By Clayton Dean
My name is Clayton Dean, and I have a problem: a jumping problem who thinks he needs to leap up to kiss every visitor. He hops like a bunny but emits all sorts of non-bunny grunts, growls, howls and yips. So if you live in Northern Virginia, you might see a floppy-eared hound running along the local jogging trail, frolicking with the deer or enticing your dog to play. Yes, I have a dog. Truth be told he’s a cross between a kangaroo and a panda trained in the art of kung fu. His name is Trouble. No really. I’ll say that again: His name is Trouble. Over the coming months I’ll continue to recap his adventures in this column: the Trouble with Trouble.
Every Thanksgiving our family packs up the three kids and two dogs and heads off to our in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. The packing is usually left to me, which as any woman reading this column will readily surmise was my spouse’s first mistake. Now, I don’t blame her. I have an advanced degree and am a self-anointed Jenga Grand Master, so I seemingly should be able to handle packing a car, but it’s deceptively difficult, even harder than trying to understand Kim Kardashian’s popularity. As I trundle suitcases to the car, Trouble waits poised in a sprinter’s stance by the door. At every opportunity he tries to slip out and jump into the back of the car, lest we leave him behind. Inevitably, I’m left to cram the various suitcases, toys, baby seats, baby gates, dog gates, kid’s pillows and dog pillows into an ever-shrinking space. It’s like a clown car, only we’re the clowns, and we own an obsessive dog who has to inspect every item. Eventually I find way to fit the kids in, which requires a lot of Twister-like creativity (and airing of grievances). Then, finally, I layer the baked goods and pies at the top of this horrible semi-human ziggurat. And off we go.
When we arrive at my mother-in-law’s home, she’s overjoyed to see the kids. Trouble? Not so much. He’s arbitrarily banished to the smallest washroom without a fair trial or representation. We start to unpack the car. I take the three pies and put them on the counter. I return to the car. Various cousins, aunts and uncles are milling around outside hugging and shaking hands. I run back into the house to grab a camera and notice Trouble isn’t in the washroom. I find him looking out the window and quickly usher him back into his prison, relieved that I caught him before he could get us in hot water. It’s only later, as I’m helping set the table, that I notice the butter has strange decorative indentations all along the sides. A closer look reveals the truth—teeth marks. I quickly check the pies. Half-masticated pecans, pumpkin pie filling and pie crust are scattered all over the side table where I placed them. Maybe 50 percent of each pie escaped Trouble’s insatiable appetite. For a quick second I debate blaming it on one of the kids or their Uncle Andy. He was eyeing those pies, after all. But I realize I’d have to own up to it. The look of disappointment and complete lack of surprise from my wife and mother-in-law prove too much; I voluntarily confine myself to the washroom and immediately regret not bringing any of the salvaged desserts with me while Trouble, curled up by my side, is softly snoring with a fat belly and bits of pumpkin pie in his muzzle.
( November 2015 )
Catch up with the first seven parts of this series.