Breaking and entering for a good cause. A different family Christmas story.
featured in "Action/Adventure Newsletter (December 25, 2019)"
As a skill set, breaking and entering wasn’t something I would typically aspire to. My sister Cassidy, on the other hand, is usually up for just about any adventure. She carries concealed just because she can, so all she has to do is add some lip gloss and a Visa Gold and she’s ready for whatever life throws at her.
We pulled up in Cassidy’s Jeep to the address Logan had sent her in a text message. We took a moment to look at the house with its dark windows. “Tell me what we are doing here again?” I asked her.
Cassidy rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Stacey, you need to pay attention. Logan needs us to take care of his new girlfriend’s dogs while they spend Christmas in Aruba. Or Cancun. Or where ever he’s taken himself off to this time.”
Our brother Logan...well, let’s just say he’s the youngest of the family. He has the looks and the resources to hook up with a new girlfriend, then dash off to some exotic location at a moment's notice. Then it’s big sisters to the rescue, as we tie up whatever inconvenient loose ends he left behind.
“So, he meets his current Flavor of the Month, jets off to paradise, and neglects to leave a key to said Flavor’s house? And he just expects us to figure out a way to take care of the poor dogs left inside? This one’s going to cost him big time,” I said, with my face crinkled in irritation. I wasn’t kidding, either. Cassidy and I had learned a while ago that cleaning up after Logan’s messes purely out of sisterly love wasn’t enough to justify the hassles, inconveniences, and sometimes downright embarrassment that we had to deal with. Baby bro’ had to pay up when he pulled one of these little stunts.
Finally, we got out of the Jeep and crunched through the snow to the front door. Cassidy gingerly tried the knob. It was locked. Of course it couldn’t have been that easy, so we decided to split up. I headed around to the left side of the house and Cassidy took the right. I walked carefully along the house, trying every window I could get to. This was not as easy as it sounded since every window had some sort of planting below it, like some sort of big stupid bush. I had to ease myself between and then behind the vegetation, then try to find space to get some leverage. A couple of times I lost traction with my high-heeled suede boots, slipped in the snow and almost ended up on my butt. I caught myself with much arm waving and bush shaking. I wondered what the neighbors would think if they caught sight of this. Would they realize I was trying to break into the house and call the police?
By the time I had covered the whole side of the house and reached the back, Cassidy was already by a set of sliding glass doors. There were drapes pulled most of the way across the glass doorway, stopping about two feet from one end. This seemed odd, and I figured it was what had caught Cassidy’s attention.
She glanced up at me. “Nice look,” she said with a slight edge of sarcasm.
My long dark hair had escaped from my clips and was all over the place, my jeans had a smear of mud on one knee, my coat was wet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my boots were ruined from thrashing around in the snow covered bushes. I looked thoroughly disreputable, and Cassidy looked like she had just come from a photo shoot. Her shoulder-length golden-brown hair was flawlessly styled and the make-up framing her green eyes looked like it was professionally applied. There wasn’t a wrinkle or smudge of dirt anywhere on her clothing. I really felt the need to stick my tongue out at her. Or give her The Bird.
She slowly shook her head as she continued to take in my appearance, “Anyway, check it out, there’s a dog door back here.”
I had a very brief flashback of myself crawling through a dog door as a teenager. I had thought it would be a clever way to sneak back into the house without my parents noticing I was coming home after curfew. It didn’t quite work that way. I got caught anyway, so I got in trouble plus my dignity was completely in shreds.
As if reading my thoughts, Cassidy said, “Go ahead and try to go through the dog door,”
“Wait, why me? Isn’t there some rule that if you find the dog door, you need to be the first one to go through it? I’m positive I read that somewhere.” Although Cassidy was at least four inches taller than me, I really felt size shouldn’t be a factor in this decision.
“Quit being such a big baby. You’ll fit through this door better than I would, you are already covered in snow and mud, plus you have more experience at this sort of thing,” she said with a knowing smirk.
This time I did stick my tongue out at my sister. It was juvenile, I know, but she brings that out in me sometimes. I squatted down in front of the small door. It really was rather small, like it was sized for a medium sized dog. I looked back at Cassidy, my nose wrinkled in doubt.
After shedding my coat, I used my hand to push the flap open and peered inside. I couldn’t see much in the room from this angle. I pushed my right arm through, followed by the top of my head. So far, so good. My shoulders proved to be more of a challenge, but I endeavored to put one arm and shoulder through at a time, maneuvering inch by inch.
Once I got my shoulders through, I used my knees and elbows to propel me forward. I got through up to my hips when I heard it. The growl, low and deep. I froze in place. It sounded like it came from a large dog, but I knew that sometimes the sounds that a dog makes could be deceiving. I also knew that the actual size of the dog didn’t really matter because I was stuck half way through the dog’s door.
I looked up, hoping the ambient light of the house would allow me to see what I was actually up against. Several feet away stood a Cocker Spaniel. This dog’s body language was all wrong, though. I had distinctly heard the dog make a very menacing growl, but this Cocker was standing there wagging her stubby little tail and giving me a big doggy grin. Maybe I was about to be licked to death? Now that would be an embarrassing way to go, trapped in a dog door and assaulted by a lethal canine tongue. Great, it was my teenage years all over again, complete with a humiliating death.
