44: My Mother Made Me Do It

44: My Mother Made Me Do It

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

My Mother Made Me Do It

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

~German Proverb

Once, a long time ago, I was given an adorable eight-week-old Golden Cocker Spaniel puppy. At that time I lived alone in a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny living room, a teeny tiny bedroom and a teeny tiny kitchen, because I was a graduate student living on a teeny tiny budget. My childhood had been blessed with two wonderful Cocker Spaniels, and now I had another as a warm, soft furry companion.

I noticed right away that this little dog was a bit skittish. If I talked to her, she piddled. Or ran into a corner and pooped. I talked more gently. Same result. I figured training takes time, and love, and patience. I put out newspapers, hoped she would soon learn what they were for, and went off to my classes and research assignments.

Each time I returned home, I was amazed at the quantity and frequency of the doggy indiscretions. Yes, she did her business on the newspapers, covering the important events of the day with brown commentaries of her own. And when she finished editorializing on the newsprint she continued her dutiful discharge, overwhelming the limited real estate available in the tiny rooms of my home. I bought extra papers, and covered most of the open floor space. She proved up to the challenge. Puddles and piles, the yield per square foot was astounding, and she demonstrated the capacity to invade new territory beyond the boundaries of the newspapers.

I cajoled, and corrected, and loved and encouraged. I bought scoopers and mops. Every night a suspicious tide of yellow water rolled in to cover my kitchen floor, waves lapping against the baseboards. Each morning, a freshly dropped pattern of landmines surrounded my bed. I scooped and mopped. I sanitized and deodorized. This loving and cuddly beast only improved how fast and efficiently she could cover my floors with doggy residue.

The vet said she was perfectly healthy, but I began to use scientific observations. Something did not add up. I measured. The magnitude of the output greatly exceeded that of the input. I know, because I provided the input, and I cleaned up the output. A cornucopia of inexplicable excess poured out of my beautiful Spaniel. There was only one thing a mature twenty-something young man could do. I called Mom.

“Mom, you know that cute little Spaniel I’ve had for a few months? Yeah Mom, she looks exactly like our first Spaniel you gave me when I was a little boy. Wasn’t he a wonderful dog? Guess what, my mean old landlord won’t have dogs in his house. (Well, he won’t if Mom buys this story!) So maybe I’d better find a good home for her, so I was wondering if . . . ?”

Thankfully, Mom came to my rescue and said she would take the dog.

The story I told Mom was less than honest, but I gave into the dark side out of desperation. Equally true, I did not divulge complete and accurate information, but I think that law only applies to selling a house, or maybe a horse.

I delivered the dog to Mom, and sped off to “an urgent appointment” before the dog could reveal her unique talents. I did not call or visit for a few months. When I did visit, the icy stare and silent treatment that I got from my mom was enough to tell me that all had gone as I feared. When we were finally alone, she looked at me and, using her best mother’s guilt-trip tone of voice and spacing her words out slowly, said: “How . . . could . . . you?”

Later on, noticing that the offending Spaniel was not present, I asked my dad what happened to her. He said, “Oh gosh, Bill, that dog piddled and pooped twice a minute. Fortunately, your mom remembered that Mary around the corner wanted a dog for a companion.”

Mary was a spinster teacher who would invite the neighborhood ladies over on weekends for coffee and homemade pastries. Mom entered the room just as Dad finished with, “Yep, your mom took that dog right over and gave her to Mary.”

Ah ha! So here I was, an apple that had clearly not fallen too far from the tree. Looking the tree in the eye, I spoke as sanctimoniously as I could, “Mom . . . how . . . could . . . you?”

The Spaniel lived a long and presumably happy life with the spinster teacher Mary — which we learned from reports by other neighbors. For some reason Mary never again invited my mother over for coffee and homemade pastries.

~William Halderson

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