Saturday, February 18, 2012

Willing Helpers

I was pulling out of the driveway, on my way to take our poodle to Sam’s class for a pet share time. He’d been collecting extra points at school all year, to earn this right to share his fluffy companion with his entire class. We’d spent way too much time the night before, deciding which bandana she should wear around her neck, when she made her big debut.

The time was set and I organized my whole day around being home and ready to load the dog into the van at the correct time.

She hasn’t gone on errands with us in a long time. She’s what I call a ‘Nervous Nelly’. She doesn’t like to be left in the car alone, and the stopping and starting at traffic lights always throws her around a bit too much, making her flash us those pitiful sad eyes. But, for some reason, she still likes the idea of riding in the car, and will often wait by the door if someone in the house seems to be preparing to leave.

She easily crawled in, when I offered her a trip in the middle of the afternoon.

Isaac was just getting off the school bus, at the end of the driveway, so I waited an extra second, to see if my animal loving high schooler might like to join me on the adventure. As usual, he was game, with a quick, “Sure!” and an eager smile.

We made it down to the main stoplight in our tiny town without incident. One of the bucket seats was still in the moving truck, so there was a wide open place right behind the front passenger’s seat. It worked well for Kylie, except for the occasional problem with getting her feet stuck in the deep tracks on the floor, where the seats click into the floor of the van.

The light turned green and I accelerated, in hindsight, maybe a bit too quickly.

Kylie went rolling to the back of the van, coming up to rest against the edge of the back seat. Isaac and I threw apologies at her, with our best, reassuring voices. She tried to come toward us, and once again got her feet briefly stuck in the seat tracks. I looked back to see her in a full squat, relieving herself in a big way.

“Oh Isaac,” I said calmly, “She’s now peeing…”

The tone of my voice threw him off. He casually looked behind his seat, then promptly panicked. “MOM! She’s peeing!”

There was nothing we could do, no place to pull over on our little town road, with rocky cliffs where a shoulder might be. So we just let her finish.

Fortunately, some irresponsible child had left a bath towel in the van a few days earlier, and we threw it over the large wet spot on the carpet, to keep our fluffy poodle from sitting in it, and soaking it up, right before she went to snuggle with 23 fifth graders.

Somewhat seriously, but mostly joking, Isaac turned to me and said, “I am never helping you with one of these projects again..”

We arrived at school and quickly pulled Kylie out of the van. We still had to tie the bandana around her neck, and time was slipping by - we were almost late. I knew Sam would be counting down every second after 3:10 that we were not there.

We made our way across the ice covered parking lot, our old dog working hard to keep up. We made it halfway up the sidewalk in front of the elementary school when she stopped and proceeded to squat. That’s her new geriatric trick - relieving her bowels when she’s scared or nervous. But we just didn’t have time.

“Isaac! Don’t let her squat, and she won’t poop!” I figured that since it wasn’t her normal bathroom time (right after meals), she didn’t really need to go. Maybe we could get her to just walk it off.

It didn’t help the situation at all that there was a large class of second graders coming out one of the side doors, scurrying right toward us, as they made their way to the playground. People generally stop for our dog. She’s old and slow and those fluffy curls that pile up on top of her head tend to grab attention. Almost every one of the seven year olds decided to stop and point. Isaac and I, and our squatting dog, instantly became the center ring circus act.

More and more I was feeling our tardiness and could just imagine a heart broken Sam, staring longingly at the classroom door, wondering if his mom had forgotten his big day with his special show and tell.

I’m ashamed to admit that these words came out of my mouth, “Isaac, just pull her toward you. Maybe it will make her walk..”

But I am apparently not qualified to tell any dog when they do, and do not have to empty their bowels. She was not giving up. His tugging only placed us within 20 feet of the school’s front door, but did not change our situation in the slightest way. She was still determined to squat.

“You stay here, and see if she can just finish, and I’ll go sign us in and see if I can find a plastic bag.”

