Road of Change

Road of Change: Arkansas

We left the hotel right before checkout time at 11:00 am.  Snow hopped into the back of the car and sat up straight watching everything out of the front window.  Chris opted to drive and I decided to let him, giving me a day off.

Chris picked up Interstate 10 and then took I 610 to I 69 N toward Little Rock.  Finally out of Houston, Chris was able to put his foot down and we traveled at a reasonable pace.

Around the time we merged onto US 59 N, Snow got tired of the view, so she settled down on her bed and went sleep.  What a life she has, so free from worry and all the human stuff we find ourselves tangled in.

I looked at Chris and asked, “Do you remember when we got her?”

“Yeah.  She was this tiny ball of white fluffy fur. I still think we should have named her Dust Bunny instead of Snow.”

I smiled.  Lily, Trip and I had gone shopping one Saturday about two years ago.  I had never had pets before, as my mother didn’t want an animal in the house and it never came up between Chris and me.  A local pet store was having a puppy sale and we walked over to see the little dogs on display. Trip ran over to the displays that were outside the pet store on the sidewalk.  Forty or fifty puppies yipped at us from their cages that were spread the length of the walkway in front of the store.  I spotted Snow and she looked up at me, her brown eyes full of expectation.

“What kind of dog is it?”  I asked the lady who sat on a folding metal chair beside the cardboard box. The woman had brown hair shot with grey, was well over 200 lbs and gave me a grandmotherly impression.

“A German Spitz.  She is the last one left from the last litter. I figured I would bring her down here to the sale to see if I could find her a good home.”

“I am not familiar with dogs,” I told her.

“Spitz are great family dogs and they have sweet dispositions.  Their fur is dense and they don’t shed like a lot of other dogs.  They are easy to care for.  You just have to brush them and feed them and give them a bath once in a while.”

“I’m not sure about this…”  I said, hesitantly.  “A dog is a huge responsibility.”

Then Trip chimed in.  “Please, Mom.  She is so pretty and so fluffy. Please.  I’ve always wanted a dog.”

And Lily said, “Trip and I can help you with her.”  Now I had two kids and a dog watching me with expectation.

I turned my attention back to the lady.  “I have never had a pet before.”

“How about this,”  the woman said.  “You take the puppy and I will help you get started with her.  I can show you how to house train her, how to feed her and even some basic training, like sit and stay and walking her with a leash.  If in a few weeks you discover you can’t handle her, I will take her back.  She has got a fine pedigree and I could sell her to someone else.  You have a nice family and I would love to see this sweet little dog with nice people.  She was the runt of the litter and I have a soft spot for this little one.”

“I don’t want a show dog,”  I told her.  

“Not a problem.”

“I don’t need papers on her,” I told the lady.

“Again, not a problem.  She was bullied by her littermates because she was the smallest and I want her to go to a nice family.  She needs a family who will love her.  I am real picky about who I place my dogs with.  This little one has been loved and played with by me since she opened her eyes. She just wants love.”

“How much?”  I asked the lady and we concluded the deal with Trip and Lily squealing with delight behind me.

“Here’s my card,” the woman said and I read her name, Debbie Durbin.  “I have a leash for her and her collar and a cage.  The cage will seem really big for her now, but she will grow to be about 30 or 35 pounds.”

Debbie gave me the name of the puppy’s vet, some house training instructions, suggested some food I should buy.  Just like that, I became a dog owner.

That afternoon, Lily and Trip ran and played with their new toy until she was exhausted and happy and fell asleep in the huge cage Debbie provided.  It had a blanket in the bottom Snow was familiar with and Debbie gave me a ticking clock to put in there, too, so Snow wouldn’t feel alone.

Chris came in for dinner.  “What in the hell is that?”  he demanded when he saw the dog cage in the kitchen.

“It’s a dog,”  I told him.

“I can see it’s a dog.  Why is it here?”

“I bought her today from a very nice lady named Debbie Durbin.”

“We’ve never had a dog,” Chris pointed out.  No kidding.

“We’ve never had any kind of pet.”  I pointed out.

“What’s its name?”

“We haven’t officially decided, but the kids want to call her Snowball.”

Trip and Lily ran into the kitchen and Trip reached into the cage to pick up the sleepy puppy.  “Isn’t she cute?”  Trip asked his Dad and then put the puppy in Chris’s hand.

“She doesn’t weigh anything,”  he said.  He held her close to his face and her tiny pink tongue darted out of her mouth and touched his cheek.

“See, Dad, she likes you,”  Trip said.

I smiled and then said to them, “You better take her outside, now, Trip.  Walk her around on her leash until she pees, then tell her she is a good dog and pet her, then bring her back inside.”

“Okay, Mom.”  Trip held his hands out and Chris gave him the puppy.  

Chris said to me, once they were outside, “You know he will lose interest in just a few days and you’ll have to take care of her.”

“I know.  It’s not a problem.”  

And just that quickly, Snow became part of our family.  She became just Snow almost immediately instead of Snowball.  

Training a dog was not as difficult as I imagined.  I bought a baby gate that kept her confined to the kitchen during her training, thinking tile is much easier to clean up than rugs or hardwood.  She only had a couple of accidents before she got the idea that she was supposed to go outside.  

Within two weeks, I removed the baby gate and gave her the run of the house.  Trip worked with her to get her to sit on command, to stay, to come and to heel when she was on her leash.  I spent the money to create a sizable run for her in our backyard to keep her from the flower beds and the swimming pool.  She had a dog house with her name painted on the top and grass to run on.  I don’t think she ever actually stayed in her dog house unless Trip got in first and coaxed her.

So many of early memories of Snow coincide with Trip.  He loved having a dog and spent a lot of time with her.  In his room, the don’t-get-on-the-furniture rule was non-existent because Trip allowed her to sleep in his bed.  He crept down the stairs when he thought everyone was sleeping, opened her cage and she followed him upstairs, very happy to sleep with him.

I knew what he did, but didn’t dissuade him.  Snow was with us only about four months before Trip died.  I remembered her watching as the EMTs tried to revive our son.  She whimpered several times and barked at the EMTs when they took Trip away on a stretcher.  For weeks after Trip died, Snow went outside and watched at the gate where she last saw him–the one the EMTs used to take him out on the stretcher.  One day, she stopped watching the gate, apparently convinced that Trip was never coming home.

My face felt wet and I wiped away a tear.  I hoped Chris didn’t see it.

“Oh, Jeez,” he said.  Crap, he saw it.  “What, now?”  he asked.

“I was thinking about Trip and Snow,”  I told him.  For a moment, I thought Chris was going to say something, but he refrained from making any remarks, snide or otherwise.

Chris pulled the Cayenne to the side of the road beside the Welcome to Arkansas sign and I snapped the selfie, me with a bright red nose from crying and Chris looking helpless.


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