This column appeared in The Herald-Sun in 2013:
By Wes Platt
I had the baby in his car seat clutched in my left hand as I worked the key in the door of our house while fireworks popped and crackled in the night sky over Watts-Hillandale.
I could hear our dog, Huck, barking upstairs.
“Probably locked himself in the guest room,” I opined over my shoulder to Catherine, who was taking the diaper bag from the back seat of the car. I stepped inside.
Moments later, I hauled John Michael back down the stoop to the patio and set the car seat on the ground.
“What’s wrong?” Catherine asked.
I could barely find the words. “I’m going to need a minute,” I said.
She walked up the steps and looked inside.
“Oh, my god,” she gasped.
Yeah, that perfectly summed it up.
I got Huck in 2003 when he was just a pup. He’s a mix of Great Pyrenees and golden retriever. In 2005, he traveled across country with me from Florida to the Pacific Northwest, where we spent a winter in a cabin in the Columbia River Gorge.
He’s a big furry goofball with a generally sweet disposition.
But he also has some significant phobias, specifically when it comes to loud noises.
If a big truck rumbles past while we’re out walking along Broad Street, he will hunker down and try to flee for the nearest bushes with me trying desperately to hang onto the leash.
When storms growl on the horizon with guttural thunder, we have to dose him with Benadryl and slide wooden spoons through the master bedroom closet door handles so he can’t bust in and tear through everything.
But I suppose nothing freaks out this dog more than fireworks. During the bang-bam-boom holidays, it’s never just one night and done, either, is it? People buy fireworks, and if they don’t set them all off on the first day, they’ll set them off every subsequent night until the supply is exhausted.
On July 4, before we left for downtown Durham, I had given him his usual half a Benadryl. I had dressed him in his Thundershirt. I had put the spoons through the handles. I had stashed the kitchen trash can safely in the guest bathroom.
I felt so smug.
Pity I had forgotten about the nook.
In the breakfast nook, directly adjacent to our kitchen, we had a large potted peace lily (which Catherine had owned for 18 years – not quite as long, she may tell you, as her cat Phaedra, the embodiment of feline perfection, graced her life, but still a very long time as plants go) and the downstairs litter box for our cat, Sienna.
As my initial rage subsided, I plucked John Michael’s car seat off the ground and joined Catherine inside to stare at the spectacle.
Black potting soil mixed with cat litter (soiled, obviously), forming a layer roughly a half-inch deep, although the high-smudge mark came from streaks about a foot above the baseboards. The dog had overturned the pot and shredded the plant. I could have been convinced that he had thrown a grenade at the litter box, given how it had been torn apart.
I heard Huck thumping downstairs. He hadn’t locked himself in the room, after all. His apricot-furred feet now seemed to wear black socks. His snout was fringed with gray litter chunks.
Rage crept back.
“I don’t need a dog anymore,” I grumbled, setting the secured baby on the bed so I could help Catherine with the cleanup. “I’ve got a kid now. I don’t need this aggravation. I should send him back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.”
Almost immediately, I regretted thinking that, let alone saying it out loud.
He’s a wonderful dog, a great protector and a devoted pal. He’s a large-breed dog, though, prone to hip problems. If we’re very lucky, Huck might be around long enough to run and play with John Michael.
If we’re less lucky, maybe he’ll be around at least long enough for us to fit him with the saddle Catherine keeps talking about for John Michael’s “loyal steed.”
No, that wasn’t my finest moment, certainly not a shining example of my usual laid-back disposition.
Catherine’s a strong Type A personality – competitive, driven and laser-focused on goals, schedules and accomplishments. She counts on my Type B personality – more easy-going, reflective and long-fused – for balance in a crisis.
She’s usually the river current; I’m usually the leaf skimming along the surface.
I didn’t like being an angry leaf.
I don’t imagine Huck liked suffering the fright inflicted by those explosions all around his home, either.
In the end, it was just a plant, a cheap plastic litter box and a mess on our tile floor.
Not worth the rage.