“Hi there, girl”, I said softly in my best dog friendly voice, “aren’t you a pretty thing?” The tail wagged harder and her front paws did a few tiny dance steps. Then I heard the growl again. It was a little louder and more insistent this time. I regarded the little dog in front of me a little more closely. Then from the shadows behind the Cocker Spaniel stepped a really big German Shepherd. I felt my heart sink into my stomach. That was some good cop/bad cop routine they had going on.
I heard Cassidy say from the other side of the dog door in a loud stage whisper, “Stacey?”
“It seems that I’ve found myself a rather displeased German Shepherd,” I replied.
“What are you going to do?”
“Roger that. What about offering some of the dog treats you stuck in your pocket before we came over?”
This was actually a good idea. Problem was, the dog treats were in my coat pocket and I took my coat off to get through the dog door. I continued to try to maneuver myself through the tight opening.
“So what’s taking so long?” Cassidy was starting to sound a little edgy.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Whatever. You need to hurry. I think I just heard police sirens.”
I stilled and listened, and sure enough there was the distant wail of a siren. I started rocking back and forth as I tried to pull forward, trying my best to get the rest of me through the dog door. Next thing I knew, I felt her boot land on my butt. This situation just kept getting better and better.
“Get.” Cassidy said, as she shoved with her boot.
“On!” Really big shove.
In I went, landing in an inelegant heap on the other side of the door.
The dogs watched the whole process, and backed up as I came tumbling through the door. Instead of getting up on my feet, I sat on the floor cross-legged, back relaxed, attempting to come off as the friendly Auntie. I patted my legs, and that was all the invitation the Cocker needed. She ran the few feet to me and piled into my lap, wiggling all over.
I heard the flap of the dog door open and Cass drop the bag of treats inside the door. I offered a piece to the Cocker, who went into another spasm of joy. This caught the curiosity of the bigger dog. I took the largest piece I had and offered it to him. He approached it hesitantly, but in the end my secret ingredients were his downfall. He took the treat and demolished it, then looked at me for more. Gotcha.
“What are you doing in there?” Cassidy’s voice had gone up an octave, almost matching the pitch of the siren.
I leaned over and pushed the flap to the dog door open about half way and said to Cassidy, “It’s okay to come in now.” Then I got up and walked away, leaving her to make her way in the same way I had come in. I heard the flap being pushed in from the other side, and Cassidy stuck her head into the room. “Really? You can’t just open a door for me?” The Cocker spotted an opportunity to make a new best friend. The enthusiastic dog managed to give Cassidy several wet, sloppy kisses on her face before she withdrew back through the dog door with a soft curse.
I stopped and listened carefully. The sound of the siren actually seemed fainter now. I breathed a sigh of relief. A false alarm! I quickly walked around the room and turned on lights. The Christmas tree lights blinked on. It would have been a pretty sight, with the possible exception that the tree was laying on its side with ornaments and garland scattered everywhere. There was also ripped up wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, boxes, tissue paper and all manner of items that used to be carefully wrapped up presents under the tree. Uh oh. I think there were a couple of dogs in this house who didn’t appreciate being abandoned for some strange guy and a trip to the tropics. As I hit the last light switch I finally gave in and opened the back door for Cassidy.
“What a mess,” Cassidy said as she stepped into the living room. “Is it my imagination, or have the sirens headed in the other direction now?”
We worked together to right the tree, then redecorated it with whatever undamaged ornaments and garland there was left. We threw everything else plus all the paper, ribbon and boxes in garbage bags, and made a pile of the presents.
“I was so sure the neighbors would see us breaking into the house,” Cassidy commented as she tied up a garbage bag.
“That went through my mind, too. I was a little afraid they would see me flopping around in the bushes and call the cops on us. When I heard the sirens, I thought for sure they had.”
“It would have been a little hard to explain why your butt was stuck halfway through the dog door, especially since we don’t know the owner of the house. It’s a good thing I was able to record that part with my cell phone, because Logan needs to see it.”
“Wait, what? You aren’t serious, are you?”
Her evil grin said it all. I grabbed a slipper that the dogs had somehow missed during their destroying marathon and threw it at her.
“I did it for billing purposes!” Cassidy ducked as the slipper sailed through the air in her general direction. She attempted to suppress a laugh.
“Oh, I know you better than that. That wouldn’t explain why you’ve already posted the video to Facebook.”
“Who says I did that?”
“Well, did you?”
“It already has 42 likes”.
See why I stick my tongue out at her?
When the house was as picked up as it was going to get, we loaded the two dogs in the Jeep. Before we took off, Cassidy got a Skype call on her cell phone from Logan. He was reclining on a chaise lounge chair by a swimming pool, wearing swimming trunks and a big smile.
“Merry Christmas! How are things up in the cold north?”
“Thanks to you we’ve had a rather adventurous day,” I replied dryly.
Logan’s smile got even wider. I know, right? That video was priceless, Cass.”
“Tell me, little brother, you could remember to pack your swim trunks, but couldn’t remember to leave a key for us?”
“What do you mean, Stacey? Didn’t you find the key we left for you?”
We both stared back at the phone in Cassidy’s hand. “What. Key.” I bit out.
“The one on the top of the back door jam…,” he began, then he looked sheepish. “Did I…”
“Forget to tell us about it?” I finished for him. “Why yes, yes you did.”
“Logan! That’s terrible!” Cassidy said, trying to keep her face serious. She failed miserably, and started laughing. Logan soon joined her.
Like usual, the joke was on me. My crazy siblings had unwittingly conspired to turn me into the world’s worst criminal, and on Christmas of all days.
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