Being a truly wonderful hostess, and an all-around nice person, my sister-in-law, Joey and her equally wonderful husband Ralph, were gracious enough to invite my mom along for the weekend, and allowed us to bring our dog, Betty.
But Thanksgiving morning my mom called to report she was ill. Could be a head cold, could be the flu – but definitely would be difficult to remain comfortable for three hours in the car. Also, it wouldn’t be a good hostess gift to spread illness among the guests. Wisely, my mom decided to stay home. I was disappointed, as was she, but I understood.
|Joey's Thanksgiving table.|
Joey had command of her kitchen and all aspects of the Thanksgiving meal. She eschewed any assistance with food prep but assigned me to set the table. This is in my wheelhouse. I actually know where the silverware is supposed to go, and tablescaping her gorgeous Mission-style dining room table was a lot of fun.
Other guests were due to arrive in a hour or so and I tried to make myself useful whenever asked. I was contented to be part of such a well-orchestrated Thanksgiving in a beautiful setting.
Then it happened.
“There’s dog shit on the carpet. BETTY!” I heard my husband yell.
|Us, before the incident.|
Stifling gags, I held my breath and carefully attempted to clean it up. Bottles of club soda were employed, along with disinfectant and a fan. Betty was locked off into a dog jail – a fenced off sunroom where Joey and Ralph’s much better behaved dog Lola, stays. Betty whined and cried. Clearly, she was going to ruin the day. Eventually we had to let her out, but Kevin or I had to be with her at all times — watching her like a two-year-old child.
The next day Joey, my mother-in-law and I went to Walmart. Yes, that’s right, Walmart on Black Friday. Everyone always needs something at Walmart, and I needed a portable pet cage for Betty. The store was surprisingly calm when we arrived after noon. I selected a model I knew my friends used for their dog who is just a little smaller than Betty.
I had a few melancholy pangs as we shuffled around, passing the toy aisles and the holiday decorations department. Long gone were the days when I had to set foot in a toy department. And with my small family’s traveling plans and other obligations, I wouldn’t be hosting anyone in my own home. There would be no need for fun new decorations. I wouldn’t even be putting up a tree.
We had plans to go out Friday evening to dinner and a performance by Jim Post, a Mark Twain interpreter. We set Betty up in her new “apartment” which was placed in our guest bedroom, and I tossed in a new bone and stuffed toy. We shut the door behind us.
Though I tried to enjoy myself through a delectable meal and an entertaining show, I kept thinking about Betty. I thought of her confused look in her neon green portable cage and her refusal to sit down in it.
Back at Joey's, everyone was curious to see how Betty did in her apartment. Kevin went upstairs first and didn’t immediately come down with the dog. I went up to the bedroom and Kevin informed me that Betty had gotten out of the cage, having somehow broken the zipper. She knocked over her water dish, but it didn’t immediately appear that she had done any other damage to the room.
“Check carefully,” Kevin said.
I reported that I didn’t see or smell anything funky.
“Wait, what’s this?” Kevin said, pointing to the bottom of the door. “That wasn’t here before was it?”
“Gosh, I don’t really know,” I said, harboring a thought that maybe, just maybe it was the work of Joey and Ralph’s cat, Jack.
Then I saw the paint chips scattered around the floor. It was fresh damage for sure. Betty had tried to claw or chew her way out of the room. The wreckage was significant — the door would need to be sanded and repainted.
We decided we’d tell Joey in the morning. We didn’t want to spoil what had been a nice evening for everyone.
I took Betty out for a walk. Being angry at a pet is so strange. You know it’s your own damn fault when your pet misbehaves, but it’s still an unpredictable animal and one with a mind of it's own. Much like parenting a child.
My disappointment with my dog was especially bitter. I already felt like an outsider. Spending a long holiday weekend with my husband’s family, and not with any members of my family of origin, suddenly felt sad. It was me and my stupid, ill-trained dog wrecking my husband’s perfect family holiday.
Big fat tears rolled down my cheeks. I missed my mom.