In Thanksgiving 1997, Abby was a year and a half old and was fully grown. She was a big girl just like her huge paws as a puppy indicated she would be. Even when she was lean, her ideal weight was 95 pounds. My second research project was coming to a close, and I could see the finish line for my graduation. My dad was still in his ‘period of troubles’ even though that era too was drawing to a close. My parents were legally divorced by this time, yet my dad’s family has kept in contact with my mom ever since.
My dad’s brother and wife invited my mom, brother, who lived in Atlanta, and me to spend Thanksgiving with them in Waynesville, a small town where my dad grew up in the NC Mountains. My dad was a guest of the state, so he was unable to spend the holidays with us. My first thought when told of this invitation was “What were we going to do about Abby?” My mom told me that she arranged to have her sister, who lived in the Raleigh area, to go to my mom’s house later on Thanksgiving Day so she could let Abby and Father out as well as feed them. My mom further added that I could go to Waynesville early on Thanksgiving Day, spend the day with my family, and early on Friday, my mom said she would return to Raleigh to be with the babies. That way, the dogs would only be alone 24 hours, and even then they would have someone check on them on Thursday evening, so it wouldn’t be that bad for them. I agreed with the plan and would go to the mountains. My mom went to the mountains a day or two before me.
I woke up a couple of hours earlier than normal. Abby wasn’t happy about that. It was way before her usual wake-up time, and she was still sleepy. I let her out, back in, and then got ready for the trip. I gave my farewells to Abby and headed west to Waynesville. During the trip up, I recalled that this would be the first time Abby had not spent the night in bed with me in well over a year. The trip is just under 300 miles, and is almost a straight shot on I-40. Since it was so early, I made the trip relatively fast. I made it to my aunt’s; everyone was there but my brother who arrived a couple of hours after I did. We spent Thanksgiving as we often had when I was a kid visiting up there. We watched a lot of TV and ate quite a bit as well. Later that evening, my mom called her sister, the one who was supposed to check on the babies that day. I overheard my mom say “You’re not going to go up there are you?” I pretty much guessed by my mom’s tone that my aunt was not going to check on the babies. The babies were going to be alone. I felt betrayed and was quite upset. Had I not had a couple of beers that day, I would have gone back to Raleigh right then and there. However, the babies were safe and secure in the house. I had left ample amount of food for them. Other than them using the bathroom in the house, what was the big deal?
I settled in for the night, and enjoyed the remaining time I had with my relatives. I had no idea when I’d see them again. (Some of them I wouldn’t see again for 8 years.) The next day, I made it back home around three or four in the afternoon. Abby greeted me in the kitchen. She was as happy as I thought she would be. One thing struck me as odd was how she tucked her rear a little and then headed towards the door leading to the patio. She never leaves the house that way. But she had to use the bathroom badly. I let her out that patio door, and Abby double-timed it to the grass nearby. Abby had to pee and pee badly. By the force and intensity of the stream of urine, I could tell right then and there that she held it all the time I was away. I had been away for close to 36 hours and she held it the whole time. This is something I couldn’t do myself, but my Baby Girl did it. I had trained her to not go to the bathroom inside. After all those spanks and scolding’s, Abby learned her lesson and must have gone through excruciating pain to avoid getting in trouble with me.
When I went back inside, I noticed there was doo-doo in the dining room left by Father. I am sure that there are some Doubting Thomas’s who are saying, “How do you know that Abby didn’t do it, and not Father?” Well, when Abby did go inside, she would do it by the side door where I usually let her out for her bathroom breaks. There was nothing at that door after I returned. Also, the force and amount of urine Abby had after I first let her out pointed to the fact that she held it the whole time. Also, Father’s “inside spot” was in the dining room.
After I settled in at the house and took care of the Babies, I had to do some grocery shopping and to buy some shoes. As I was about to leave the house, Abby blocked my exit. She literally stood in front of me and wouldn’t let me leave, despite my repeatedly telling her to let me by. Finally, I asked her if she wanted to go bye-bye with me, and she headed out the door with me. First we went to Food Lion at the Tower Shopping Center. I only had to buy a few things, so I was in and out fairly quickly. Then I headed over to a shoe store, also in that shopping center. I was able to find a spot close to the store. I went in to buy some running shoes. While I was waiting for the clerk to get the shoes, I glanced out at my car and could see that Abby was looking right at me. Just for her to see me, even at a distance, was of great comfort to her. She had a forlorn look on her face, but she seemed content knowing where I was. That previous day must have been traumatic for her, all by her babygirlself.
Had Abby used the bathroom in the house that night, I would not have spanked her. There was no way I would have asked her to do something I could not do—hold it for a day and a half. I had trained her too well in this case. How could I have told her that the ‘no peepee in the house rule’ didn’t apply under those circumstances? After that weekend, I really realized what a good girl Abby was. She seemed to have passed from a puppy to a mature adult. I also made a vow that I’d never spank her again. I pretty much held that rule except in one case when she ate some chicken bones out of the trashcan. I did have to give her a little spank for that one.
But on that day after Thanksgiving, my view of Abby changed. It was a watershed moment. She was no longer a carefree puppy I perceived her to be. She was a smart, attentive, and loyal dog. This day cemented the way I thought about her even since.