There was a stray dog at the softball fields last weekend, and Effy was convinced that if we didn’t take it home, it would get wounded or would die. Unable to convince Eff that if we left there it would most likely go home, in the car the dog went with the understanding that Monday morning the dog would go to the Animal Shelter.
Side note: I would never have allowed the dog to get anywhere near my kids or my car had it not been a very clean dog (its ears were spotless), well nourished, and friendly.
By the time we made the 10 minute drive home, she had it named Laney. Effy walked Laney around the neighborhood while I retrieved the pet carrier from the garage loft and washed it out. Before allowing the dog into the house, I reminded Eff that it was her responsibility to care for the dog. She assured me that she understood and was ready to rise to the occasion.
I had my doubts.
Everything went well as long as I told her when it was time to take the dog outside in order for it to do its business. She happily took the dog out for its walk, until it got close to bedtime. When Eff is tired, well, she’s just as grumpy and unwilling as the next kids whose tired.
I hate it when I hear myself saying the same “dogs are a responsibility, and you told me that you were going to take care of it” line my parents said because I know she is hearing the same “blah, blah-blaah, blah, bla-bla-blaah” that I heard when I was nine. But I said it anyway.
The evening went without a hitch, and I thought that maybe fostering dogs wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Then Sunday happened.
The dog was fed, watered and walked before we headed off to church, but we returned much, much later than usual and there was a bit of a mess to clean up in the kennel. Eff and I did that together. I was very proud of how she didn’t balk at having to help.
I usually talk to G on Sunday afternoons, after we have had time to nap and before Celebrity Apprentice comes on. The kids usually eat their supper, and I go into my room to have a semi-private conversation with my oldest child.
This Sunday, like clockwork, G phones around 4 pm. Before going into my room, I tell Eff and Z to keep an eye on the dog so it doesn’t have an accident on the floor and at 4:15 take it outside and walk around until it takes care of business and then eat and watch a movie. They both respond in the affirmative, and I go into my bedroom to have an adult conversation with G.
G and I are 45 minutes into solving the world’s problems when I hear a mechanical whirring coming from the kitchen. Still on the phone with G, I walked into the kitchen and asked, “What the heck are you two doing?” They both whirled around, Eff’s eyes twelve times their normal size from the shock of hearing my voice and Z flinging his arms wide to shield what they were doing.
Eff had gotten out the blender and had chopped up bananas and strawberries and was in the process of making smoothies. (Effy is one of those kids that if you take your eyes off her for even one minute she is into or up to something. Z, unfortunately, is usually along for the ride.)
I look around. My kitchen looked like a produce slaughter house: open strawberry containers and banana peelings scattered across the counter, fruit heinously separated from their stems and leaves sans the humanity of a cutting board, a foreign liquid sloshed from the fridge to the sink, banana particles ground into the floor, gobs of honey congealed next to piles of yogurt, and muckied utensils the only witnesses to the actions of the accused.
The dog was loose and had peed under the table.
“Don’t look!” Eff yelled. “Go back in your room! It’s a secret!”
I stood in silent shock, blinking away the screaming I heard in my head (this is my go-to move when my first reaction is beheading).
I hear Z’s little voice pleading, “Go back in your room, Mom.” I feel his hands trying to guide me around the corner and to my bedroom door. “It’s okay. We have it all under control.”
I had my doubts.
G, still on the phone, brings me back to senses. “What are they doing?”
Rubbing my eyes, I laid down on my bed and explained, “You’ve heard parents curse their children with ‘I hope you have a kid just like you!’, right? Well, my mother never, ever said that to me, but I feel as if I’ve been cursed with a child that not only is like me, but is like all my brothers and sisters wrapped into one. All ten of us in one 9 year-old body. Effy embodies all ten of us.”
G laughed, “I can see that!”
“But why did I get her? I was a good kid! Uncle #9 was waaaaay worse than me. Why didn’t he get her?” I lamented.
“For crying out loud, G. You know I didn’t mean it like that.” I explained, “I love Effy with all my heart, and you and I both know this family would be extremely boring without her. Being afraid of what she’s going to get into is the only reason I get out of bed some mornings. For Pete’s sake, I could die and she’d keep the house and the family running for months without anyone suspecting anything!” G laughs because she knows it’s true.
“I’m in awe of how talented she is. She’s so smart that it scares me. Her personality is larger than life. I can barely fit myself into the room with her sometimes. One of those things on its own is enough to keep a parent on her toes, but all three? It gets to be overwhelming sometimes. Like right now.” G laughed and agreed.
“And the dog peed. Under. The. Table,” I finished.
G tried to console me with “it’ll get better” and “just think about all the stories you have to tell” and “I guess you have your next blog post!” After I told my oldest that I’m glad she was my oldest, I hung up the phone and headed to the kitchen where I found Effy under the table cleaning up the dog’s pee.
“Don’t worry. I have it all under control.” She said it with such assurance I almost believed her.
“I’m sure you do,” I acknowledged halfheartedly and then asked, “Why was the dog off the leash?”
“I told Z to watch her” was Effy’s simple answer.
“Here, baby, let me help you,” I said as I bent down to make sure she clean it all. “It’s the least I could do after you made smoothies.”
And then we had a short chat about responsibility.