Madeline Louise


“Mama, there’s puppies next door!  Daddy, come see!”  Maggie and Serrah, heralded their news in stereo.  Great. OK, let’s go have a look.”  We were in Bismarck celebrating my younger sister, Carmen, graduating high school, with my family.  The neighbor handed puppies over the fence to Maggie, Serrah, Lyle, and I, “They’re eight weeks, yellow lab/golden retriever cross, weaned, and ready to go.”  “How much?”  Lyle tried on his poker face.  “Fifty bucks.”  Eyes on me, he continued the ruse, “Well… The last thing we need is a puppy.”  I was falling in love with the little girl pup that snuggled in to me like baby.  She looked up at me with her sweet puppy dog eyes, and I turned my own puppy dog eyes to Lyle.  He looked as if I had completely betrayed him, “Oh no.  You, too?”  Now I was the one pleading, “Look at her?  I don’t think I can let go.”  The girls piped in, “Please, Daddy.  Please!”  He turned to the neighbor, “I got thirty bucks on me.”  “Done.  I’ll throw in some food to get you through until tomorrow,”  the guy seemed relieved to be rid of one of the pups.   I wondered, afterward, if we could have gotten her for free.

We loaded our small station wagon, the Chevy-Chase-mobile, with Emily (2 yrs), Ben and Max (5 months) in car seats and buckled in the back seat.  Maggie (5 yrs), Serrah (3 yrs), and the new puppy, Madeline Louise, were in the far back with our luggage.  My prayer for our trip home to Fargo was that no one would poop, and that we wouldn’t draw attention from any state trooper with the two girls and the puppy in the far back being rambunctious, or “ass over teakettle,” as Lyle would say.

We managed to get home without incident.  Maddy grew and grew along with the rest of our brood.  The twins used her as a pillow, a jungle gym, and a walking tool as they grew older.  She would eventually have a litter of eight pups, because our life just wasn’t quite chaotic enough.  The kids fell in love with the pups and cried each time one left with new owners.  As the last one, who was Maggie’s favorite left the yard, Maggie ran to the gate of our fence hollering at the poor guy we had pawned the pup off to, “You can’t take my puppy!  Bring her back here right now!  I hate you!”

Because we had mice, we also had a cat.  Well, two cats.  Apparently, the first cat, Elmo, was on his last life when he came to us.  He ran off one night and never returned.  I imagined he was road kill, so we told the kids that maybe another family took him in.  The second cat, Lucy, was a sweet little tabby, who stayed small and affectionate.  Both served their purpose by keeping the mice at bay.  I remember how creepy it was when Lucy went into heat for the first time.  “Lyle! Look at the group of Toms meowing on our porch! This is SO creepy! Can’t you make them go away?”  His response was true to form, “Legally? Not likely. Just make sure you keep Lucy inside for the next few days.”  Yeah, well, with two girls running in and out, and Emily being ever-so helpful with the door letting everyone in and out , including Lucy, that was a fail.  Of course she got pregnant. You didn’t expect less, did you?

We were a combination, After School Special, National Geographic, highs cool health class scare-tactic video, and would’ve made a hit reality T.V. show with as much poop and as many “bleeps” as the Osbournes.

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