Thursday, May 29, 2008

Practice Sheep

For years I have reminded the kids that some day, when they are grown and have found gainful employment capable of supporting their own residence, they can come home to visit me and my sheep.

I have wanted kids (babies) since I was old enough to say the word. My favorite animal as a child was a monkey. A chimp, to be specific, because they looked like babies who never grew up. My dream came true in 1992, then again in '93, repeat in '96 and a last hurrah in the year 2000. I have been a nurturer all my life and a mom for over a decade and a half.

So when these kids fly my coop some day I am going to be hurting.

I decided the answer was a sheep.

A few years ago we lived in a sprawling valley between two mountain ranges in Utah. I passed several sheep farms every time I went to the grocery store. When I was a child we had a smattering of farm animals. The usual cow, horse, a pen full of pigs, chickens, even an occasional duck. We even had goats.

But we never had sheep. And they fascinate me.

They seem like a good sized farm animal - sturdy enough to not die off as often as our hamsters do and cute enough to be forgiven for any frustration they may bring.

It has been the family joke for years that mom would have her sheep some day. Some day when the kids were grown.

Then Kylie fell into our life.

We were determined to get a dog once we got settled in New York. Or at least the kids were determined to get a dog. They won me to their side first and after much begging and pleading, finally hubby agreed.

Then we did research for weeks, scouring for the perfect animal for our family. And we ended up with Cody. AKA the dog from hell.

The only thing he had going for him was he was cute. And after peeing on the brand new carpet for the thirteenth time the cuteness factor wore off.

Then he started jumping our front fence and terrorizing the neighbors. He ran spastic circles through our living room when we were trying to watch a family movie. We had to buy a huge crate, which took up half the living room, because he couldn't be trusted alone at night.

So we bit the bullet and said enough is enough. This dog was not working for us. We broke the boy's hearts and took him back to the pound. (Daughter had grown weary of him from day one)

Hubby said he was done. No more dogs for now. Maybe later, when we'd recovered from the tornado named Cody and determined whether we'd ever have clean carpet in the living room again.

With heads hanging we escorted our failed attempt at pet ownership back in the creaky door that led to the kennels. We apologized to him for not being the right fit, hugged his soft neck, and turned to leave the shelter.

"You might want to see a dog we got in yesterday. She is the most polite dog we've ever seen."

We were not in the market for another dog. We said that, right? But polite? A polite dog? My curiosity got the best of me.

She was hiding under the desk in the tiny room they used for an office. They said she had been so scared back in the kennels, with all the noise and barking, that she shivered like she was going to freeze to death. Before dropping her off, her old owners had shaved all her hair. She resembled a huge scared rat with very sad eyes. But she was polite....the lady said she was polite. It was the main character trait I was looking for in an animal that might be coming to join our family.

I excused myself to the bathroom, knowing Hubby was the one who had to be won over. And my plan worked. By the time I got back he was crouched on the floor next to her, winning her over as quickly as she was returning the favor.

It was a hard sell for the boys. She was a POODLE for goodness sake. What self respecting boy owns a poodle?

She had been bred for seven years, then dropped off at the pound when her services were no longer necessary. She needed us and, by golly, we discovered we needed her.

She came home with us on Mother's Day weekend last year and is now a full fledged furry member of our family. I love sharing the house with another 'old woman with a bit too much junk in her trunk.' She's had lots of babies. I've had lots of babies. We understand each other.

And once her hair grew back in I realized it was not an accident that Kylie found our family. She is big. Her hair is matted with unruly curls. And she lets me nurture her when the kids are away. She's not just our family dog.

She is my practice sheep.

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