Our Scotch Collie, the best pet in the world.
Even though Daddy didn't like dogs, Mama didn't mind them. Since he was gone so often, Mama had plenty of opportunities to take matters into her own hands. And she did, more often than Daddy liked. Daddy gave up trying to imagine what kind of surprise awaited him when he got home every Friday evening.
The surprises weren't usually animals, except for the time Mama bought us a couple of hamsters. The furry critters didn't last long, though, not after Daddy found out one was a boy and one was a girl. It wasn't hard to tell, once we ended up with the mom, the dad, and eleven babies. But it had been a while since the hamster family moved on, to another kid's house.
Then, one Friday sometime later, the surprise was Jake.
Jake joined our family when he was orphaned. His family had to move and leave him behind. An adult Scotch Collie, he was regal in every way. Thick brown hair reached from his broad back to his furry knees. A wide white shawl wrapped around his neck and shoulders, spreading to his majestic chest. Thin black strokes outlined his eyes and widow's peak. Standing on his hind legs, his massive paws on my mother's shoulders, Jake and Mama were almost the same height.
Part kid, part parent, and all guardian, Jake was like an angel sent straight from heaven, a present for Mama.
Hands full and overflowing, Mama had four children between the ages of eight and five, and a full-time job. Since Daddy worked out of town during the week, he was no help. Exhaustion was her constant companion.
After Jake took over, the transition from work to kids transformed.
As she gazed out her bedroom window while changing clothes Mama sighed peacefully, watching as we rode Jake around like a horse. Breathing deeply, concerns that tagged along from work dissipated. Leaning into the assurance that Jake would protect us from harm, Mama could lay across her bed, allowing her muscles to unwind for a few moments before starting supper. While cooking, she could see us from the kitchen window, Jake running around, trying to decide which one of us to follow. She chuckled at the thought we always made him "it" then scattered. Our laughter dispelled any problem that lingered in her mind, banishing it to the land of tomorrow.
No one could touch us if Jake was anywhere nearby. We all thought his hackles raised only when strangers were around. That was not the case. Daddy found out the hard way one night when getting ready to spank six-year-old Pete.
Spankings were not new to Pete. Puddles, to him, were made for jumping into and those filled with mischief were his favorites. He'd bend his knees deep enough to get the best spring, arms stretched back like chicken wings. Pushing off with all his might he'd fly up as high as he could and drop down, right into the middle of the biggest mess he could find, trouble splashing all over him. Pete's mind was always on the action, never on the consequences. He knew there would be consequences, of course. He just never took the time to think about them before jumping in.
Punishment ranged from lion's claws to kitten's paws, with mischievous messes falling around cat's mitts. Daddy's spankings weren't as tough when his kids' shenanigans were silly or harmless. Daddy recognized mischievousness. He could be a rascal, too.
Pete reacted the same to every spanking, though, no matter the offense or the consequence. You'd have thought his world was about to end.
"Ok, Pete - get yourself over here," Daddy would say.
"Noooooooooo," Pete's voice was shrill as he started dancing away from Daddy, arms behind his back, hands covering his bottom. Tears ran, like river water rushing toward a dam then bursting over the top. Daddy, from his perch on the recliner, would grab Pete's arm and lay the screaming, wiggling lad across his lap. Pete knew better than to jump off.
We were in the den, the three of us girls in the floor, watching, Jake in the middle of us.
"Pete, you knew before you snatched that cookie you were going to get paddled for taking it," Daddy said, one hand on Pete's back and the other starting its rise. Pete was still screaming.
As Daddy's hand stopped its rise and began to fall, before anyone knew what was going on, Jake charged him. In one quick move he shoved Pete off Daddy's lap and placed himself between them. After a few angry barks he settled into a low, menacing growl.
Upon hearing Jake's warnings, Mama ran in from the kitchen. She found us frozen in time, ten bulging eyes fastened on the pet we hardly recognized. Mama grabbed Pete and shoved him between herself and Daddy, keeping a firm grip on his left shoulder. "Look, Jake, Pete is fine. He's okay," Mama said, her voice as light as she could make it. "He's okay, right Pete?"
Daddy, who hadn't so much as twitched after the incident, picked up on her cue. He planted a smile on his face and placed a hand on Pete's right shoulder. "See, Jake? Pete's okay," he said. "Right, Pete?"
Mama nudged Pete's foot with her toe, head nodding up and down. "You're just fine, right Pete? Tell Jake you're okay."
Turning to see clown-like smiles plastered on each of his parents' faces, Pete looked at Jake and cooed, "It's okay, Jakey, I'm okay."
As Pete reached toward Jake, Jake's body relaxed, but Mama's tensed. Then she caught sight of his wagging tail. Dropping her hand from Pete's shoulder she let him continue toward the proud protector. Once Pete hugged Jake's neck the air in the room started moving again.
I thought Daddy would be mad and we'd have to find Jake a new home after that incident. But he seemed as pleased as Mama to know how far Jake would go to protect us. We kids were speechless, awed by his bravery. From then on, having Jake save us from pretend spankings was our favorite game.
"Look, Jake! I'm going to spank Katy," I'd cry as Katy laid across my lap.
"No, don't spank me, Stephie!" Katy would yell, trying not to giggle.
Jake would run to us, tail wagging, barking his playful bark, and we'd all four start clapping. "Good boy, Jakey," we'd sing, some patting his head and some stroking his mane. "You're such a good boy!" Jake knew he was loved.
King of the Prescott kids, Jake's life at our house was everything he must have wished for as his old family drove away. He filled our lives with fun and laughter, the center of attention
Until Mama found out about the raccoons.
Stephanie Prescott Sparkman. All rights reserved.
21 March 2022