55: The Taxi Stops Here

55: The Taxi Stops Here

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

The Taxi Stops Here

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

~Richard Branson

Nikki was my third child. She was a beautiful, blond little angel. Anita was four and Michelle five, and I worried about jealousy when this new baby entered our lives. Lucky for me, the only jealousy was about who got to play with her and help care for her.

My other worry was that we had two dogs and two cats, all of which had joined our family after our daughters were well past the baby stage. The pups had grown into two majestic Collies, and the cats? Well, they were just two ordinary cats. Johnny was a small black and white cat, and Ringo was a huge gray and black striped tabby.

The old Collie I grew up with lived long enough to help raise our first two baby girls, but had passed away. I was pretty confident that my new Collies would work out well too. But I’d never had a cat around a newborn baby. I worried about one climbing into the crib or accidentally scratching her. As soon as we brought Nikki home, we saw this was not going to be a problem because the two Collies would not allow either cat to get close to the baby. One or both stayed on guard next to her 24/7. If I was nursing her, bathing her or dressing her, one of the dogs would be right there. At night, our golden sable Collie, Windsong, slept by her cradle, and later under her crib. Tiffany, our black and gold tricolor, slept on the round throw rug, blocking the doorway to the bedroom. Any cat venturing near got a growl and a quick snap.

Nikki was a bright, energetic and happy baby who seemed to learn a new capability every day, but by the time she was nine months old, she had not yet tried to take a step on her own. She crawled like a speed demon everywhere.

She did pull herself up to stand by the couch or bed. But despite our outstretched arms, she would immediately drop to her hands and knees and crawl to us. While no parent wants to compare children, at times it’s hard not to. Michelle had been up and walking at nine months, Anita by ten months. I had photos of each taking their first steps. Nine months came and went. Then ten became eleven. Nikki was not walking. I took her to our pediatrician in a panic. What was wrong with my baby girl? She was almost a year old, and she not only did not walk, she refused to even try.

The doctor checked her and found absolutely nothing wrong. He assured me that all children walk at different times and that she would walk when she was ready. If she wasn’t walking after she turned a year old, he would run more tests.

That evening I discussed my fears with my husband. Nikki was in the playroom with Anita and her ever-present Collie nursemaids. Michelle was sprawled on the kitchen floor with her crayons and a coloring book. My husband was trying to reassure me that the doctor was right. Nikki would walk when she was ready.

“Why should she walk when she has the taxi?” Michelle piped up, not even looking up from her coloring book.

“What do you mean, taxi?” her father asked.

Michelle explained that when they were alone playing in the playroom and Nikki wanted to get from one point to another, she just grabbed onto the two Collies and lifted her legs and the dogs simply carried her wherever she wanted to go.

“I’ve never seen this,” I said. “I’m with her all the time.”

“Mommy,” Michelle said, “Nita an’ me watch her too, when you’re busy. She does it all the time.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

“You never asked,” she said solemnly. “Bet she’s doin’ it right now.”

My husband and I exchanged glances, then quietly went down the hall to the playroom. We went to the door, which was blocked with a security gate. I gasped in amazement. The two Collies were trotting in a circle all around the room. Nikki was between the two dogs, her little fists clutching tightly to each dog’s thick ruff. She had her legs tucked up high and was giggling with delight as the two Collies took her around and around the room. Anita was playing with a doll, paying no attention to Nikki and the dogs.

I cleared my throat loudly. Nikki immediately let go of the dogs and dropped onto all fours and scuttled across the room to the door, where she sat holding her arms up to me to be picked up.

The next day was awful. We took the dogs away from Nikki and put them in the back yard. The first hours were full of Nikki throwing the first tantrums of her young life. Everyone ignored her except for tempting her to walk with favorite toys or cookies. In response to the ruckus Nikki was making, the Collies barked, whined, scratched at the back door and, as a last resort, started howling like wolves separated from their cub. Michelle and Anita went out to soothe the dogs.

After about four hours, Nikki got tired of being ignored and pulled herself up to her feet. To cheers and encouragement from her sisters, she toddled across the room to get a cookie I was holding out as a bribe. When my husband came home from work that evening, she toddled to the door to greet him. He lifted her high in the air and then hugged her.

The next day, I let Windsong and Tiffany back in, but watched them closely to make sure there were no further “taxi” incidents. They went to Nikki and kissed her all over. She showed off for them, walking all around the room. They seemed to know automatically that they were no longer needed for transportation. Windsong went back to sleeping by my bed at night, while Tiffany took on the full nanny burden. If Nikki got close to anything that might hurt her, the big black Collie was there in a flash, herding her back to safety and maybe hoping that Nikki would want a lift. But Nikki never hitched a ride again. The doggy taxi was definitely out of business.

~Joyce Laird

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