside.  With one hand she gave me a box of tissues.  With the other, she pressed the intercom button.  "All available staff to the front.  Stat!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fast Dogs--Part II

My son was crying when he came upstairs to tell me the long-legged, beagle-howling, slut puppy, sister hounds had run away.  Again.  I pulled him onto my lap and used my shirt sleeve to wipe the snot from under his nose.

"They'll come back, honey," I said, into his hair.  "They always do."

"I hope so, Mommy.  'Cause I don't want 'em to get hit by a car and have to be scraped off the street with a splatula."

I turned his face around so I could look in his eyes.  "What in the world are you talking about?"

"That's what Daddy said would happen to 'em someday."

"Did he really?  Well, why don't you pray right now that the dogs will come home by supper?"

My little guy bowed his head and clasped his hands.  "Dear God," he said. 

I peeked at him through my lashes.  His eyes were squinched shut and his little boy forehead was wrinkled with effort.  I felt like a bike tire pump was attached to my heart, swelling it with little gusts of air.

"Please bring Daisy and Little Paint  home, sooner than now.  Please don't let them get squished by a car.  I think if I had to look at the blood and guts spot on the road where they got killed, it'd make me barf every time until the rain washed it away."

I bit my lip.

"We love 'em so much, God.  They're so soft and nice.  They let me lay on them like they're a couch.  Please bring 'em home soon.  Thank you, God.  Hey-men."

"That was quite a prayer, sweetie," I said.  "I bet the dogs are on their way home right now.  Let's go down and see."

We went downstairs and opened the back door.  No dogs.  We whistled and promised treats.  Nothin.' 

That night, I looked on the front and back porches before I went to bed.  Nada.  They weren't there in the morning either.  Uh oh.

This time it looked like they weren't coming back.  They'd never been gone this long.  One night came and went.  Then two. 

Each day, our middle child came home from school and asked, "Did the dogs come back?  Did anyone call?" 

I'd tell her no and no.  She'd call the animal shelter and ask if they'd picked up a tan, Beagle-looking, long-legged dog and a white and tan, Beagle-looking, long-legged dog.  It got to the point where the guy at the pound said, "Look, kid.  Don't call us.  We'll call you."

The kids talked to the mailman.  He loved the dogs.  Brought 'em Milk Bones every day.  He said  he'd keep an eye out for 'em.

The dogs had been gone three days now.  At dinner time, the kids prayed for the dogs to come home.  At bedtime, they prayed again. 

The next day, they made fliers and posted 'em on just about every telephone pole within a mile of our house.  They organized a search party with neighborhood kids. 

"I'll give whoever finds 'em, two dollars," Middle Child said.  "One for each dog."

On the fifth day, all three kids cornered me.  "Do something, Mommy!" 

"Like what?"

They stepped into my personal space bubble.  "Like . . . something!"

I called the newspaper and put a missing dogs ad in the Saturday and Sunday papers.  The Dominion Post is real nice.  They'll run a missing pet ad for a few days, for free. 

Even so, no one called.  Night number six and night number seven came and went.

"Do you think they'll come back?" I asked my husband on the seventh night.

He shrugged.  "I seriously doubt it.  They've never been gone this long," he said.  "As fast as they run, they're probably in another state by now.  And if that's the case, I don't know that they can find their way back."

I pulled the covers up to my chin and sighed.  "You're probably right.  No one's called.  I bet they lost their collars.  Or their i.d. tags fell off."

I vented to a friend on email the next morning.  I'm so mad at those darn dogs!  We give 'em food.  We give 'em water.  We give 'em treats.  The kids love 'em.  I like 'em, most of the time.  We give 'em everything and this is how they repay us?  By running away?  They're sluts, I tell you!  I feel so betrayed.

My friend emailed me back.  Hmmmm . . . . maybe  you should rename them--Gomer number one and Gomer number two.

I had no idea what she was talking about.  What does Gomer Pyle have to do with our dogs?  Send.

From the Bible, my friend typed back.  Look it up.

I huffed as I got out my big study Bible.  I looked up Gomer in the concordance in the back.  Oh, that Gomer.  Gomer, the prostitute turned wife, who was always running away from her husband, Hosea, who was a real good man.  That girl didn't have a lick of sense.  Hosea, I feel your pain, man.

Later that day I called the vet and cancelled their well doggy visit.  Of course they asked why and I had to tell them that the  dang dogs had skipped town. 

"We love your dogs," the clinic receptionist said.  "Bring us a flier and we'll put it up."

My husband grumbled when I handed him a flier to take to the vet's office.  "You know I don't want them to come back, don't you?"  I nodded.  I know.

"Are you praying for them to come back, Daddy?" our middle child asked my husband at dinner that night.  He glared at her.  She turned to me.

