11: Pet Rock

11: Pet Rock

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Pet Rock

Fun fact: Mother dogs are called dams. Father dogs are called sires.

We grew up on a farm in Colorado, situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by cats, goats, pigs, cows, and horses. My sister and I loved the outdoors, and our dog Kelly was our constant companion. Her fat belly and long ears almost dragged on the ground as her little legs labored to keep up with us. The only thing that took precedence over tagging after us was chasing rabbits. When she picked up a rabbit’s scent, she’d follow it, yipping, with her nose to the ground. Sometimes she’d be gone for hours. One time, she actually came back carrying a bedraggled baby bunny.

“Kelly, no!” Alarmed, I took the baby bunny away from her. Not knowing what else to do with it, I took it home and placed it in a cage. I would try to raise it and release it back to the wild.

In the spring, my sister and I often ignored Kelly for a while when there was a new litter of kittens, a nest of baby bunnies, or a new baby calf. One day, as we stopped to inspect a litter of kittens, we noticed that the gray striped one was missing. The mother cat had been known to move previous litters, so we searched all the places where she had hidden them before. We came up empty. I decided to search in one last place — a rarely used shed. Peering into the gloom, I heard a crying kitten, and who did I find there but Kelly, lying next to the kitten. She looked up at me and thumped her tail, smiling, as if to say, “See? I’m taking care of her.”

I gently scooped up the kitten and carried it back to its mother. A few days later, the same kitten went missing. Again, my sister and I found Kelly nestled in the shed with it. This earned her a stern scolding as we carried the kitten back to its mother.

All summer long, we battled — Kelly stealing a kitten, my sister and I hunting her down and taking the kitten away. It didn’t matter how much we scolded her, Kelly continued to steal the kitten, bathing it and trying to nurse it. For the next three springs, Kelly, my sister and I fought that same battle with a new kitten every year. Then one year, we stumbled across a goose nest. Canada Geese migrated through every year, but this was the first time we’d actually found one of their nests.

“No, Kelly, no!” we told her as we shoved her away from the nest. A few days later, I saw her coming from behind the house, carrying something in her mouth.

“What does she have now?”

She had robbed the goose nest! I looked at her in exasperation, but didn’t try to take it away. I doubted that the mother goose would want her egg back.

Kelly carried her goose egg around with her all summer. She would stop and gently lay it down to follow my sister and me when we went horseback riding, swimming, or fishing. But upon returning to the house, she would go straight to check on her goose egg, gently pick it up, and carry it to a new resting spot. She totally ignored the kittens.

Then one day, as I was going around the back of the house, I spotted Kelly standing with her legs splayed, head hanging down with the saddest look on her face.

“Kelly, what?” I started to say, but then the smell hit me. Gagging, I whirled and hurried away. When I came around the other side of the house, I stopped, gulping in fresh air. Yikes! I didn’t know which smelled worse — rotten egg or skunk! They were both foul. When I could breathe again, I found my sister and informed her that Kelly had dropped her goose egg. We both tried to console Kelly when she finally joined us. I don’t know if dogs can actually cry, but it sure did look like a few tears actually slid out of her eyes, although maybe it was just a reaction to the noxious smell. After all, she’d been standing right over the egg when it broke!

For a while, it seemed that Kelly had given up on having her own baby. She now ignored tiny kittens, baby rabbits, and eggs of any kind. But that was soon to change. My dad drove us up into the mountains every Saturday during summer vacation, and we spent the day exploring. I was a rock hound, fascinated by all the different quartz crystals and mica flakes I found.

One day, I rounded a boulder and came upon Kelly digging and worrying at a rather sizeable moss-covered rock. “What did you find, Kelly?” I asked as I knelt to help her move the rock, expecting to see something interesting underneath it. Finding nothing, I left her to her rock and continued with my own hunt for mica. When my search brought me past her again, she was still pawing at the rock, trying to get it into a position where she could pick it up. I watched as she tried several times, her neck muscles bulging with the effort. “You silly dog, you’ll never be able to pick that up,” I told her as I hunted around for a smaller rock. “Here, try this one.” I handed her a rock slightly larger than my fist that fit in her mouth nicely. Wagging a thank-you, Kelly picked up the rock and followed me back to the car.

When we arrived home, Kelly tried to carry her rock everywhere she went. Deciding that was too cumbersome, she settled for just bringing it out when we were around the house. She had finally found the perfect pet! It would not die, break, or be taken away.

When the Pet Rock craze hit the shelves a few years later, I laughed to myself. After all, my dog Kelly, a pudgy Dachshund with overly long ears and chestnut brown eyes, was the proud owner of the Original Pet Rock.

~Karen Cooper

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