|My Dad & Me|
After a year of marriage, my husband and I went on vacation and rather than boarding our dogs, a Pekingese and Shih Tzu, my parents looked after them at their house. Unbeknownst to me, my dad allowed my baby sister Kate, who was a teenager at the time, to play with and look after my babies, whose hair was long and beautiful, as I tended to it as diligently as any good mother would her human children, after all, they were mine, only they had four legs and barked. I would soon learn that not everyone tended four-legged, barking babies in the same manner as me.
I retrieved my babies after a week of R&R and found them quite well, except their fur was filthy and matted with burrs. I went into a hissy-fit, foot stomps and all, and demanded to know what had happened to my beautiful pure-breeds! My dad, like I mentioned, wasn’t one to be daunted by my dramatics, and calmly explained that the dogs were hot (it being the middle of July and all) and wanted to play in the creek to cool off, consequently he let Kate take them. Upon hearing this lame excuse, I asked my dad exactly when he began channeling dogs as to know what mine felt or thought. He laughed his blow me off chuckle, which was par for course, and thus only infuriated me further, because he thought the situation was ever so funny. I, on the other hand, found absolutely nothing amusing about my dogs stinking like dirty creek water! With the tilt of my obstinate chin and a pointed finger at his grinning face, I snippily informed my father, “Remind me to never let you watch my kids!”
Immediately upon arriving home, I made appointments to have my precious furry babies groomed, which equated to shaved, because there was no feasible way those burrs were coming out with combs, brushes or scissors. Thus, an afternoon at Groomingdale’s resulted in my Sabel and Bentley smelling like roses, albeit bald.
Years went by, Sabel and Bentley left the Earthly plane, children were blessedly born, and Hayley and Kommit, our Boxer dogs, cheerfully entered our lives.
In the bitter cold month of February 2003, my husband and I decided we needed warmth and sunshine, so I booked a 5 day 4 night trip to Cancun. My mom was in San Diego visiting my now adult sister Kate, but my dad had stayed home. I telephoned him and asked if he’d be willing to watch Dalan, then 9 years old, Austin 4 years old, and our dogs, Hayley, 5 years old, and our new puppy, Kommit, only 7 months old. My dad agreed. (I knew he would, by the way, which is why I had already booked the trip!)
|David & Me in Cancun|
Thursday night my husband and I arrived at the Pittsburgh Airport where my dad and my sons picked us up. We hopped into the truck, my husband in the club cab with our boys and me up front with my dad. The first thing I heard was my boys chirping in unison, Let me tell her! My dad hushed them, took my hand and said ever so silently, “I hope you’ll give me another chance.”
I looked over at him and saw the sadness etched on his face, and my heart jumped from my chest to my throat. “Dad, what’s wrong?” My dad had always been my rock and to see him appear frightened scared the life out of me. He pulled the truck away from the sidewalk and maneuvered onto the roadway and we began the drive back to his house.
My dad cleared his throat, a method he uses as a way to gather his thoughts, which meant he had something important to say, hence, my heart began to race. He squeezed my hand before he began, “I took the boys and the dogs to the mailbox to get the mail.” This shouldn’t have been a big deal, but my dad’s driveway is about 1/4 mile long, and his mailbox is at the end —on a road that’s windy and not well-traveled, and when it is, most people don’t adhere to the 25 mph speed limit. “I told Dalan to let Kommit off her leash and give her some freedom…” he cleared his throat again, “She went into the street…”
“She’s gonna live,” Dalan said from the back seat.
“Poppy said shit,” Austin deliberately informed, probably hoping to evoke some kind of dramatic reaction— he was his mother’s son after all! Fortunately no one took the bait.
“She got hit?” The question almost lodged in my dry, constricted throat.
“Yeah, I thought she was dead.” My dad shook his head as if in disbelief. “She went right under the car.”
“It didn’t even stop,” Dalan angrily provided that small, but sad fact.
“Poppy said shit,” Austin said a little louder this time, as if it were a big deal.
“Okay, Austin, that’s okay. Poppy’s a big boy.” Shit really was a big deal coming out of my dad’s mouth— he rarely ever swore and especially not in front of the grandkids, but even a four year old tattling on his grandfather couldn’t elicit a grin from me, considering the dire situation.
