Adventures of Cookie the Stray, Chapter 4
Blue Skies Shining on Me
Hours passed along the highway with mile-markers zipping by like posts on a picket fence. When the gas gauge fell to nearly empty, Connie stopped to fill up the tank, then, from the ladies' room at the side of the building, she filled Queenie's water bowl. The pups, still sleeping in the car were carried, one under each arm, to the edge of the concrete pavement where there was a strip of freshly mowed grass. All three dogs romped for a few minutes, taking care of their needs, happy to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
She bought a package of peanut butter crackers inside the service station convenience store and shared the last of them with the dogs. Queenie stayed close to her mistress, uneasy from the events of the morning and the unusually long drive. Her master put the pups back into their box, then, found the on ramp and got back on the highway.
The miles stretched on as the car rocked gently along the pavement. The sun was still high in a bright blue sky painted white with watercolor clouds. Queenie studied the cars and trucks they passed on the three lane highway, watching out of the passenger’s side window as they fell into the distance behind. She always enjoyed traveling with her mistress in the days before the man came along. It felt good to be riding in the car again, just Connie and Queenie and her two pups. After a few hours of car watching she stretched out across the bench seat and put her head in Connie’s lap and fell asleep. When the sun rested against the flat horizon, low in the sky Queenie’s mistress woke her.
“We’re in Texas now, girl, the Lone Star State.” Queenie cocked her head and looked at the huge “Welcome to Texas” billboard as if for confirmation.
Welcome to Texas
Crossing the state line, Connie's thoughts drifted to the states she and Queenie had seen and the dog shows they had worked. It was at one of those shows that she met her husband to be. What a dashing and charming man he’d once been, sweeping her off her feet with his old-fashioned manners and gentlemanly behavior. He’d poured on the attention, holding open doors for her and insisting on walking on the traffic side of streets to protect her. He catered to her whims when it came to choosing restaurants and the type of food they would have; always the perfect companion. After a short courtship, they’d decided to get married before a Justice of the Peace in a tiny town en route to the next dog show event.
That’s when she discovered something quirky about his nature.
“Not Mexican food again,” he told her a few days into their marriage. “That stuff is gross.” She thought back to the many meals they’d shared at Tex-Mex restaurants while they were dating.
“How about some Chinese food then?” she asked.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he answered. “That stuff is full of MSG.” He’d made a face at the suggestion and wrinkled his nose. They’d settled for a rowdy barbecue pit where a roll of paper towels adorned every table along with the selection of greasy food choices. His true colors rose to the surface becoming verbally abusive and rude after his second or third beer. He quickly forgot about the fun the three of them once shared, grooming, training and showing Queenie as they traveled across the country.
On the Road to Find Out
He’d talked to her about his house during the months they'd traveled. The way he told it, she expected to find a mansion. Instead, they pulled into the rutted driveway of a tiny house built in the 1940s with clapboard siding and a small yard. It was quaint, but nothing at all like he'd portrayed it.
Without telling Connie, he made arrangements to mate Queenie with a champion stud owned by some people he’d met at the last show. He had sneaked the dog out of the house on the pretense of having her groomed. Only after the deed was done had he told Connie about it.
“Maybe the bitch can earn her keep for a change,” he’d said over her objections.
“But she’s my dog!” Connie bristled at the news. “How could you make that kind of decision without asking me?” That was only the beginning of what was to come.
He immediately placed an advertisement in the newspaper to sell the puppies and was checking it in the classifieds when he received a call from the breeder.
“I’ve got some unfortunate news for you, Jeb,” the man on the phone said. “It seems that there’s been some trouble with the stud’s bloodline.”
“What kind of trouble?” Connie’s husband asked. His new found friend explained that his so called Champion Stud turned out to be a fraud with falsified papers.
“We just got a letter from the AKC denying his registration.” The silence at the other end of the line was soon shattered by a stream of expletives from Jeb.
“What kind of fool do you take me for?” he asked the dog’s owner. “You’ve just ruined my Champion’s breeding history with this stunt.”
“You can still sell the pups, the man answered.” They screamed at one another for a few minutes with Jeb demanding reparation for the damages and threatening to file a law suit. Neither was happy when the call ended with Jeb hanging up on the other breeder.
It was far too late to do anything about Queenie’s litter. The news meant the puppies could never be registered as pure breeds. Connie came into the room to find Jeb in one of his foul moods that seemed to be happening more frequently. Sixty-two days after the breeding, the litter arrived right on schedule.
Connie was elated with the arrival of two beautiful and healthy pups although the male was a tad smaller than his siblings. The second pup was stillborn but the third one was healthy, active and the spitting image of her mother, Queenie.
“Darned dog can’t even whelp a decent litter of pups,” the man said, disappointed with only three offspring from the ill-fated match. Connie ignored the warning signs of his foul mood and told him about an upcoming dog show.
“I’d like to enter Queenie into the agility competition,” she told him. By the time the event is scheduled, the pups will be weaned and she’ll be back in shape. It’s been far too long since she competed.” Jeb’s reaction had been immediate. His face turned a violent shade of red and a scowl replaced his normally handsome features.
“That’s just what we need,” he retorted, “to spend more money with nothing to show for it.”
“It’s here in the city,” she explained. “There wouldn’t be any hotel expense or meals out or extra gasoline to buy.”
“NO MORE!” he shouted ending the conversation with a loud pounding of his fist on the kitchen table. That was the end of Connie’s career as a dog trainer and Queenie’s reign as a champion. It was on that day that Connie had placed a packed suitcase in the garage and planned her escape from this bad match of her own making.
© 2017 Peg Cole