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Our Sneaky Best Friends

This past weekend when it was so cool, I really wanted to make chili for supper. Joe wanted to grill though, so we ended up grilling. I felt this was a tragedy, but he kept saying, “It’s so nice out, we should grill” blah, blah, blah. So, I retrieved some hamburger from the freezer for the carnivores in our house and set it on the counter to thaw.

After doing that terribly tasking chore, I went out to the porch to sit a spell and read. Boy was Pepper being annoying out there, just barking and barking. So, I told her to go in the house. She had to have been inside for only about 15 minutes by herself. 15 minutes was enough time for her to do a couple things: discover there was frozen hamburger on the counter and either eat or hide it in the house.

The jury is currently still out on whether she ate or hid the hamburger. Check back in a couple weeks for the column about that one! While we were all wandering around the house searching for frozen hamburger, something I never thought we would ever do as a family activity, I couldn’t help but think of Emmy the record Beagle and the Christmas ham.

As most of you know, I grew up in a working class family. We never went without things, but we never really had anything extra. When I was a small child, my mom worked at the local post office as a part-time clerk (she eventually leveled up to postmistress!), and sometimes people would bring her gifts at Christmastime. Since we never had much, we always found this to be very exciting. Sometimes she would receive blankets, or crocheted hats, but most of the time it was food, glorious food. Candies! Cookies! You name it, they brought it in to her. One year a patron brought her an entire ham. This was a wonderful blessing to us because my dad was out of a job that year, and it was Christmas. We had our Christmas ham!

I think our family had received the gift several weeks before Christmas, and it was, of course, frozen, so mom hurried it home to the deep freeze, and there it sat awaiting its glorious future. I still remember the day mom asked me to go bring it upstairs to our enclosed porch to start thawing out. It was also the same day that my dad decided to bring Emmy inside because it was “too cold outside for dogs.”

I’m sure you can see where this is going, and you’re probably wondering how this dog lived to be 18 years old. Me too, me too. The fun part about this story, at least for me, is that I — the oldest child who was always in trouble for everything ever — came out of this unscathed. This is because Lydia had been put in charge of hanging out with Emmy inside. Dad said, “Lyd, watch the dog.” Lydia said, “Okay,” and then she ran off and did everything else but watch Emmy.

I think I was at my boyfriend’s house, but I still heard the screams of rage coming from my mom as she walked out onto the porch to bring the Christmas ham in to start prepping to cook overnight, and discovered that Emmy had enjoyed herself a wonderful Christmas Eve meal.

Lydia had completely failed to watch Emmy, plus she had walked out onto the porch to grab a soda and left the door open… leaving Emmy the perfect opportunity to feast. Honestly, I can’t believe she didn’t just pack her bags up that night and skip town, I think that would have been my move. But she’s the youngest of three, so she mostly just got a slap on the wrist — while I’m still grounded for that whole not wearing my coat thing…

I remember coming home from my then boyfriend’s house and walking into a literal nightmare. Dad was pacing in the foyer, cursing something about “that dang dog” under his breath — only it wasn’t that nice. Katey could be seen hiding underneath a blanket in the living room, and Lydia was in the kitchen standing at my mom’s elbow.

“What happened?” I asked my mom. She looked at me and started laughing. At first I didn’t find this funny because she stood there with a carving knife, and honestly she looked a little scary. “Your sister let the dog eat most of the Christmas ham,” she said through either tears of joy or tears of sorrow. I couldn’t tell which.

“What?” I said, staring at Lydia. “I didn’t mean to! Emmy just decided she wanted ham too!” And lo and behold, they were right. One whole half of the ham was gone, and there were nibble marks. My mom was so flustered. Her parents, my dad’s parents, and some cousins were coming for supper the next day… this was the main course. What were we going to do?

I volleyed that very same question at my mother. She looked at me, pointed the knife at me… which I felt was a tiny bit aggressive, and said, “We’re gonna eat ham, just like the dog did,” and she carved right around where Emmy had eaten.

The next day everyone had Christmas ham, and no one outside the five of us knew that Emmy had done the same thing the night before. The day after that everyone seemed to feel just fine, the same could not be said for Emmy who had a bit of a stomach attack for awhile. I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on Pepper and see if she shows any signs of gluttonous punishment.

You know, of all the things my mom has taught me over the years, the most important lesson is that we should always share. Even if it’s with the dog.

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