"Are you praying for the dogs to come back, Mommy?"

I didn't look up from my pork chop.  "Sort of."

"Sort of?"   The kids echoed.

"What kind of answer is 'sort of''?" Middle Child said.

I took my time answering.  "You know how God knows everything?"

The kids nodded.

"Well, I reckon he knows that part of me is worn out.  Worn down. Doesn't necessarily wanna keep doing this forever.  If I pray for them to come back, it's kinda like a lie, so why bother?"

Middle Child's eyes were shiny, her voice all quivery.  "You really don't want 'em to come back?"

A tear dropped off one of her tarantula leg eyelashes.  "How can you say that?  What if they get hit by a car?  What if they get picked up by some weirdo, freaky animal testing lab that wants to try out hair dye on 'em?"

I huffed.  "Oh, the drama of it all!  I'm just bein' honest here!  You know what I'd like?  I'd like 'em to be found by someone with a big ole farm where they could run all day, every day.  That's what I'm thinking . . .  hoping."

Middle Child Drama Girl slapped the table with both her hands.  We all jumped. 

"I've got it!" she said.  She stabbed her chest with her pointer finger a couple of times.  "I'm going to fast!"

My mouth fell open.  My husband's too.  Drama Girl nodded, her eyes wide.  "Fasting is what people did in the Bible when they really wanted to get God's attention, so that's what I'm gonna do."

My husband's fork clanked as it hit the glass table top.  He picked it up and pointed at her with it.  "You, little missy, are too young and too small to fast.  Who knows how long they'll be gone?  What if they never come back?  You could starve."

Drama Girl crossed her arms and blew air out her nose.  "I'm not going to fast eating, Daddy," she said.  "I'm going to fast tv.  I'm not going to watch another show until the dogs come back.  So there."

That night she stayed in her room reading while the rest of us watched, "High School Musical" on the Disney channel.

I laid in bed that night, looking at the ceiling.  "God, you know my heart.  You know I'm so tired of those long-legged, Beagle howling, slut puppies and their gosh darn running away.  You are fully aware that I'd only be a little sad if I never saw them again."

I sighed before I went on.  "But the kids, God . . . The kids want them to come home.  For the kids' sake . . .  Please bring the doggies back.  Please?  Amen."

After school the next day, the kids and all their neighborhood buddies combed the nearby streets and yards.  They came home after an hour. 

"Any luck?" I said, as I put out a bowl of pretzels and cups of lemonade. 

They all shook their heads and looked at their laps.

A little while later, the kids were putting on their jackets to leave when one of the oldest kids looked out the kitchen door window.

"Hey!  Hey, you guys!  Little Paint's back!  She's on your back porch." 

I opened the back door and there she was.  What was left of her anyway.  The once stout and strong brown dog looked fifteen pounds less.  Her fur looked like someone had blown their nose in it.  She was panting, her tongue hanging out like a strip of raw bacon.  Her tail wagging made her body sway side to side. 

When I opened the screen door, she stumbled in.   When she plopped down on her blanket, she was instantly covered with almost a dozen kids.  A dog pile, for real.

"Careful," I said, wrinkling my nose.  "She might have rolled in cow poo."

They didn't care.  They petted and kissed and stroked every bit of her.

I called my husband at work.  "You're never gonna guess what just happened."
"They didn't."

"One of 'em did."

"No way."

"Way," I said.  "Guess Drama Girl's fasting got God's attention after all."

"Guess so."

The next morning, Daisy was on the back porch.  Curled in a tight ball, nose under her tail.  I drummed my fingers on the window.  She looked up at me and blinked real slow.  Her tail started thumping.  Slow at first, then faster.

When I opened the door, she stepped in gingerly.

"Did the pavement shred your paw pads?" I asked, only a little bit mean. 

I leaned over the baby gate that kept the dogs in the kitchen at night.  "Kids!" I said, loud enough to reach the third floor.  "The other prodigal pup has returned."

The kids thundered down flights of stairs, making the artwork on the walls tremble.  They flopped on Daisy, as they had sprawled on Little Paint the day before.  Daisy didn't look quite as bad.  I figured she was only five pounds lighter. 

Little Paint glared at the welcome home party from across the kitchen.  Seemed she kinda liked being an only dog.  A few minutes later though, she made her way to the blanket.  She growled at Daisy for a bit before I pointed a finger at her and told her to hush.

I poured a splash of my good olive oil into a small bowl and handed it to the kids.  "Rub this on their paw pads."   I didn't miss the snide look little Miss Drama Girl gave me 'neath her substantial lashes.

Both dogs rolled onto their backs, their legs stiff in the air, as if to offer their paws up for pampering.

My son put his head on Little Paint's ribcage, like it was a pillow.  "You were right, Mommy."

