A Real Lady: A Christmas Story

Our cat died.

I was in fifth grade, and all of us kids really wanted a dog.  We had never had a dog before and the prospect seemed very exciting.

I remember, maybe incorrectly, that my sisters, feeling out numbered by boys in the house 4-2, voted that it was their turn to pick the name of the female Golden Lab that my dad brought home one fine fall evening.

So we named her Lady.

It seems suspicious to me now that she wasn’t a puppy and someone was so willing to give away such a beautiful dog for free.

The first act of nobility she performed was to chew everything we owned into little pieces.  In fact I was reading to my kids the other night from my fifth grade library book, “Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman.”

“Hey kids, do you want to know why I own this library book?”

They laughed and asked, “Why?”

I flipped it over so they could see the back half of the cover was missing and only teeth marks remained. “Because in fifth grade, our dog Lady chewed the back cover up and l had to pay $3.95 for this dumb book!”

The next thing she did was start vomiting. But not any normal vomit mind you.

There was a horse pasture across the street from our house.  We had trained Lady that when she wanted to come back into the house she should scratch at the door and we would open it for her.

My little brother, who was 3 at the time, also knew to open the door.  So Lady would scratch, and he would run and open the door, and she would slink over to the fireplace and sit down on her bed in the corner.

It was early winter and snow was covering the ground.  Living in a town, at an elevation of over 5000 feet surrounded by mountains, there isn’t much light for very long in the winter and things freeze quickly and stay that way till spring.

The same rule applies to horse manure.  And horses, like most animals, tend to defecate in the same area, creating very large chunks of horse apples.

This is why Lady shot past us so fast and over to the fireplace, where she proceeded to eat her enormous prize.

After a while, the fire would heat up the manure and we would all start to smell an un-pleasant odor.  Following the scent we would use a towel to wrestle her meal away from her and toss it back outside.

The fireworks weren’t over though, she had eaten enough horse manure that within a couple of hours we heard wretching/splattering noises from some dark corner of the house, and ran over to find Lady throwing up excrement along with all her dog food onto the carpet.

Christmas dawned bright and early, and that morning we gathered around the tree.  It takes a lot of presents to satisfy 6 kids, ages 3-15.  Our family opened presents one at a time, pushing all the wrapping paper behind us in a big pile.  Lady looked bored and wandered around the house, not really a part of the moment.  Present after present was unwrapped and ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhed,’ over and the dog quickly forgotten.

We were nearly done, there were only few presents left under the tree, and then a putrid smell assaulted our nostrils.  We all quickly looked around for the source and there was Lady.  She had climbed up onto the massive pile of spent wrapping paper and was crouched, splay legged, depositing last nights dinner and water in one large brown steaming mess that cascaded in rivers down every little crease and angle of the crumpled wrapping paper.

Everyone started yelling and screaming at once and Lady bounded into the air in terror so fast that half a deposited log snapped off mid exit and splattered onto the floor.

My dad reached her first, much to her chagrin, cringing there on the rug, and taking her by the collar yanked opened the door, and unceremoniously launched her over the threshold and into the massive snow bank that had built up on the edge of the porch.

We cleaned up the mess, but that was it for dad, any excuse to get rid of the dog and within’ a matter of weeks he had one.  Lady was caught in a chicken house with another dog that had been killing chickens and when that happens you have to put a dog down.

Lady wasn’t caught with a  chicken in her mouth so she was given back to us but dad said, “I would hate for her to have to be put down, so I’m going to give her into the care of local farmer from church were she can roam around on 40 acres free of constraint.”

“Don’t they have chickens?”  We asked.

It was after all, a farm.

Dad cleared his throat uncomfortably, “Well…yes…but, the farmer knows she has a penchant for chickens and we don’t really know that she’s killed any. So I’m sure he’ll be able to assess the situation correctly and make the right call.”

Translation, “Dad is sick of the dog.”

So to this day, when someone says in relation to a woman they know, “You should meet her, she’s a very classy lady.”

I feel deep concern.


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