Again, this time with more seriousness than joking, Isaac repeated, “I am never helping you with one of these projects again…”

I rushed inside, turned the corner, and entered the school’s main office. Of course what I found there was the entire office staff, and assorted parents and their children, crowded around the front window, pointing and asking, “Who’s dog is that, pooping on the sidewalk in front of the school?”

I was briefly thankful that Isaac couldn’t see his audience.

Hoping it was better just to be up front, I raised my hand and announced, “That’s my dog, who is supposed to be in a fifth grade classroom right now. Does anyone have a plastic bag, by chance?”

Colorado is a very dog friendly state (there is one in just about every car you pass on the road), so I was met with mostly sympathetic faces, when the crowd turned around. The secretary came up with a Walmart bag, I signed us in, and then rushed back out to see what progress Isaac (and Kylie) had made.

As it turns out, not much. She had half pooped, meaning the sad little effort that had emerged was just hanging out, causing her to waddle, with her butt almost touching the ground, in even more nervous circles on the sidewalk.

“Just take her in the grass...” I suggested. This was a good plan, if we didn’t still have a foot of snow left on the ground. The only clear place was a tiny spot under a decorative tree in the center of the snow field. Isaac encouraged her verbally, then was forced to (once again) half drag his dog, who was stuck in a permanent squat (this time through snow).

Even from thirty feet away, trying to block our show with my body, from the growing audience in the main office, I swear I could hear Isaac muttering, “I’m never, EVER, going to help her with her projects, ever again…”

Finally, finally, after ten thousand more circles, the entire effort hit the tiny patch of grass. Isaac bravely scooped it up with the plastic bag, and we were on our way.

To get to the main classroom hallway, you have to walk through the office. We bravely burst through the door, said our quick thank yous for the plastic bag donation, and made our way to the fifth grade rooms.

We made it in time. Fortunately, Language Arts time ran long, and Sam never even knew we’d been delayed. Isaac, still somewhat smiling, bless his 15 year old, dog lovin’ heart, got Kylie decked out in a perfectly tied bandana scarf, and we handed her leash over to Sam, who proudly paraded her in front of his class.

In a sign of the times, about 15 cell phones came out of desks, and soon our nervous puppy was basking in a twisted version of fifth grade paparazzi. Sam’s friends asked questions and couldn’t get enough of his curly headed dog. She performed like a trooper (as nervous as she is, she loves attention), and soon the final school bell rang.

At some point, in the middle of Kylie’s big debut, Isaac informed me that he’d dropped the bag of dog poo in the office trash can, as we’d hurried through. I was horrified. It was bad enough we defaced the front of the school, but to leave them our treasure just didn’t seem right.

So on the way back to the car we detoured through the office once again. I stuck my hand into that large metal can, and came up with a heavy plastic bag. One of the secretaries was passing by and, to explain why I was digging in her trash barrel, I told her we were retrieving our treasure, and taking it home with us.

She laughed and said, “Ohh….that explains it! We all started looking around at each other, wondering who’d ‘done it’, a few minutes ago…” Leave it to us to be the catalyst for an office wide secretary finger pointing fest.

We made it to the car, with only a dozen kids stopping us to ask if they could pet our dog. Then we were home, and Isaac got to relive his horrors as he told every family member he could find. He was hoping for any extra points he could get, and instead he got a lot of laughs from his siblings, and yes, even his dad.

Something about the way he glowed that night, as he told his story over and over, convinced me that maybe I still have hope. Someday soon, when I need a helper once again, for one of my crazy projects, Isaac will still say yes.

To my kid who loves to be the family clown, all the extra laughs he got after telling his tale just might be worth something. Hopefully worth more than the humiliation he felt, holding the leash of a squatting dog, in the middle of an elementary school sidewalk, right in front of his brother’s school.

1 comment:

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Loved this story . . . so funny and so tender too. You are a great storyteller!