"'Bout what, sweetie?"

"They came back.  Just like you said they would."

"Yep," I said.  "Seems like they always do.  They're like cats, these two.  They seem to have nine lives.  I'm just worried that one of these days, they're gonna run out of lives."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fast Dogs--Part I

When our long-legged, beagle-howling, slut puppy, sister hounds run away, my husband always says a prayer.  "I pray they never come back."

I'm telling you what, they were so cute when we got 'em at the Manteo Island Animal Shelter thirteen years ago. I loved the way their silky ears were bigger than their heads.  I stuck my nose in their mouths to sniff their milky baby breath.  Thing is, puppies are like kids.  They almost always outgrow their initial adorableness.

No one at the shelter knew the pups' birthday so I decided it would be April Fool's Day.  It seems I was waxing prophetic.  Only question was, who was the fool?  Us, or the dogs?

It was Friday of our vacation week and it was raining to beat all.  At the beach.  It'd poured more days than not that week.  We'd done all the indoor things that could be done--the lame mall, the Rugrats Movie, the sea shell shops.

We weren't in the market for a pet right then.  In fact, we were on the tail end of the mourning period for our 7 year-old pure-bred Beagle.  Lacy June Bug Lulu Bell, daughter of Happy Time Barbie and Happy Time Ken, had succombed to an overdose of feminine protection products.  Man, was the house quiet without her strident hunting howl.  Boy, did I miss the way she'd sneak one paw, then another, then all of her, into my lap while I was watching ER.

The plan had been to spend the rainy morning at the animal shelter, petting puppies and kittens.  An hour later, I was writing a check and signing a paper.  Swearing we'd be awesome animal owners when we returned to West Virginia.  The shelter staff even phoned our vet back home, Dr. Doom.  He testified that we were excellent pet owners and promised the pups would get shot and spayed at the appropriate times.

The invisible fence that worked most of the time for Lacy worked none of the time for Daisy and Little Paint.  That's what I named 'em.  Actually, that's what I renamed them.  I refused to step out on our back porch and yell, "Here, Sea Shell.  Here, Suntan Lotion."  Those were the girls' names for the pups.

"Nuh-unh," I said.  "This one'll be Daisy, 'cause she's white and yellow.  That one'll be Little Paint, 'cause it looks like someone dipped her tail in a bucket of black paint."

At first it was like a game, them running over the buried shock wire.  When they were real small, they'd let out a pitiful yelp as the black box punished their throats.  Pretty soon though, they seemed to figure out that the pain was lessened, or shortened at least, with speed.  They'd fold their long, young legs under their deep ribcages and explode.  Zero to 15 m.p.h., just like that.

My husband fixed them.  He and his dad built a 5'x40' dog run on one side of our property.  Attached it to the neighbors' chain link fence.  For a week or two, the girl pups seem to have been divested of their joie de vivre.  Whenever my daughters called me outside to push them on the swings, the dogs'd stare at me through the fence with their big, Milk Dud-lookin' eyes.  I wasn't a dog whisperer, but I was pretty sure I knew what they were thinking.  Just like Cindy Lou Who in Dr. Suess's, The Grinch,  they were begging to know one thing.  "Why?"

Wasn't long before Daisy and Little Paint fixed us.  They started climbing over, digging under, or chewing through their dog run.  If they were in the kitchen and the back door was ajar, they knew it and carpe diemed.  If there was nothing but a toddler between them and a screen door, the child was sacrificed for the greater good--freedom.

Scrapes, contusions and high-pitched wails of, "No, doggies!  No!" were ignored.  Sometimes the dogs'd stop smack dab in the middle of the street and look back at us. Daring us to try to catch 'em.  Their blue-black, rick rack gums flapped.  Their tongues hung to one side like strips of warm, strawberry taffy.  Their eyes seemed to smile.  Seemed to say, "Looky!  Looky!  Look at me!  I'm a doggy that's now free!"

The same scene stuttered the same way, over and over.  Never changing.  Once a week for months it seemed.  Then once a month for years.  Wore me out.  Wore me down. 

I'd have an hour or two before the phone rang.  "Is this Daisy and Little Paint's mom?"  I perceived a serrated tone in every caller's voice.  I pictured one hand on their hip, the pointer finger on their other hand wagging.  "I have your dogs.  Can you come and get them please?  Like, right now 'cause I'm leaving for the mall any minute.  And another thing, you shouldn't . . ."  Fuss.  Fuss.  Fuss.

I never defended myself.  Never blamed my kids or the dogs.  I'd just drive down the hill, or one neighborhood over, and say, "Thank you so much! I was very worried.  I've been driving around for an hour."  Even if I wasn't.  Even if I hadn't been.  Even if I'd been praying that prayer of my husband's.


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