64: Seeing Red

64: Seeing Red

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

Seeing Red

Fun fact: The way a dog’s tail is wagging can help people determine his mood.

Our Beagle, Red, stood guard as he and I watched my new husband’s vintage Naugahyde furniture get carried into the house. Everything about it was wrong — wrong size, wrong style, wrong color. It was squeezed into our family room like a sumo wrestler in Spandex.

“Honey,” I prodded. “We should start fresh. Why don’t we get new furniture that we pick out together? Something a little smaller and darker so it won’t show dog prints.” My husband looked hurt and perplexed. “You don’t like it? My stepfather gave this to me. It has sentimental value.”

Sentimental value? Who gets sentimental over light tan Naugahyde and a forged-iron coffee table? For better, for worse. I had said these words just two weeks earlier. Is this what they meant? I looked down at Red. “What do you think, pal?

It did not take long for Red to claim one end of the sofa as his resting place. Terrified of thunderstorms, it became his go-to spot whenever the skies rumbled and lightning flashed. There he would tremble and whine until the storm passed. A Beagle-shaped indent formed in the cushion, and scratches marred the surface, the result of Red’s attempts to fluff up the spot in preparation for his numerous naps. In time, the dirt he dragged in from the yard, coupled with the oil from his coat, created a dark stain. No amount of scrubbing with detergents and upholstery cleaner would remove it.

Six months after our wedding, I broached the subject again. “Sweetheart,” I cooed as I inched sideways along the infinitesimally narrow space between the love seat and coffee table in order to sit next to my husband. “I think it’s time we decorate this room in a more adult style. You know, something that says, ‘We’re married.’ ”

He looked at me sideways. “Why do we need new furniture to prove we’re married? We have a marriage license for that. Besides, Red seems to like it.” From the end of the sofa, Red lifted his head. His soulful brown eyes seemed to say, “Give it a rest, Mom.”

I tried for the next four years. When a local furniture store advertised a ONE DAY ONLY sale, I propped the flyer against the coffeemaker. When a Craigslist ad shouted “MOVING! MUST SELL DESIGNER FURNITURE FOR A FRACTION OF THE COST!” I forwarded the link to my husband’s e-mail. When a flea market displayed a chair-and-a-half that would not usurp the entire family room, I texted a photo with the word “PLEASE?” Nothing worked. Finally, I decided to give it a rest.

One June morning, the kind of intensely hot and humid day that typically spawns thunderstorms, I prepared to go out for a while. Red was curled up on his end of the sofa, basking in the breeze of the air conditioner and oblivious to the heat. I patted him on the head. “I’m going out, Red. You be a good boy while I’m gone, okay?” He thumped his tail against the Naugahyde. He really didn’t need a reminder. Red was the quintessential “good dog” that could be left alone for hours without getting into mischief. I never worried about chewed-up shoes or trash strewn about the house.

My errands took about four hours and then I began the drive home. It was only then that I noticed black clouds in the distance. In a matter of seconds, they were on me, spilling their contents in such a torrent it was almost impossible to see. The wind pushed against the trees, bending the limbs at dangerously low angles. An alarm sounded from the car radio, followed by a weather alert: “TORNADO WARNING! SEEK COVER IMMEDIATELY! DO NOT STAY IN YOUR CAR!” I pulled into the nearest parking lot and ran toward the supermarket. I was drenched but safe. Then I remembered: Red! He hates storms! He must be frantic!

As soon as the rain subsided and all danger was past, I jumped in my car and quickly headed home. As I opened the front door, I yelled, “Red! Red, where are you? Are you okay?” I entered the family room and, to my great relief, Red was calmly sitting on his end of the sofa. I wrapped my arms around him. “I was so worried about you! I know how frightened you are of thunderstorms!” As I held him close, my eyes moved to the corner of the sofa… and I beheld one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen: a hole. A large, gaping, conspicuous, irreparable, beautiful HOLE! Sofa stuffing was all over the floor, along with torn bits of Naugahyde, but they may as well have been diamonds to me. I took a picture and sent it in a text to my husband. “Please don’t be mad at Red. He freaked out during the storm. It wasn’t his fault!” I was so thankful he couldn’t see me grinning.

When my husband arrived, he surveyed the damage. “Can it be fixed?” he asked.

“I’m afraid not, sweetie. Once Naugahyde is torn, it can’t be sewn up.” I honestly didn’t know if this was true or not, but it sounded plausible. “It looks as if we’ll have to get rid of it. And since the love seat and coffee table are hard to match, we’ll have to get rid of those, too.”

My husband looked crestfallen. “Fine!” he barked. “Call someone to get it out of here!” Really? Finally? Oh, what sweet music to my ears!

It did not take long to find an organization that would take the stuff. Red and I stood on the front lawn and watched the last vestiges of bachelorhood get loaded onto a truck and taken to Naugahyde Hell, or wherever Naugahyde goes when it dies. I looked down into Red’s face. “Ya’ did good, pal. Thanks.” Red’s tail waved in reply. I’m not certain, but I could almost swear I saw him wink.

~Laurel Vaccaro Hausman

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