High on the list of things that would have prevented us from taking a trip to a cabin for three days with 35 members of Jon’s family was not being able to take the dog with us. Chuck’s attendance was just as important as having a dry, quiet place for the baby to sleep as well as making sure that no one said anything so horrendous as to send me into a fit of anxiety (although, the one comment about how all those people in New Orleans should have just walked out of the city if they didn’t have cars, that one brought me T H I S close to throwing things, heavy things with pointy edges, pointy edges with which to knock some sense into a certain head).
Jon’s sister who owns the cabin gave us the greenlight to bring Chuck because there were going to be four other dogs there anyway. Yes, we spent a holiday weekend with 35 people — actually, not just people, FAMILY people, two very different things — and five dogs. And one bathroom. And a very large container of Kentucky bourbon.
I was most worried about Leta and what her constant moaning of discontent might do to those around her, that they would see what I have wrought on this world and blame me, the daughter/sister-in-law, for passing on defective genes. These people are my husband’s family, and I want to impress them. I want them to like me if only because that makes life so much easier. If your mother-in-law doesn’t like you then it’s much harder to laugh it off when she tells you that you look homeless.
But Leta was, dare I say it for fear of it never happening again, fabulous. She was wonderful and delightful and charming and everyone wanted to be near her and hold her and flick her sprightly pony tails. They couldn’t get enough of that kid, and one afternoon I was even able to leave her alone with her aunt while Jon and I got to play reckless teenagers on the wave-runners in the lake. And did we ever act that part with skill. At one point I was driving while he was holding on for dear life behind me, and I figured out how to make that thing GO. The only problem was I couldn’t figure out how to make that thing STOP, at least not safely, and Jon weighing about 70 pounds more than I do had nothing to hold on to when the wave-runner decelerated from 35mph to zero in about, oh, one second. I’ve never been able to scare my husband successfully, not by sneaking up on him or by putting a rubber tarantula in his underwear drawer, but you should have heard the screams on that lake! Screams of fear! Wonderful, piercing screeeeeams!
The dog, however, proved to be a constant source of anxiety, and not just because of the incessant pacing which he did incessantly and with much incessance. The first night in the cabin Jon’s mother insisted that he sleep in her room because ours was so small that we could barely turn around without bumping into all four walls. I insisted that he not sleep in her room because, remember, I want her to like me, not curse me or say mean things about my clothes. But if you knew Jon’s mother then you would know that her insistence is the supreme insistence, trumping all other insistences, including that of the local and state governments, the Supreme Court, officials at the Pentagon, and God. God asks Jon’s mother for permission to take a shit.
So I let Chuck sleep in her room the first night, but not without a signed agreement that I held no responsibility for lost or soiled property or any tics she might develop as a result. And what subsequently unfolded was exactly what I had predicted. At 4 AM Chuck started pacing her room with much incessance. The proper way to deal with this behavior is to act like you’re about to check yourself into a mental hospital because motherhood is kicking your butt, slam your hands on the bed in a sweeping manifestation of desperation, and then whisper-scream so as not to wake anyone else up, “AAAUUUGGGGHHH.” Not only will he stop pacing, but he will curl up in a ball until your medication starts working.
Instead, Jon’s mother got out of bed and took him outside because she thought he needed to go wee. Chuck doesn’t ever need to go wee in the middle of the night. In fact, he can go 24 hours without going wee, but I usually don’t admit that publicly because that would mean I would have empirical evidence that he is able to do that, and why would I ever admit to forgetting to let the dog out for 24 hours? Twice. In one week. Because I thought Jon had let him out and Jon thought I had let him out, and when we finally did he held his leg up for so long that he fell asleep while going wee.
Once they got outside the cabin Chuck just stood there, so Jon’s mother called him back inside. But he wouldn’t come because Jon’s mother doesn’t have the desperation in her voice like I do. All of this was happening right outside our door, and I could hear her calling him and I could hear him not coming. She was trying to be very quiet about the whole thing, but I have Mom ears. I can hear Leta dreaming. And I heard her struggle with Chuck go on FOR OVER AN HOUR. She would call his name and he wouldn’t come, over and over again, from 4 AM to 5 AM until he finally came inside and sat outside our door sniffing the floor. And it wasn’t a quiet, subtle sniff. It was WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE kind of sniff like he was trying to pull the foundation of the cabin off the ground with his nostrils. I finally nudged Jon who was closest to the door and told him to let the damn turd in.
For the next two hours he sat up straight in our bed like a statue, worried that we might release him back into the wilderness of the hall, unable to relax because of all of Leta’s grunting and thrashing in the crib. By the time Leta woke up both Jon and I had been awake for over three hours and Jon had project managed the many ways in which we would make Chuck pay starting with driving over his Joy Division tapes with the truck and giving away his Noam Chomsky collection to the cat next door.
Everyone suggested that we leave Chuck outside on the deck with the other dogs to sleep at night, but the only reason the other dogs stayed on the deck was because their morbid obesity prevented them from jumping the railing. Chuck can leap almost seven feet in the air, and if we had put him on the deck we would have heard the violent suction of his sniff outside our window within 15 minutes. Having ruined my mother-in-law’s first night of sleep already I just decided, to Hell with it, why have one person mad at me when I could have many? So we let him roam the entire cabin the next two nights and I have no idea where he ended up or on whose face he pressed his nubby wet nose. I just know he didn’t go back into Jon’s mother’s room because not once during the last two days did she tell me that I needed to brush my hair already.