“There was blood everywhere.” Dalan was now sounding almost impressed.
“Oh my gosh, Dad, what did you do?” Tears were welling in my eyes at that point, not just for my dog, but for my dad, whom I could see was almost on the verge of tears himself.
“What could I do? I had two cryin’ kids, and what I thought was a dead dog. I carried her to the truck and when I put her on the floor she came to. Then I drove her to the vet.”
“When did this happen?” It was my turn to squeeze his hand.
“That’s why you didn’t let me talk with the boys this morning, huh?” The mystery of not talking to my sons that morning was revealed, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
“I was afraid they’d tell you and ruin your last day.”
“That was probably for the best. What could we do from Mexico anyway?” As I said this, I realized I was saying it as much for my dad’s benefit as my own.
|Hayley & Kommit|
We collected the boys’ things then headed for the clinic where Kommit was staying overnight for observation. The Veterinarian took me into the bright, sterile room and told me to wait until he retrieved her. The Vet brought her into the room and set her on the silver metal table, and as soon as she saw me she began to wag her stumpy tail, which made her whole body wiggle, hence her nickname, Wiggles. I felt faint when I saw my sweet, little puppy. She had a cone around her neck, stitches in her right hind leg, blood on her muzzle and her left eye was swollen to twice its normal size. I went to her and as I caressed and talked to her, tears streamed down my face. It was difficult hugging her, with that plastic cone around her neck, plus I was shaking, and as I mentioned, felt faint, but I managed, because I wanted to reassure her, or maybe it was myself. At that moment, I wasn’t sure, all I really knew was— I loved her, and desperately needed her to get better, and cooing and caressing were the only communication methods I knew between humans and dogs.
After my short visit with Kommit, I spoke with the Vet, and he told me that as long as she did well that night, she could go home on the morrow. I left Kommit in his care and met my husband and sons in the waiting room and we preceded home–all of us looking forward to a good night’s rest, but I knew I wouldn’t sleep a wink.
The next day, my dad brought Kommit home along with her prognosis. He sat in my kitchen and explained that Kommit’s left eye was damaged and she would, at the very least, be blind in that eye. There was a chance the eye could die and have to be removed, and then my dad said something that nearly knocked me off my chair. “If the eye dies, I’ll pay for a glass one.” There was no humor in his voice or even his usual chuckle.
I looked at my father as if I were seeing him for the first time. Who was this man and what had he done with my dad?
“She’s a good little dog. She has a nice personality,” my dad said.
What!? Where was the it’s just a stinkin’ dog routine? Was I in the Twilight Zone?
“Dad, she’s a dog. If the eye dies, they can take it out and sew it up.” I told him firmly. There was no flippin’ way he was going to fret over a glass eye for my dog! Now it was my dad who was looking at me like who are you and what have you done with my daughter. He even shook his head from side to side for good measure. “What?” I asked.
“I just don’t get you.”
“What don’t you get?” What was wrong with him? I was going to save him hundreds of dollars! A glass eye couldn’t possibly be cheap!
“When I watched those little dogs of yours, you had a fit when they got burrs in their fur. This dog almost dies. It’s going to be blind and might lose its eye and you’re calm as can be. I just don’t get it.” He was still looking at me strangely.
I stood, walked over to my dad, then wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him. As I planted a kiss on his forehead, I told him, “Dad, I guess I grew up.” I felt his arms tighten around my back and knew then that we had BOTH grown.
Apparently, humans can evolve, too.
I grew up, well, matured, really. It’s about the love and joy our pets bring us more than their pedigree or pretty fur. It’s also more important that my family not have to worry about me have hissy-fits or dramatic out-bursts. Goodness knows I’ve caused them enough stress! My dad had his share from me over the years and really doesn’t deserve anymore!
And speaking of my dad… he grew too. Yes sometimes dogs stink, but they can be good companions, as he learned, not only from Kommit, but also from his German Shepherd, Guy. When Guy passed away two years after the Kommit incident, my dad said, “He was a good friend.”