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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Tommy in Trouble

There was a bat in my dad’s living room last Thursday night. Yes. A bat. Not the one with the baseball glove that’s usually in the closet, but the flying black kind…the kind that screeches. The kind that makes me go behind the nearest door and slam it. The kind that may have rabies, for all we know. 

But we have a guy named Grat who lives with my dad. A bat! Go get Grat! Now Grat is brave but he is the Clean-Meister, too. So he puts on this towel for arm protection and then he dons Ezra’s plastic fire chief hat. (Grat in the hat and the bat, now!) He gets the pool net ( that’s for sweeping leaves) and it’s Grat and the bat doing business while my sister Sami, the lucky dad attendee that week, does the bat-frenzy dance all around the living room. The magic bat was good at escaping the net, but, finally, Grat-man the bat-man and his handy bat-net had him securely under that net flopping around on the settee. Eeeew! 

So what next? Do we squash him? Well, not on the tapestried settee. Try and get him to the door and end his incarceration? Sami decides we are not taking any chances (famous last words). We will put him in this Tupperware and then, tomorrow, if he is still alive out there on the front porch, we’ll figure it out.  So Grat-man slams that bat-ware on the bat and throws away the hat (don’t tell Ezra) and they all profusely thank the Grat and that’s that for that bat!

Until the next morning when the Tupperware is on the back patio instead of on the front porch,  and the dog—you know, the one that wandered up a few weeks ago, is having a good ole’ time  chewing it up (the Tupperware….no bat about.) “Oh dear, we really should have made it to the vet with this puppy to get shots, since Dad has decided it’s name, though a girl, is Tommy and that “it’s the best dog we’ve ever had,” (even though we need a bulldozer to clean up the yard after him and just last week we had to purchase a new pool vacuum because he (I mean she….It’s that Tommy name) chewed up a component of the old one (which was also purchased this very summer)! 

“That’s a gooooood dog, “ Daddy was saying while ambling to the car with his walker that next day after all the bat commotion. “Tommy, Tommy! You’re a good ole’ dog!” he was saying just as Tommy was jumping up between his body and his walker, steadily pushing the walker away from him…just as Tommy was licking his hands and got so excited that he (she) took a playful little plug out of Dad’s hand. 

This, being the series of unfortunate events that it was, of course, left Daddy’s hand bleeding. So now, we have a dog, who needs a rabies shot, who has been in contact with a wild bat, that’s taken a plug out of Daddy’s hand. 

“We really should go ahead and take the dog to the vet,” (although Celine’s just sure the dog has been spayed—“See there’s the scar from the operation,” she said. “That’s what it looks like. I googled it”) turns into “We are going to the vet today. But, if Celine is right, this transgender dog probably had a rabies shot whenever they spayed her.”

But Celine was not right. This goooood dog needs spaying, a litany of shots, a heart worm treatment (Do you even know how expensive that is?), and “…we can put her up for ten days for you for three hundred dollars, till we are sure it’s safe for her to be around people.” 

So this week it’s my turn to be here at Dad’s. I stopped at Walmart pre-arrival and bought some huge project boards. They were for a very important project. They are now duct-taped to the fronts of the fireplaces. They are lovely. You know, white on white is the latest trend in room decor, anyway. I actually told Dad I would paint a fire on them, but, wisely, he chose the Alabama logo I hung there for trial. Perhaps my favorite handyman will have time to cap those chimneys when he comes next, but, for now, I can sleep easier. (Well, truly that’s an overstatement at this house, but I’m getting up in the night for things other than bats, anyway.)

One thing I’m getting up for is to go outside and untangle the wailing dog. (Of course, you did not think we were going to pay three hundred dollars to have them observe Tommy for ten days when we have a 20-acre observation deck here.) So we bought one of those long wire leashes and put her under the woodshed with a little kennel  and there are only about 156 things she can get tangled around. How DOES a dog go around a see-saw handle fifty times, anyway? And why does she do it in the middle of the night? Maybe that’s what dogs who are developing rabies do. And if she does develop rabies, I will be the one to contract it since I am going out there in the night to untangle her and I could never see the froth if she WAS coming at me, when she is jumping all over me and knocking the flashlight out of my mouth (yes, my mouth). 

It takes a village to care for an elderly man who has a really goooood dog. But I can remember when I was a kid and we thought Lassie, who had the worst case of the mange and smelled like a wet dog even on sunny days, was the prettiest dog on Lynn Dale Lane. I remember my tadpole that turned into a frog and the trip Mother and Daddy and I made together to give him his freedom at the creek. I remember Prissy getting on Dad’s cars and I remember that cage he made for my bunny when I was in the second grade. I remember our chihuahuas and that awful lizard that lived in my brother’s room. I remember his peacocks that he loved to show the grandchildren and their being entertained by the squirrel on the patio that would sometimes eat a piece of bread from his hand. I remember. He called each one “Tommy.” That’s just his name for all pets. I remember lots of “Tommies.” And, I guess this particular Tommy hasn’t quite caught me up with dad yet on “Tommy-trouble.” I think I’ll probably never be really our of pet-debt with Dad. I am learning, though, that pet equity is sweat equity.

On Saturday, if we do not have any rabies at Four Mile, Tommy will be free. The deer that have loved his incarceration will not be happy. But Dad will be ecstatic. Garbage will be strewn again and Dad will have a tough time getting to the car. But Dad will be so happy to look out on the patio and see that good dog again. A part of me will be a little relieved, too. Dad, from his recliner by the glass patio door is on “Tommy-tangle” patrol during the incarceration. And he is vigilant. Right now, I’m headed out to the woodshed in the rain because Tommy is tangled around the clothesline pole…and he’s such a goooood dog.


                       A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10


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