Sunday, August 30, 2009

Babysitting Rebel

I offered to babysit my father's beloved hunting dog, Rebel, while my parents went to the mountains for their 55th anniversary. I thought it would give them a nice break not having to get up and let the dog out or rush back and check on him. I don't know why I offered to do this. I have a terrible track record. I love animals, especially poodles, all sizes.. Ever since the birth of my twins 19 years ago, I have been raising pairs of just about every species: dogs, cats, gerbils, mice, snakes, turtles, hamsters, birds, lizards, bunnies, even a pair of fawns that took up residence in our front yard. Noah and I would have been great buddies. I have not, however, always been successful in raising them to adulthood. Please note: Dogs do not like cats, bunnies, gerbils, mice, or hamsters. Also note: do not ever, under any circumstance, catch a snake in your neighbor's yard to replace your son's pet snake that has died. It could turn out to be a baby copperhead, which you will discover in the emergency room after he has been biten. Anyway, back to my babysitting record. My father-in-law had a beloved Royal Standard poodle that was the center of his world. He was jet black with paws the size of a bear. Huntley was massive, the Adonis of the poodle world, an elite specimen that would be hard to replicate. In early October, my father-in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was scheduled for surgery, which included several days of recovery in the hospital. I offered to babysit Huntley. The day of his surgery, things went well and that evening, I loaded the twins into the car to go visit Grandaddy Clark. The phone rang as I was leaving, and in a hurry, I dashed inside to grab it without closing the back door. In a flash, Huntley darted out and headed straight for the road. Screaming, I ran after him in the pitch dark, just jet black running against jet black, unable to see where he was headed, until I heard the dreaded screeching of tires and a loud thud. I instantly knew that Huntley had just been reduced from a Standard to a tea cup. The car that struck him never stopped. I couldn't believe that someone could hit something the size of a small horse and not even slow down to check on it. Other good samaritans pulled over to help, but it was too late. We called our vet, Dr. Hunter ( a strange name for one who devotes his life to SAVING animals), but he pronounced Huntley DOA. In a terrified panic, I called my husband, Chris, to warn him about the tragedy and to formulate a plan. There was no way on earth we were going to tell a man who had just lost his prostate that his beloved poodle had been his daughter-in-law at that. Fortunately, his surgeon was a close friend, and we called him in for a consultation. Being under the effects of medication, we knew we had a few days before Clark's cognition would be clear enough to comprehend what had happened. The plan was to be as vague as possible without actually lying, and then tell him the truth right before he was dismissed to go home. It went something like this: Clark: How's Huntley? Chris: Just lying around, not making a sound. Clark: Oh goood, I hope he's not being any trouble. Chris: Not at all. We don't even know he's there. Deceptive, yes, but it was in the best interest of the patient. The day he was dismissed, we made sure he had been completely medicated before breaking the news. I was a chicken and hid behind Chris as he quietly explained that Huntley had expired (we'd fill in the details later). I knew I had just lost my status as beloved daughter-in-law. . . fortunately, I was able to retain my life. So with that as my history, I volunteered to do it again. I was going to assume full responsiblity for the dog my father treated as well as his grandchildren. Imagine my panic when on the second day of babysitting I came into the house from the backyard and REBEL WAS GONE! I searched every room, running back to the yard, hyper-ventilating and screaming his name. Where, oh where, had my poor doggie gone? I had left him in the den, lying in the chair that he's not allowed to jump on when Gans and Pop are home, while I ran out the trash. How could he possibly have just disappeared? It was then that I noticed the front door was ajar and the storm door was cracked open. I knew Rebel had bolted. My father was going to kill me. We would probably have to drop out of college and make a run back to Richmond before he returned home. I was never going to be able to tell him. Maybe I could blame it on my sister...she stopped by, left the door open, didn't know Rebel got out... No, that wouldn't work... what to do, what to do? I grabbed my car keys and headed out the door, ready to roam the streets screaming "REBEL, REBEL,REBEL" in my best Marlon Brando voice, when there he was, tail awagging and tongue hanging out, standing by the gate just as pretty as you please. Not a guilty bone on him. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to grab his collar before he changed his mind and drag his furry little self back into the house and bolt all the doors. And then I vowed to retire from babysitting any more pets. The phone rang and it was my sister, oblivious to the fall she had almost taken for me. She wants to know if I'll babysit her daughter on Friday night......

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