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Stealing is wrong & other things I learned on vacation

chunky chihuahua doggo
Introducing Badge, the fattyhuahua.

**Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Midland Reporter-Telegram. Mack Daddy died a few years ago, but this is a summer break memory worth sharing again. For the record, I still wish I had taken the dog.

Mack Daddy’s observation about his first grandson: “He’s tender-hearted, Melanie. He’s too tender-hearted.”

“Well, Pops, he’s a Nicholas.”

As you know, I am always assigning blame or credit based on genetics. Nicholases are, as a general rule, kind, extremely creative, brilliant, tall, do-gooders.

Maxceys are, as a general rule, very concrete, brilliant, pragmatic, driven, artistic, and … ummmmmm, less than sensitive. We also like to party, fight and gossip. What can I say, we’re Irish.

So, the kids and I went to Brownwood to spend a few days fishing and hanging out with their grandparents. Mack Daddy and Meemaw are champion fishers, and we thought Parksalot would love to start learning.

Turns out, he is much more interested in worms, getting stuck in mud, splashing around and trying to catch tadpoles. Bodacious declared it too hot and headed for the truck with her water bottle, new sunglasses and some Frito’s. Mack Daddy and I had no luck, but it was an absolutely picture perfect day on the bayou. The grass and all the trees were covered in green and the light hit the water in that Walden Pond-sparkly way you see in the movies. Slight breeze blowing the leaf canopy. Seriously perfect. Reminding me again that we need to be outside, running and exploring more.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Mack Daddy’s neighborhood is just outside of town, pretty open, semi rural. Folks across the road have little goats and chickens. They also have a herd of Chihuahuas and cats that roam free, unfettered by pesky things like collars and baths.

My kiddos love animals, especially dirty ones that I don’t want them touching. They immediately bonded with one of the dogs, a rotund yellow male. They started saving their leftovers for him, teaching him tricks. The minute they named him, I knew things were going to get hairy.

“You should take him home before something happens to him,” my dad says. “Like me.”

See, less than sensitive. But I get it. I hate to think about that pack of little dogs getting sick or under the wheels of a speeding truck.

My dad isn’t very sentimental, either. He’s already done his good deed for the century by adopting a feral cat he found at Lake Ivie. Proudly showing all the scratches on his arm, “He’s a dandy! He loves it when I aggravate him. His name is Cat.”

So Dad and I hatched a plan. A plan to liberate Badge, the fattyhuahua.

“We named him Badge because he is gold, like a police badge,” Little Son explains. Oh! I thought it was short for He Kinda Looks Like a Badger … .

Now I am sending repeated texts to the Hubs regarding said dog. Five texts later I get this text back: “You have reached my voicemail. I am not available to answer any text messages right now. Especially ones about dogs. Beep.”

Then I send two photos of the kids with Badge.

Then a final text that ends with, “Your son loves him.”

I finally get a “Bring him” reply.

Cry Me a River

While I am not looking forward to five hours in a car with an unwashed dog, nor am I looking forward to managing a third dog at home, I love making my kids happy. Overindulgent. As previously established.

So, on Departure Day, Mack Daddy and I go over the plan.

“If anyone shows up looking for that dog, Dad, just give them money and my apologies, tell them I thought it was a stray.” We decide to start loading the car and disguise Badge as luggage. We’ve been gone for six days so there is plenty of to and fro-ing going on, lots to put back into the car. I have re-parked the family mobile with all the doors open to provide us a little cover. The kids are in their seats and here comes my dad with our last load of blankets.

He puts the pile on Little Son’s lap. Little Son bursts into tears.

Mack Daddy and I have no idea what is wrong. Has his blanket scratched him, bitten him or God forbid, pooped on him? What is wrong in there????

“I don’t want to go to jail for stealing,” my son sobs. And he cries like his mother, face all crumpled-up looking, huge wet tears flowing down his cheeks and onto his T-shirt.

Well shoot. Mack Daddy retrieves the blanket, walks it back to the house.

“Stealing is wroooooooooong,” sobsob.

Okay, you’re right. You’re obviously the conscience of this group Little Man. “No, waaaaaiiiiit Momma! I want Badge!”

Mack Daddy is grimacing now, hoping no one hears this pitiful wailing. He goes back for the blanket, brings it back to the car. More tears.

“Nooooo. I don’t want to make someone cry when Badge is gone tomorrooooooow.” Sobsobsob.

Poor baby. So my dad takes the dog back, pronounces Little Son a softie, and tries to say goodbye to his shuddering grandson. Bodacious, Mack Daddy and I don’t bat an eye at the failed attempt at thievery. We’re Maxceys.

Old Dogs & New Tricks

Park cried off and on most of the way home. He also kept telling me he made a “very big decision to do the right thing.” And he is so right. I think. I mean, I know stealing a dog is wrong, but on some level, I keep telling myself that Badge would have had a healthier, safer life with us. And I can’t honestly say that I think we did the best thing for that dog. But I do think my son did the best thing for himself.

I got an email from Mack Daddy last week.

“Tell Parksalot that his dog waits for him at my door every morning and that his Meemaw and I are feeding him.”

Who’s the softie, now Dad? Huh? Who’s the softie now?

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