Family drama and Al’s dog, Whiskey


By Betty Slade

Summer brings my family members home to Pagosa. Two weeks with 15 in all. They come from California, Nevada, Arizona and Washington state. We love this time and start planning sleeping arrangements, menus and entertainment for their time here months in advance.

It’s amazing how well we all get along. Members bring warmth and love for each other. I’m blown away how much they value their siblings and cousins. They see change in Al and me.

My Sweet Al and I are no longer the hub of the family. The next generation has stepped in and taken charge, making plans and keeping the balls in the air. We now let them take care of us.

They bring their skills. Our son-in-law from California is a handyman. He tightens loose doorknobs, sweeps cobwebs hanging from our 30-foot ceiling, replaces lightbulbs and dusts the tract lighting. Whether it’s flipping mattresses, putting up awnings, repairing anything lagging, sagging or needing fixing, he does it with a joyful heart.

My daughter, with a servant’s heart, is my marketing manager. She spends hours cleaning up files on my computer and keeping me on track. She hems Al’s pant legs and anything else that needs sewing. It’s always a working holiday for them. She works on our writers’ group website, so she is on the schedule to speak at our meetings.

Our family’s three houses in Pagosa are turned into sleeping accommodations for our out-of-town guests. We meet each night for family dinners, and share the work and preparation for meals. We sit in front of the fire pit and eat s’mores and tell stories about each other. We have hatchet-throwing contests, ATV races, boating, lunches in town, movie marathons and girls’ pedicures. It’s a true vacation for all of us.

All was wonderful until I asked my Sweet Al to give up his dog, Whiskey, while the family was here. Several weeks before, I served notice on Al and his dog. “You two, go ahead, kick and scream, but Whiskey can’t stay on this property.”

“What will I do without Whiskey?”

“You can go visit her. I’m not being mean. Whiskey can’t help it, but she’s a hunting dog. We will have a small baby in the house. You know and I know how your dog is.”

“She’ll be fine. I’ll take care of her. You shouldn’t talk that way about a man’s dog.” Al pouted and put his hands over Whiskey’s ears. “She doesn’t think you like her.”

“Heavens. I like her just fine.” I brought my concern to two other family members. “Whiskey has to be taken off our property. We’ve got to keep our great-grandson safe. I’m planting my heels in the ground and I refuse to move on this one.”

Al and his dog both planted their feet and refused to talk about it.

Our son called different pet boarders, puppy hotels, anyone who would house a dog for two weeks. All were filled. Then the drama began. We were told, “We’ve got an opening on Wednesday.” 

The problem was the family with the child would come in on Monday.

We told our daughter we must use her home and keep Whiskey there. Our daughter didn’t want to miss the fun with the family; she wanted to stay on the Lower Blanco with the partiers. So, our son agreed to stay at her house at night and go to work from there.

Dejected, Al said he couldn’t bear for his dog to be lonely. He’d have to go visit her every day. I said, “Fine. She’s just a dog. When you go visit your dog, do not bring her home. Have I made myself clear?”

The owner of the pet shop called again. They had room for Whiskey. “Bring her blanket and dog pad so she’ll be comfortable.” 

She was transported to their business. All was good until we received a call two days later. Whiskey, who has separation anxiety, whining, tore up a metal cage and got out. We needed to pick her up and pay the damages.

With check in hand, we picked up Whiskey and moved her back to our daughter’s house. Our son traveled back across town to stay there. Whiskey is now home by Al’s side. All is safe and sound. No mishaps. All is back to how it was.

When each family left to go home, a great sadness came over me. It was like when our children were young and growing up, we experienced all the fun and work of a family. Now four generations and the first meeting with our great-grandson from California and our grandson’s new wife from Nevada, we took photos so we could hold onto these precious memories. I’m sure we’ll remember this family reunion as the one when Whiskey and Al were separated.

Final brushstroke: Our lives are short. We want to embrace every minute we have to enjoy our family. I am learning to take care of the moments. The years will take care of themselves.

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