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A Christmas Story

Published: 12/20/2009
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Or Why I Cherish My Horses

And Why I wish the rest of my family would just Go Away!

By Maddy B. Gray

It all started innocently enough.

My teenage sons and I were Christmas shopping in Portland’s Old Port. We were checking out a lovely, high-end pet shop and they decided they needed to get something for Spike, our cat.

They found something affordable (no small task) – a tin of catnip. Great! The purchase was made and the teenagers were thrilled with the notion that Spike – acquired from a shelter earlier this year – would not be left out of the Giving Circle.

So as evening approached, we returned home. The teenagers couldn’t help giving Spike an early treat. They sprinkled some of the herb on the doormat. He got animated and rolled around on the floor in appreciation. 

We had dinner and talked about our purchased gifts. Ain’t Christmas grand? Love, good intentions, and generosity were positively orbiting around the table.

I went out to the barn to toss my horses their hay and said goodnight. I let the dogs out for their last pee and called them back in.

All was well. The house was quiet in a cheery, pre-Christmas way. Even with Santa no longer in the picture, there was still plenty of affection and anticipation in the air. 

I went to bed.

I suspect many of you are like me. If there are subtle stirrings at night, you wake up.

When one of the teenagers returned from a friend’s house at midnight, I woke up and checked on him.

When one of the dogs got restless at 2 am, I got up and let him out.

[In hindsight, I should have known something was up at that point. He never needs a middle-of-the-night outing.]

But I may speak for many of you, again, when admitting I’m not exactly a firefighter, jumping into boots, sliding down the pole, ready to report to Incident Command.

Roused from slumber, I'm more of a bumbling, minimally-functional zombie. I might not have a full and accurate understanding of my surroundings. I might miss some traffic signals, if you know what I mean.

Morning came. At 6 am, I emerged from the delicious warmth of my down comforter, shook off the bad night’s sleep, and stumbled towards the coffee maker.

Gone was the bliss of the prior evening. If you can imagine an instant hangover without the alcohol, I had it. And all it took was a few glances around the place to acquire that multiple-tequila-shot, what-the-hell-happened state of mind.

The first thing I noticed was the catnip tin. Spike had managed to open it. Its contents were strewn all over the linoleum kitchen floor.

Ok. No biggie. I stooped to push all the catnip into a preliminary pile before fetching the broom and dustpan.

The boys hadn't purchased tin of catnip, they'd bought a Pandora's Box.

Apparently, in his stoned and blissful state, Spike had rolled in the stuff and then taken a grand tour around his kingdom. It was like someone generously sprinkled oregano all over the kitchen counters, all over the washer and dryer. All over the place.

Then, enter the canines.

Man’s best friend, right?

Not for me on this early Sunday morning.

They must have tried to join Spike on his altered journey. But instead of smelling it and rolling in it, they ate it.

It make them sick.

As I turned on the lights to the hall and the living room, the results revealed themselves. Squirts of green diarrhea and piles of yellow vomit everywhere. It was like an evil Santa had given some rotten toddler one of those Super Soaker squirt guns full of icky, nasty, stinky stuff.

So, before even a cup of coffee to take the edge off, I was on my knees, scrubbing carpets and trying to suppress my gag reflex.

Oh, about the coffee. When prepping it for action, I misplaced the lid on the carafe. So, my desperately-needed black elixir went running all over the counter instead of dripping obediently into the pot. Ok, let's try again.

Yes, that sound you hear is one of grinding teeth.

For a second, I contemplated yelling upstairs and forcing the teenagers into action. But really, what good are teenagers at 6 am? I figured keeping them out of the picture was a win-win for all of us.

Oh, and we could all laugh about it later. 

Ha. Ha.

The dogs and cat looked at me sheepishly.

I got into my coveralls and boots, fixed a To-Go mug and headed outside. It was about eight degrees, windy and threatening snow. Gosh, it was great to be heading to the barn!

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12/20/2009 Kathy Brooks
Maddy..... I can so identify with your catnip story. With 3 dogs, 4 cats and one 24 year old kid still living at home, I know all too well the animal chaos, etc.... and how heavenly it is to go out and greet my 4 equine friends in the paddock.
12/20/2009 Barn Bitch Barbie
Trade those kids in for more horses.... Ho! Ho! Ho!

"Speak kindly to your little horse, and soothe him when he wheezes, or he may turn his back on you, and kick you where he pleases" - Anonymous