I was beginning to get frantic and turned on the stereo, ready to pop in one of the CDs I’d brought along for the trip. However, I caught the fact, before the CD slid in, that one of my favorite radio stations was playing glorious choral Christmas music. I decided to keep this on, and Candy immediately climbed back into the backseat, lay down, and went to sleep.
I’d love to be able to turn this story into one my marshmallow would love: a sad, neglected, and abused dog who responded only to Christmas music, a magical Christmas gift for the generous soul who adopted her. She’d become “Christmas Candy.” They’d visit shut-in children during the holidays and the dog, whom everyone noted was certainly an angel, would “sing along” to favorite carols, and the children would miraculously recover from whatever ailed them.
Unfortunately, the thing I finally realized was wrong with Candy when she woke up, began pacing in earnest, and it became clear that she really did need to make a pit stop now, was that she was deaf. It wasn’t just “no” and “Candy” that resulted in no response from her. She didn’t respond to snapping, whistling, or clapping either. Quite obviously, the Christmas music had done nothing to soothe and calm her; she had just been worn out by wrestling with me for the coveted driver’s seat. I saw a sign for a commuter parking lot and decided this would be the ideal place to let her out.
Normally, in this state, commuter lots are located just off highway entrances and exits, and are very easily accessible, the notion being that commuters can meet each other for carpooling without having to use half a tank of gas to do so. Not so, this lot, which had me snaking all over an unfamiliar town, wondering if I’d ever find my way back to the interstate. Meanwhile, Candy was growing ever more anxious in the back seat. Just as I was beginning to believe I was in some episode of The Twilight Zone and some creature bigger than I had plopped down that “commuter lot” sign for his amusement, rearranging streets to keep me from ever finding it, I came upon the huge parking lot.
I let Candy out of the car, and she proceeded, once again, to lug me around as if she were the ox and I the cart. She did her business, though, and didn’t run away with me. She even happily trotted back to the car to get inside, and this time I knew to move the blanket out of the way and to give her hind legs a little boost. Another week or so of this, and maybe we’d finally have a system.
Meanwhile, I was getting phone calls from everybody. Lisa called to let me know she’d be unavailable to receive my “she’s been picked up” call, which she had instructed us all to make, once we’d reached our destinations and handed Candy off to the next driver. The mother-daughter team who were meeting me, called to say they’d had car trouble and had to go back to get the daughter’s car. The woman on the leg after the mother-daughter team called to find out where I was and what my ETA in my drop-off city was, so she could plan accordingly. I had no idea exactly where I was, since I don’t travel this stretch of interstate often. I gave her my best estimate and then pictured myself being dragged all over the parking lot where I was supposed to meet the mother-daughter team, who never showed up, because the daughter’s car turned out to be as unreliable as the mother’s, while this other poor woman waited for hours at her destination, because I’d completely screwed up my time estimate and hadn’t accounted for cars breaking down.
I’ll never know how long that one woman had to wait, but the two meeting me pulled up into the lot only about five minutes after I arrived. They’d brought a stuffed toy for Candy and seemed excited to have her. Was that jealously I felt when Candy eagerly followed them, barely looking back at me as she hopped up into their car, no weak hind legs in evidence whatsoever, and they all went on their merry way, barely listening to my instructions to keep the food bag out of her reach? Could I possibly be regretting the fact that the journey had seemed so short, that Candy had only just begun to nuzzle me and to “kiss” my neck? Was I hoping with all my might that Candy would find a good home with other dogs who would play with her and serve as her ears for her? Was I kicking myself for not having thought of bringing her a stuffed toy? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I told my marshmallow that next time the dog’s name would be Killer, and she wouldn’t be so enamored, but she wasn’t listening. She was too busy fantasizing about buying a huge plot of land – better yet, an island like the one for the misfit toys – so we could provide homes for all the Candys of the world.
(And that's it for the Christmas stories. I will resume with all the other stuff that's been running around in my head this month after the holidays. Those of you celebrating Christmas tomorrow: have a merry one!)