The plan was simple: my wife, Bandit and I would travel to Mobile Alabama on Dec. 24th to spend Christmas day with our families then return home the evening of the 26th…what could possibly go wrong? The stomach problems from last week were now a thing of the past. The youngest niece is in her teens, so no little ones or pregnancies to rile the infertility demon.
The drive from our home to Mobile is about a 7 hour trip and I was a little concerned how Bandit would handle the long car ride. The wife had to work until 5 pm to close the store, but luckily my company was letting us off early. I headed home, finished packing and prepared the wrapped gifts and luggage to be loaded into the car the moment my wife arrived. Fed Bandit and then took him to the tennis courts to play, hoping to tire the little guy out for the trip.
Apparently some people delay getting a hair cut until the very last minute on Christmas Eve. Thus causing the wife to stay at work later than she expected. By the time she arrived home she was understandably agitated threatening to cancel the whole trip. I figured she was talking out of frustration and ignored her tempting offer. With the car packed, we were on our way…that’s when I noticed I couldn’t take a deep breath without coughing. My sinuses were clear, no sneezing or sore throat to speak of. Just a cough and a small discomfort when taking a deep breath.
My fear was pneumonia. I’ve known several people since moving to Florida come down with pneumonia and know how dangerous it can be. But it’s Christmas Eve, we have a dog with us in a car, and an arrival time on the GPS that already says 2 am. I did what most men do, ignored the signs and pressed on.
Bandit was about as good as you can expect a 5 month old puppy to be on a long car ride. Playful and curious, but surprisingly controllable. He spent most of the trip in his crate or sleeping on my wife’s lap. Until the 5 hour mark when exiting the crate he suddenly got very angry. I heard him make a noise I’d never heard before and scared both the wife and I. I think he smelled his food from the backseat floor and realized he was hungry again. But I wasn’t ready to feed him yet. Giving Bandit food and water means he must poop and pee a half hour later. Not smells I wanted accidentally in the car after what I went through the week before. I pulled over to secure Bandit back in his crate, gave him a treat for his cooperation on entering the crate and assured him he would be fed and watered in about an hour.
I can’t thank enough the people working the gas stations and rest areas late on Christmas Eve. As I was feeding Bandit at one of them, an employee came by to pet him. Out of guilt for him having to work so late on Christmas Eve, making it possible for me to even take this trip…I spent 20 minutes listening to a man talk about how his Lab just had puppies and he is struggling to find them homes and can’t afford the puppies shots. There was a time I would question why he didn’t get his dog fixed and avoid the puppy issue. How strange we see fertility as a problem in our pets…nope not going there. Sorry Bandit, you’re getting them snipped!
Anyway, we arrived at 2:30 am by my watch. Thankfully with the time difference, we gain an extra hour to sleep. Unlucky for Bandit this meant another 5 hours in the crate until morning. Between my coughing and Bandit’s fidgeting, sleep wasn’t easy.
Bandit woke up Christmas morning in the land of Chihuahua’s. My parents have 3 females, who are all in their golden years and have no interest in a 5 month old playful puppy. It was a surprisingly peaceful introduction and I opened the door letting all 4 dogs outside to go potty while I continued visiting with my parents. Bandit sat outside the door whining. Poor guy thinks he only has permission to go to the bathroom when my wife or I are standing next to him. Not wanting to cause any unnecessary confusion at this point in his training, I went outside and walked around the backyard next to him while he did his business.
When we went back inside, my mother bombarded me with tales and pictures of all of my cousins’ children! I’m happy my cousins aren’t struggling with infertility. Every once in a while I will find my courage and stalk Facebook for the latest photos and tales in their lives, but on my terms when I can compartmentalize the negative emotions. Someday I need to have “the talk” with my mother about discussing another’s children to me. She doesn’t understand the emotional pain I must manage during these conversations. If I ask a question about the kids, I’ve prepared myself to manage the dark emotions so it’s safe to talk about them. If someone else asks my mother about the kids in front of me, I can mentally check out of the conversation and come back when it’s safe again. But to surprise me out of the blue with this in a direct conversation with me; I don’t care how cute, smart and adorable they are, they’re demon spawn from the fires of Mount Doom! But it’s Christmas and not the time to lash out. I take a deep breath…cue coughing fit.
Finally my sister arrives with her boyfriend and her Chihuahua. A middle aged male who saw Bandit as a threat. A lot of barking and growling, but no playing. With my mother handing out candy cane chew sticks for the dogs, peace was restored and Christmas continued.
Bandit loves chewing paper. Toilet paper, paper towels, candy wrapper, magazine and now wrapping paper are some of the items Bandit finds irresistible. Knowing his obsession with paper, I’m surprised how well behaved he was that morning. Between the excitement of a new place and new animals and all the additional attention, only a couple times did we catch him trying to sneak away with a mouthful of paper.
Then we headed over to my wife’s family to spend some time with them. My mother-in-law also owns a Chihuahua. This one a middle aged female, who was interested in Bandit. He quickly realized he wasn’t liking this kind of attention. He just wanted to play, she wanted something else. As I sat conversing with relatives, petting Bandit on the head, this female decided to try and mount Bandit. He freaked and is now probably scarred for life.
He spent the rest of the afternoon on guard and played with the squeaky toy chicken my MIL bought for him (his new favorite) and getting the attention from the nieces.
That evening the storms outside started. Tornado warnings popped up in Mobile. My parents moved to Mobile after I moved out, so I know little about the landmarks of the area. I did recognize one the news mentioned that I heard my father talk about before, but not sure if it was 5 miles or 10, or on the other side of town. Figuring my parents would be making sure the dogs were safe I waited until the threat passed before making the call. Of course the anxiety was causing me to take deep breaths in turn causing more coughing fits to deal with.
Finally I told my wife about the trouble breathing I was having. She was concerned but agreed there wasn’t a immediate need considering it was Christmas Day and storms producing tornadoes outside. While waiting for a break in the storm to head back to my parents, the family conversation turned to who inherited who’s nose. My nose being one feature I had no desire to pass on to my children, I found this conversation rather amusing, but I noticed myself having more and more difficulty breathing.
On the way back to my parents I called them to make sure everything was okay. They were fine and had no idea a tornado touched down a few miles away from them a couple hours earlier.
That night the coughing deteriorated to the point I couldn’t hardly sleep again. I woke up feeling even worse and agreed to go to an urgent care clinic. As I stood in the kitchen, bent over resting my head on the counter, my mother approached from behind to feel my head for a fever. Bandit, having survived a molestation attempt the day before, didn’t like the angle she used and I guess he thought I was in need of protection. I had to stand up and face her before Bandit would back down.
Two hours, a flu test, chest x-ray and a clear indication I need to get serious about my diet again, I walked out of the clinic with nothing more than just a cold. I felt silly for making such a big deal for just a common cold. That was until I heard about Norman Schwarzkopf dying from pneumonia. I’m so glad I did get checked out for a simple cold, because pneumonia isn’t worth messing around with.
When we arrived back home I was so proud of Bandit. He didn’t have one accident the entire trip. He chewed only on items he was supposed to chew on. He even protected me. As he laid at the foot of the bed, I considered giving him another chance to sleep with us. I walked into the kitchen to take my cold medication and heard, “BANDIT NO!”