After moving to farm country to teach high school Spanish, I watched my roommate Kristy come home one day with a German Shephard puppy.
“Meet Shane!” she said.
She hadn’t asked me. She hadn’t asked the landlord. When she did ask him, his response was, “Not in the house.”
Kristy made Shane a bed of hay in the barn. She, being a farm girl, was used to animals having to stay outside. I, being a city girl, was used to indoor pets, like our family poodle, Pierre, that I’d left behind when I’d gone to college and then moved to Nebraska.
One late-autumn day a high school student came into my classroom and said that her friend’s dad’s dog had given birth to puppies, and that he was going to drown them in the river if no one took them.
“Why doesn’t he take them to the SPCA?” I asked.
“Too much trouble and too far away,” she said. “I was thinking, Miss Middleton, since you live on a farm . . .”
She had me at drown.
“I’ll take them,” I said.
I figured I could drive them to the SPCA myself.
I’ll bring them tomorrow,” Toni said. “There are three of them.”
Kristy wasn’t thrilled with the idea of three more dogs, even for a short time. By the time Toni got there, it was down to two. When I saw the puppies I decided to keep them. They were adorable.
“Okay for now,” Kristy said. “But we need to find homes for one of them.”
I agreed, happy to save the little guys from a watery death.
I named them Huey and Cleo. Huey was the cuter one with long black hair and patches of white. Cleo was all black. Huey sat around a lot; Cleo was always on the go.
The dogs slept in the barn in their own bed of straw, so they were dusty most of the time.
A month later a blizzard came on a Saturday night. We hadn’t gone to Omaha that day because of the weather prediction.
On Sunday morning, when I went out to check on and feed the pups, Huey was gone. Had a fox come in the night and carried him away? Had he gotten lost in the storm? Cleo was still there, warm in the barn with the German Shepard, although the wind howled through every cracked board.
I walked the farm for two hours in driving snow looking for the puppy. Huey was nowhere to be found. You’d think a black dog would be easy to spot in all white.
I cried myself to sleep that night. If only I’d sneaked the puppies into the house, Huey would still be alive.
The next morning, Kristy left to teach at her school before I left for mine. I was gathering up my papers, purse, and lunch when she came flying back down the circular driveway that wrapped around the house. I heard her tires crunch the gravel and went outside to see who it was.
“Look what I found!” she said.
There, inside Kristy’s winter coat, was a shivering black and white puppy. Huey was alive!
“He was by the side of the highway,” she said, laughing.
I held him for as long as I could without being late for my job. I made him a blanket bed in the bathroom and locked him in there with his food and water. If the landlord came over, he would not be happy. I had to risk it. Huey needed to thaw out.
When I got home that afternoon, Huey was his old self, happy to sit around and be petted.
For Christmas break, Kristy went back to her Iowa farm with the German Shepard, and I went to my parents’ suburb near the big city of Des Moines with Huey and Cleo. Our farmhouse in Nebraska was quiet for ten days. I wondered what the pigs thought about that.
Back on the farm, a couple months later, I went into Omaha for a Saturday night to visit a girlfriend. When I came home the next day, Cleo ran up to the car to greet me.
“Where’s Huey?” I asked my roomie.
“Oh, someone came and took him,” she said. “I couldn’t call you. I didn’t know your girlfriend’s phone number.”
I was stunned. What?
“I didn’t think you’d give my dog away while I was gone for twenty-four hours,” I said.
“Remember, we agreed that we’d give one of the dogs away?” she said.
I thought the deal had been long forgotten. Since so much time had passed, Huey had become my dog.
I didn’t even get to say good-bye.
That was the beginning of the end for me and Kristy.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I would’ve forgiven Kristy, (although she never asked for it), we might have been able to stay roommates. Shortly after she gave away Huey, the creek flooded, and we had another incident of no respect or empathy (see my blog post, One Flood, Two Fishermen).
Our great teamwork in South America hadn’t translated to Nebraska life.