"Can we call Dad, now?"
I didn't spend twenty years practicing law for nothing. You don't ask someone on the stand a question unless you already know the answer, or at least if you don't know the answer, be sure you can get them off guard by following with another more moderate question.
"Let's check the internet first," I answered Eric. And on the internet there were ads for puppies, for six-month old labs and a few older dogs. We called a few puppy offering and we call two of the older ones. One woman said that she had a dog that she simply could find nothing wrong with. She was a sweetheart, four-and-a-half years old. Even when loose, she stayed on the property and loved everyone. We are as prepared as we could be.
Eric and I drove to lunch at Panera's, a lunch which we both ate rather quickly. Then we were back in the car. I let Eric do the calling to his Dad. I chickened out, afraid to receive the bad news myself and then having to relay it to my happy and expectant grandchild.
My son was able to talk form his work.
"Dad, Grandma and I have thought of a family present for Christmas," Eric began.
I should have put the phone on speaker. I was struggling to hear what was coming from the other end.
"What is it?" the words coming through were faint but distinguishable.
"A dog," said Eric.
Eric must have received a negative reply which I simply could not catch, but soon my son's voice got louder and louder and I caught the end "Can't deal with a puppy now. No time to house train it, don't want to get up in the middle of the night, can't deal with the chewing and destruction."
"Let me have the phone, Eric," I whispered, and my grandchild passed it over. "George," I said boldly, pretending he was on the stand and that I had the most reasonable request in the world, "what about an adult dog?"
A long pause. "I don't know."
A crack in the cement, I thought.
"She is four-and-a-half years old, chocolate lab. Loves everybody and is house-trained and gentle."
I put Eric back on, and he gave his Dad the reason a dog would be good for the family. Fun to have around. He would help care for her. A great Christmas present.
Poor George. I almost felt guilty, but Eric had said something very insightful back at the restaurant. "Dad could really use a dog." I was stunned then at Eric's maturity. Eric wasn't just thinking of himself. "You know," I said to myself, "dogs can sometimes be as healing as couselors."
But if I thought Eric and I were home free, I was mistaken. We were not yet off the hook.
"I can't have a dog that chases cats," George said solemnly.
"O.K." I answered, breathlessly. Maybe this gentle creature would be cat simpatico.
"Mom, he said apologetically, I just can't pay to have a dog spayed right now, and I wouldn't want it any other way."
"That's fine, it's part of the gift."
He was getting frustrated and obviously could feel the Christmas tentacles around his neck becasue the last excuse for not geting a dog was the oddest I have ever heard. You would not find it in any story book, nor in the memories of all the dog rescuers in the country. "Mom," he said, "I have two rugs at the back door which are worn out and if I have a dog I need two new ones because the dog will be coming in and out that way."
"How big?" I asked. I believe he thought that if he gave us enough requirements, we would not get the dog. He didn't realize at the time that requirements were the same as challenges and any and all could be met by a Grandmother and thirteen-year-old Grandson together on a mission.
"Oh, four by six or so…" His voice was losing energy as he said "good-bye".
"What did he say, Grandma?" Eric asked.
"That he would need a dog that was house trained, that did not chase cats, that was spayed, and that he would also need two new rugs for the back doors."
Then, as I said a prayer of thanksgiving, Eric cinched the deal with impeccable timing, although neither of us realized that at that time.