Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Christmas with the hoarder/breeder

On December 23rd, 2009, Brad and I decided that we would surprise our three children with a dog for Christmas.  It had been two years since we had lost our beloved dog, Elaine, and it was the number one thing on their Christmas list.  Because we are nostalgic, we went through the paper to find a black lab, just as we had done with Elaine, fourteen years before.

Mistakenly, we saw it as a "sign" that they were selling black lab puppies in Coshocton, Ohio.  This was significant because Brad's mother grew up there, and it is where his grandmother currently lives.  They were advertising 7 pups - four females and three males.  We wanted another girl, of course.  You don't want to disturb the delicate balance of the existing four females and one male in the house. Yes, Brad's maleness is that palpable.

"Perfect." we said in unison.

"I am sooo excited for our life to change,"  I actually said.  Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

Much to Brad's parents' dismay, we asked them to watch the kids, so we could go see the litter.  We did not even pretend that we might not come home with a new puppy.  We were on a mission.  Temporary mental illness is like that.  You get a persistent, illogical idea into your head, and you cannot excise it, until it comes to it's fruition.

It was an all day affair and after many winding dirt roads, we arrived at the "Breeder's house."  It was a farm that looked like most farms in Ohio, really.  This was completely deceptive.  We went inside and there was shit everywhere.  The dining room off to the left of the hall had been cleared out for prospective buyers, but when I asked to go to the bathroom, I had to go through the kitchen and it became clear to me that the woman of the house was a hoarder.

There were dirty dishes piled up on every inch of the counters and there were newspapers and trash, three feet high, scattered all over the floor.  One of a set of twin girls who lived there had to move stuff away from the bathroom door, so I could get  in it.  It was unnerving.  I have seen this nonsense on t.v. and my mother has a certain amount of "organized hoarding" qualities, but the reality of something like this is much more frightening.

Apparently, the husband was totally into hunting and the puppies came from a long line of hunting dogs. If I had had any foresight, whatsoever, this information would have translated into "insane energy and the need to jump on you and use your children to sharpen it's baby teeth".  But, naturally,  I was clueless, as I stared my future right in the face.  We were told the mother was chocolate and the father was yellow, but the entire litter was black.  Now, I'm no breeder, but where I'm from, that's called adultery. Thems was bastard chillins. Brad and I glanced at each other, registering that we were now dealing with little illegitimate puppies.

Brad's brow went up, "That'll bring the price down," he whispered conspiratorially.

Just the opposite happened.  People started streaming through the front door, into the dining room, and two of the puppies were committed to on the spot. Then, all of the sudden, all of the male dogs were gone.  Townspeople came out of nowhere, and started snatching up the puppies and counting out their money.  What was happening?  I started to sweat.  The overweight hoarder woman started demanding cash and raised her price.  It was insane.

Brad picked out "the feisty one playing with the ball" that would change the internal structure of my knee forever (another post).  Foolishly, he pulled out the checkbook.  Hoarder lady started shaking her head, and waving her index finger.

"Y'all go and get your cash.  I'll try to keep this one for you until you get back.  Hurry though, 'cause if somebody comes in and offers more money than you, and has cash...well, I'll just won't have any other choice..."

I grabbed Brad and we ran out the door to go get cash because, as usual, we weren't prepared to get taken advantage of.  It took forever and I remember we were starving.  It was late afternoon and we hadn't eaten anything.  This just heightened our sense of urgency and stress.

When we returned, all of the other prospective buyers were gone and the two girls (about 12 years old) were playing with our puppy (as far as we knew, anyway - they all looked alike).

"We've been calling her Scarlett, " they said in unison like those creepy twins on "The Shining".  I was so relieved.  Then Brad started his "hardball routine".

"You got all the papers for her?"

"Oh, she comes from a long line of huntin' dogs.  Earl, here, my husband, is a serious hunter.  This puppy's daddy is even in our Church Directory photo.  It's on the wall there.  Take it off. G'won take it down and look at it."

Earl was leaning up against the door frame to the filthy kitchen, wearing overalls, a wool checked cap, and he was chewing something brown.  He was looking right through us.

"I gotta go ta work." Earl exits.

"Gwon!  Take it off the wall.  See it there.  The picture forth from the bottom."  She was referring to a series of framed photographs lined up along the stairs.

"That's okay.  We can see it from here." Brad recovers.

"Girls take it off the wall and show it to them!  It's our honest to God Church Directory Photo.  Spanky is IN it."

Okay.  Spanky is their dog - our puppy, Scarlett's, father.  That alone sparks a suppressed laugh bubble in my stomach.  Then one of the twins brings us the framed Church Directory photograph which has the two twins, wearing dresses that are really too immature for them (but that's nothing); flanking their mother who is dressed in a similar frock (still not my point); Earl at the top, clearly on some sort of soapbox; and Spanky in the front of the obnoxious, hoarder woman and her girls.  Earl and Spanky were wearing matching camouflage outfits sans emotion, and Earl is holding a shotgun diagonally across his chest.  I shit you not - for their Church Directory.  Now, I don't profess to know how Jesus would feel about all of this, but, I do not remember ever seeing Him depicted in any portraits with a firearm.

Brad and I both looked at the picture.  He then looked at me.  I bit my tongue and tears came to my eyes.  He looked down at the floor and reached for his wallet.

"Perfect," we said in unison, again.

If you haven't been to Coshocton, Ohio.  You should go.  It truly is picturesque.  "Canal Days" is a two day festival on August 21st.  They have a beautiful park and it is rich with history and yummy restaurants.  It is kind of like stepping back in time - like when the settlers used to get their church directory photos taken with their dogs and their muskets.

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