After investing the equivalent of a semester at Stanford in underground fencing and shock collars, Katie proved to us that electricity coursing through her body simply doesn’t phase her. Especially when Romeo, Spike or any other canine friend is beckoning from a yard away.
Jack and Katie reading a $60 book.Thinking that loneliness was the cause of her breakouts, Jack and I went to the Humane Society a couple months ago, and adopted Ayla, a timid, somewhat neurotic retriever mix. Other than being a perpetual sparring partner whose entire head fits in Katie’s mouth, Ayla’s presence has done nothing to keep Katie home….which led to my worrying about Ayla being lonely, and almost adopting a third dog. (This is surely a common scenario among animal hoarders.)
Before we adopted Ayla, James went to Home Depot and bought a roll of cheap wire fencing material and some spike things. With these, he rigged a sad little $34 makeshift fence that did more to repel the Caseys next door than to keep Katie from escaping. James’ point in building such a cheap, ugly fence was that Katie wasn't HIS damn dog and he shouldn't have to spend his hard earned money corralling her. Had the roll of wire cost $35, we might not have a fence at all. (I love a man with self-imposed limits.)
Ayla....Don't hate her because she's beautiful.
In spite of her chain gang existence, we often drive into the neighborhood to find Katie playing merrily in Spike’s yard, muddy from a jaunt in the creek. Strangely, she's always still wearing her collar, the chain mysteriously detached. This once led me to check her paws for opposable thumbs.
I’m sure everyone in our neighborhood has their own stories of seeing that desperate lady in the purple Saturn who can’t keep up with her blasted dog, driving slowly down the street calling “Katiiieeeeeeeeee!”
Today I received a polite 5 o’clock phone call from Carolanne Taylor, one of history’s most patient and diplomatic neighbors.
“Hey, Angela, I just wanted you to know that Katie is at our house. We’ll take good care of her. I just didn't want you to worry.”
In the five minutes it took to drive home, Katie had taken a creek bath and wallowed in what I could only imagine as a pile of decomposing wart hogs.
As I offered my routine apologies, Carolanne mentioned (in a very nice, nonchalant way) that she and her husband had once employed a trainer who worked wonders with their two dogs. Coincidentally, she had Tammy, the trainer’s business card in her pocket at that very moment.
(Carolanne is one of those gracious, charming neighbors, who is perpetually looking on the bright side. If I were to accidentally burn her house down while they were on vacation, she’d just shrug, saying “Oh well, Daniel and I were thinking of remodeling anyway. Ya know I’ve been wanting white kitchen cabinets.”)
“So, how much did Tammy the trainer cost?” I casually asked.
“I think it was $400, but TOTALLY worth it,” assured Carolanne, as Spike and Avery worked in the background edging borders and mowing the grass.
$400!!! I have major trouble letting go of that much money all at once. Even for a very necessary cause. (Of course, it’s not hard at all to throw $400 away on crap I don’t need over the course of seven days. In fact I do it weekly.)
Rather than phone Tammy, a really proactive and grownup solution to our dog problem, I decided it’d be cheaper to go to the library and check out a book on dog training. I could become my own version of Tammy. Once I read a couple of Cesar Milan books and got Katie in line, I could perhaps charge other wayward dog owners for my services. Plus, I’d been meaning to sign Jack up for the summer reading program.
While I had to admit that I never planned to actually read, or even open whatever dog training book we chose, it did seem that just the act of obtaining the guide made me feel a few steps closer to having the problem under control. As if having the answers in a book, sitting on a shelf in my kitchen should on its own cause Katie to behave. Sort of like paying for a gym membership each month should theoretically help me to lose weight.
As Jack and I perused the library’s “dog care and training” section, I had to laugh, noticing How to be a Successful Foster Parent tucked beside Katz on Dogs and Cesar’s Way. I wondered who it was that said “Oh, to Hell with foster kids. I’ll just get a German shepherd.”
“I’m sure my card has a fine on it,” I mused as Jack and I took Cesar’s Rules up to the counter. “I haven’t NOT had a library fine since 1994….but it’s never more than 5, 10, $20, at the most.”
(apparently I was wrong)
“Are you kidding me???”
“No, ma’am,” stated Monica, the desk clerk with all the librarian authority she could muster. “You kept six books out for three months. And two are still missing. The fines all topped out at $10.”
I stood there, incredulous, semi-amused at my unique ability to run up an insane library fine. However, Monica’s sober-as-a-judge expression seemed to equate me with deadbeat, crack addicted moms who have their own DFACS social workers.
The only reasonable response I could think of was “Monica, I’ll have you know that my credit rating is 785! And that’s according to Equifax, Transunion AND Experian!”
I thought this information would favorably change her view of me to responsible adult, who was probably too busy running bake sales and volunteering for hospice, to return library books on time.
“Mom, I have $60 from my birthday. I can pay it for you,” offered Jack.
With this, Monica’s expression went from stoically judgmental to that of complete disgust….most likely picturing me gambling away the the child support while my poor son scavenges his dinner from the neighbor’s muscadine vines and saves tin cans to afford his vaccinations.
“Don’t worry, Honey. These aren't the kind of bills we actually pay,” I whispered, producing two other library cards.
“Try one of these, “I challenged coolly, laying down Andrew’s and James’ cards as if they were a king and ace of spades.
“That one is expired and this has a $10 fine. Sorry,” replied Monica, the Blackjack dealer.
Not to be outdone, I countered with a crisp dollar bill, “As long as the fine is under $10, that means we can check these books out. Right?”
“yes….that’s right,” Monica sighed with exasperation, reaching under the desk for what I assumed was a flask of scotch.
As Jack and I left the library, he asked “Mom, when are you gonna pay the $60?”
“Oh, Honey. Don’t you worry about that. We have plenty of time.” Secretly, I was thinking about James’ upcoming interview for a promotion with his company. If he gets it, we can move to a new place. Somewhere far, far away. With a new library, a new card….. and checkout clerks who haven’t already pegged me as a derelict book returner who will ruin your kid’s chances of reading the entire Magic Tree House series in order.
In addition to a new library, we’d, of course, move to a new house. Perhaps one with a concrete wall and a moat around it. And for the first time ever, Katie just might stay home.
Meanwhile, I’ll suck it up and call Tammy.
Contemplating a pet Komodo Dragon. I hear they stay home.
DISCLAIMER: For all of you jumping to judge me, Katie actually spends very little time on her chain. She and Ayla are usually in the living room, on the couch or the AC vent. It's a hard life.