We agreed for a little girl to live with us while her parents sorted things.
Dad is in jail, mom was on drugs but is trying to get clean.
She is ten, with thick, frizzy brown hair pulled back in a low ponytail. Round, sweet face, eyes made owlish by thick glasses with dark purple frames.
She wears a purple puffy jacket, which should be my first clue it’s a dream.
Those went out of style decades ago. Then again, trends cycle. Maybe she’s ahead of the curve.
We meet at a small, family-owned restaurant with a store attached. Evidently this is where she has spent her after-school hours starting back in pre-school. Her babysitter used to work here but is long out of the picture.
“She was such a good little girl” that everyone else agreed to jointly keep an eye on her until her mother sent a ride home or wandered in to pick her up. Someone noticed she wasn’t growing much in kindergarten and they started providing after-school snacks and a hearty dinner. The undernourished waif grew into a hale and healthy ten year old.
The last few months, they’ve been giving her rides home at closing. A light was always on and she had a key, but finally the cook decided to walk her to the door and found mom sprawled on the floor in a drugged stupor.
She called the police, who called social services. Our small town had no other foster homes available. Since the cook claimed to be a distant cousin and had a clean record, they let the child stay with her for 48 hours while the social worker looked for a foster parent.
These people have been her family for six years. None of them are happy to learn I live clear across town.
“You have to bring her back to see us. Come for dinner at least once a week. On the house,” the owner cajoles.
The cook chimes in, “yes, please do,” in a tone I recognize as, “I’m asking nicely but you can expect a consequence if you don’t comply.”
The child has gone back to her small play area in the rear of the store to tidy up. I follow.
As I pack her things into a plastic green suitcase, the social worker calls my cell. Mom entered the rehab program. This may be a very temporary placement.
For their sake, I hope so, but I won’t mind if this sweet girl stays with us longer.
Suddenly I realize we never finalized sleeping arrangements. I guess we’ll put her in the guest room for now. I wonder if our two will be jealous she gets the big bed.
For that matter, how will they all get along? Will a new addition send them into a tail spin?
Should I put her in class with one of them or in one of the other 5th grade classes?
It’s getting late. I haven’t even thought about dinner. I tug her heavy case toward the door, starting to feel overwhelmed. Will she even like us?
I pause by the door, ready to call her name and realize I’ve forgotten it.
The cook gives me a piercing glare.
“What?” I say.
She replies, “nothing,” but I feel her eyes on my back as I turn.
I shake my head, stress washing over me.
What was I thinking, taking this on? I just started a new job. My kids may not respond well and I forgot to tell them about it. Hubby’s out of town for a week. Wait, who is with MY kids? I suddenly can’t remember.
The girl reappears, hugging the staff as she makes her way to me.
“I’m ready,” she tells me, pushing past through the wooden screen door to the country porch.
I follow, panic rising, and stop, face to face with a huge young buck. I eye his antlers, uneasy with the proximity, and glance around for the girl.
He snorts, demanding my attention, and stomps his hoof on the echoing porch floor boards. He touches his nose to mine, huge brown eyes glaring.
I wake, wild-eyed, stressed and panting, nose-to-wet-black-nose with my German Shepherd.
He needs to potty. He snorts and stomps his paw on the bed once more.
I shake my head and let him pull me out of bed.
Thank God, it was a dream.
Later that day, I pull up photo listings on adoptuskids.org, searching for a round, sweet face with owlish eyes.
I’ve been working on a fiction story for the last few weeks but keep getting interrupted by reality.
At our house, you just never know what’s going to happen.
Tonight, as I wrote about a princess, my German Shepherd came galloping up the stairs.
He’s my safety net; hopefully I won’t need help anytime soon, but I’m training him as a service dog.
We’ve been working on things like:
- Help! (I lie on the floor as if I’ve fallen and he helps me back up.)
- Dish. (He hands me his bowl.)
- Open. (He uses a paw to open an unlatched door for me.)
- Take it to the laundry. (He trots whatever I hand him back to the laundry room. That one’s just for fun.)
- Sit-stay. (He waits for me to verbally release him from a sit.)
- Hush. (He stops barking at other dogs. We’re working on this.)
- Leave it. (He ignores whatever caught his attention.)
and our most recent success,
- Bring it to me. (Self-explanatory.)
Today, he really latched onto the idea and started bringing me items he thought I might need. I was cleaning the garage to surprise Hubby, so he was actually a big help.
