My eleven-year-old and I were trying to decide between two foster dogs. One was a calm, half-blind, small Boston terrier, and the other was an eighty-five pound longhaired mutt who lived for years as a stray in a forest outside of Istanbul. “Let’s foster the terrier,” my daughter said. “She’s so sweet. Look how cuddly she is. Take our picture.”
“No,” I said, “Let’s get the big one.”
“He’s huge,” my daughter said. “Wouldn’t the terrier be easier?”
“But he lived in a forest. How cool is that? Plus, you and your sister always get to choose. It’s my turn. And I want the big one.”
“But I don’t want him.”
“What if I buy you some Skittles?”
The dog refused to get in the car and I had to send my daughter back to the shelter for assistance. Once he was safely in the backseat, I put the windows down and blasted Cyndi Lauper. Finally, I was a person with a startlingly large dog. It was like driving a mascot to a football game. I couldn’t see out the back window, which made me feel giddy with rebellion.
As we were heading up Market Street, the dog threw up all over the seats and my daughter. “This is the most disgusting thing in the entire world,” she said quietly, staring out the window in a state of paralysis. She hates vomit. Sometimes she wants to be a doctor but “only the kind that never has to deal with vomit.”
“I can’t stop now,” I said. “Let’s just get home.” In the rear view mirror was a panting, drooling, brown and white face the size of a computer monitor. He looked like a full-grown man in a handmade, poorly fitting, Bernese Mountain Dog costume.
The dog threw up some more which made the car smell like airplane beef stroganoff.
We made it home and I told my daughter to run in and shower. My older one stayed outside with the dog while I cleaned up the car. The vomit had leaked down the back of the seats and got all over my hand as I reached down into the crack with a paper towel. My older daughter called out, “Oh my god Mom, this is the biggest poop I have ever seen.” I cleaned that up too. Looking back, the dog was getting himself into fighting shape, ridding himself of unnecessary weight.
“He’s just nervous,” I said, rubbing his soft head and staring into his beautiful brown eyes. “I mean, he lived in a forest. Did you know that?”
“You said that already, Mom.” She used a small towel to try and remove a piece of poo from the dog’s hair.
“In Turkey!” I shook my head in disbelief. I tend to get carried away with the history of dogs we foster, regardless of accuracy.
The younger daughter was clean now, in pajamas. She was sad that we couldn’t stop for Skittles earlier due to the vomit situation, and asked if we could watch TV. I ordered pizza and we settled in with the dog to watch Parks and Rec.
We ate quickly, on edge because the dog had started to pace. Also, he had discovered that if he got up on his hind legs, he could reach any surface. I moved the plums and lemons to the fridge, and the leftover challah to the pantry. I also put the phone chargers in a drawer, and the jar of pencils in a cupboard.
It was time to feed the cat. My younger daughter emptied a can of creamed chicken into the cat’s dish and within three seconds, our house turned into a National Geographic episode.
Apparently, while I was putting away pencils, the dog attacked the cat. There was screaming, and blood, and it was awful. In a heroic feat reminiscent of Mother Lifting Car Off Toddler, my younger daughter, who weighs less than the dog, yanked the beast off the cat, and then the older one, wisely, lured the dog outside. My children instinctively and bravely addressed the disaster while I was organizing office supplies. It was like peeking into a future where I am sipping Ensure through a straw while they balance my checkbook and interview home aids.
I brought the dog back to the shelter that night. And then I threw myself into the arms of my husband, who was finally home from work. He told me it sounded like everyone did the right thing, and his understatedness was both a breath of fresh air and a nuisance. I put my head on my younger daughter’s lap and sobbed. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I should have never brought that dog into this house. I forced it on you and I bribed you with Skittles.” She patted my back, told me it wasn’t my fault, and reminded me that the dog was very gentle with people. “He just shouldn’t be in a home with cats,” she said sensibly. I wiped my face on my sleeve and told her how strong she was.
Her older sister relayed, in vivid detail, the way the younger one had pulled the dog off the cat, and told her she was the bravest person she knew, which made me cry even harder. I complimented her on quickly removing the dog from the house, saying, “I don’t know what I would do without you.” She told me she didn’t know what she would do without me either. And then she said this will make a good blog post.
Our cat, who survived nearly four years in Australia without being attacked by a single snake or spider, appears to be fine. And our new foster, a Chihuahua, was found as a stray in the East Bay.