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Column

‘I’ll take care of it, I promise’ translates to ‘Mom just got a new pet’

Late last fall, Joe and James decided that they wanted to get a hunting dog because Pepper – our border collie – won’t retrieve. She thinks it’s a pretty neat trick to run after a ball, but then only sits and watches it. Very intensely, I might add. That ball goes nowhere, and she makes sure of it.

Frustrated with the fact that Pepper refuses to duck hunt, the two of them started researching the type of hunting dog they wanted, and they both finally decided on a red Labrador retriever. Before we knew it, little Maebelline (Mae for short) had come into our lives, filling it with adorable puppy breath and sleepless nights.

She’s very cute, and super sweet, but exhausting. You forget just how much work a puppy is, and our five-year-old dog Pepper reminds us of this frequently because she is so very good. It’s as if she’s leveling up on how good she is, just to show us how bad this new puppy is: “Yeah, see me over here not peeing in the house or chewing anything up? Pretty cool, huh?”

Very cool, very cool indeed.

For a little while we were able to let Mae outside with Pepper in our backyard without tying Mae up, while leaving Pepper on the tie out. Mae would stay near Pep, and they would play outside for a bit before I made them come back indoors. This was a beautiful moment in my life. It bought me sanity and quiet. I also didn’t have to chase the puppy — whom I’m assuming thinks her name is “No Mae!” —around and was able to accomplish housework. All of the parents out there know how it is when you get an animal, suddenly you’re the only one in the house taking care of it … even though it isn’t yours. I miss these days gone by. These wonderful glorious yard playing days. They’re gone because little miss Maebelline ruined them.

I still remember it like it was yesterday, because it basically was. It was warm, and I had tied Pepper out back, and let Mae out to play with her. They were wrestling over a chew toy of some sort and having what looked like the best time when I walked back inside. Every minute or so, I looked up from my chores to check on them, and they were right there in the middle of the yard playing …. Until one minute, they weren’t!

I ran to the window, and there was Pepper in the middle of the yard but no Mae! Gah! Quickly, I dashed onto the porch. Pepper turned and looked at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as, “Look, I’m not a babysitter,” and I started screaming for Mae.
Nothing. She was nowhere. “Mae! Mae! Mae!” I shouted. Nothing. Oh, no. I’ve killed the puppy. Those were my first thoughts. I was going to have to tell everyone that her death was on my hands. I’m not sure why I immediately always go to such a dark place, but it is what it is. I then dashed to the front yard, afraid of what I would see, but thankfully it was free of tragedy.

I then ran straight back to the backyard, scampering all around, screaming at the top of my lungs, waving my arms: “Mae! Mae! Mae! Come! Mae, come!” All the while Pepper is sitting there rolling her eyes. Or at least giving me what looked like a shady side-eye.
I was near tears when I noticed some movement in my neighbor’s yard, in a pile of red leaves. “Mae?” I timidly asked. She poked her little red head up and just looked at me.

“Mae! Oh, thank goodness!” Wow! I wasn’t going to have to tell anyone I had killed the dog, immense relief rushed over me. I even fumbled for my phone so I could take a picture of how cute she looked all camouflaged in the red leaves. But then she thought it would be cool to run off.

I forgot to add that all of this time I was barefooted because I had been so frantic that I hadn’t stopped to put shoes on: barefooted and without a coat. Cold with wet feet, I started chasing Mae across the neighbor’s fence (saying words that I hope no one heard) when she suddenly stops because their dogs start barking in a territorial way. Mae halts, turns to look at me and makes a puppy expression that clearly said, “I’ve made a terrible mistake,” runs, and jumps into my arms, knocking me down into a pile of mud. Awesome.

All the way back to the house she was licking my face, while I grumbled and talked about how she had lost yard privileges, how I hate being dirty with my whole heart, and “just you wait until I tell Joe about this,” yada yada. I’m sure she took it all to heart ….

I am currently 42 years old, and in my life there has not been a time where I haven’t had a dog. When I lost my Bella dog five years ago, I entertained the idea of never having another one again. Her death still makes me cry. But I think that there may be no love more pure or true than that of a dog’s, and even though it is a short time, it is such a full time. I couldn’t rob myself or my children of that love.

Even if it means shady side-eye from Pepper or “please forgive me” puppy kisses from Mae. I guess I’m a glutton for dog punishment, and all the frustrations and cuteness that entails.

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