Back to my story. The true one.
He sauntered up to where I sat, typing, and spat something wet at my feet. He looked up, expectant. “See what I brought you? I’m a good boy, yes? Where’s the treat?”
I couldn’t figure out what it was. But that smell…
The sodden little creature at my feet was a baby skunk.
My service dog brought me a critter.
And so, calling for Hubby to please bring paper towels, I abandoned my fiction for the truth.
I swaddled the cold, unmoving little body. We went outside. Strong, skunky musk hung in the cool night air.
We’re a bit odd; we love our skunks. An old albino lives in our woods. I almost invited him into our house when we first moved in, mistaking him for our fluffy white cat (I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time).
“I’m sorry about your baby, Mama!” The breeze caught my words. I didn’t see her.
“He’s just a baby,” I said, heartbroken. “His eyes aren’t even open.”
I stayed outside, not ready to bury the tiny, cold body. Hubby went back inside, crushed. I could call him when I’d held it long enough.
Hoping for a miracle, I started drying the silky black and white fur. No movement.
“Please, God, it would make Hubby so happy if this baby lives. Please make it breathe.”
And then, a tiny gasp.
For the next half hour, I rubbed and tickled and blew on his coat. His breathing remained erratic, but gained momentum.
When I was confident that he could breathe on his own without my encouragement, I went inside to show Hubby. We called a friend who is a wildlife rehab expert (and amazingly, at almost midnight, she picked up the now-named baby Oliver).
If anyone can keep him alive, she can.
After she left, I sat down to write again but couldn’t stop staring at the picture of the little guy in my hand…and I thought you might want to see him, too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a big German Shepherd downstairs who definitely deserves a treat.
So, the dog demolished my laptop power cord.
My to-do list:
- Get new power cord
- Find temporary power for my odd-shaped charge port
I took my computer to the electronics store and perused a wall of universal power cords.
Found one. Hyperventilated at the price.
Then I sauntered over to the computer section and unplugged one of the display computers. Bingo.
My laptop plugged, I browsed new computers and tried to look nonchalant.
By the way, I think I might have a stalker.
A girl in a blue shirt kept walking past, staring at me.
Should I inform her manager?
Day 12, play with word count.
100 words, baby, on the nose. Boom.
Soooooo. I planned to take tomorrow to catch up on Writing 101 assignments.
For the last few days I’ve been working on all the projects I needed to finish (refinishing a coffee table, cooking ahead for a crazy week, cleaning up the disaster zone we call the master bedroom…).
I was REALLY excited about tomorrow.
In other news, we have a German Shepherd puppy.
He’s 4 months old and has been an absolute joy. He is easy to train and doesn’t chew things up.
My laptop was on the floor, so I put it on the bed. He doesn’t climb up there.
You know that feeling you get when the kids are playing in complete silence and you know you should check to be sure they’re not lighting matches? I had it, but ignored.
Too late, I found the pup with my computer cord. Fortunate animal that he is, it wasn’t plugged in.
Unfortunate girl that I am, I did not charge my computer today, so tomorrow I will have to write really, really fast.
Should be fun.
Our German Shepherd turns 14 on November 16th. He used to be quite ferocious and took seriously his job of guarding me when Hubby was out (which we never trained him to do). We took him to the vet once, and upon hearing barks and loud clattering, we ran to the back of the clinic. There, crab-walking backwards, was the veterinarian. Our big guy was charging him, but on seeing us, he turned tail (pun intended) and hid under a desk. “He was fine until I tried to take his temperature!” said the vet. Right. Let’s stick that in your behind and see how you like it. Anyway, to the tune of Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman,” my birthday song for the best dog ever (imagine him snoozing in front of the stove while I sit against the kitchen door):
Do you wanna chase a postman?
Come on, let’s go and play
Why don’t you bark loud anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away
We used to be best buddies
Now you just nap
I wish you would tell me why
Do you want to chase a postman?
It doesn’t have to be a postman.
Do you want to bite a postman?
Back that vet up against the wall?
I think all your vaccines are overdue…
The vet tech misses you
We’ll catch him in the haaaaaaaall
Dad bought you some big bones, he
Wants to see you too
We’re watching the hours tick by
Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock
Please, you’re such a big dog
You used to startle ev’ryone
They saw your big teeth
And that scary face
But all you do is sleep
Please let me in
We only have each other
It’s just you and me
What are we gonna do?
Do you want to bite a postman?