The Missing Chapter About a Missing Dog.

I deleted this chapter from the original manuscript because tying a big life lesson to a story about a horny dog felt a little weird.  It’s still fun though, so I included for you here.

I was pulling out of the garage one morning, and I noticed a little face peering around the corner. You know me; I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. It was cold and raining, and the poor thing looked helpless. I got out of the car and walked over. He laid on his back and stuck his belly in the air. Yep, game over. I sighed, picking him up and carried him to the dog room downstairs. Chris’s mom Joyce was giving me that I can’t believe you brought another dog into the house look.

I told her that I would find this one a home. She gave me that look that said I don’t believe you, which made me that much more determined. Three weeks later, I kept my promise by finding Barney a new address through a no-kill group called P.A.W.S. I was proud of myself. I cried all the way to the drop-off-site and all the way home, but I knew that it was for the best. After all, we already had three dogs and with a baby on the way, we didn’t need a fourth. The people looked at me like I was crazy as I walked away pregnant and balling.

She called me a few days later to report that Barney was doing well and seemed to be adjusting nicely to his new home. They even kept his name. I gave myself a big pat on the back. I was over it. I already found and adopted off a lone beagle. I turned into a dog giving-away machine, but Chris wasn’t happy about my new skills. He was really sad to see Barney go. He wanted me to call and get Barney back.

I was pregnant at the time, and we had just found out that we were having a girl. Chris continued to complain about wanting his boy (meaning Barney) back. Now that he knew he wasn’t going to have another little penis around, he clung to the notion of Barney as his only chance at a male counterpart in a house quickly being overrun by females. I insisted that wasn’t going to happen.

Then one day I received a call from a very exasperated woman. In five short weeks, Barney managed to wear out his welcome. The adoption contract stated that they must return Barney to the person that they got him from, being me. I secretly cursed the paperwork and the organized woman who had not only kept it but read the fine print. Who reads the fine print? Chris was overjoyed at getting his delightful little pecker back.

I traveled forty-five minutes from work on a Monday to pick Barney up at the designated half-way point. He looked somber. It was like Barney knew that he had done wrong and was being passed off again. Upon arriving home, I discovered homemade signs hanging from the pendant lights that said, “Welcome Home Barney” complete with an eight and a half by eleven inches full-color photo that had adorned our fridge as a memento of what I thought was Barney’s brief time in our lives. I knew once I saw Chris’s artwork that Barney would be with us for good.

I suspected but could never prove that Barney had committed the treasonous act of being returned on purpose. That Saturday, I let Barney out with the other dogs. He began to cause a stir. I decided to ignore it so that I could wallow in bed a little while longer. I had been puking my guts up for weeks, and I was too nauseated. When I opened the door a few minutes later, Barney was not there. Barney was not anywhere. I searched the entire yard. No Barney. Chris was upset. His boy was gone again. I walked the streets looking for him everywhere. No Barney. Night fell, and it was early spring so the nights were still cool. All I could think about was poor little Barney out in the cold with the coyotes. I prayed that he would turn up the next day, but Sunday did not bring any better results.

I put an ad in the paper for a lost dog, which seemed ironic, since I had been placing an ad for a found dog a few weeks prior. Monday I went to work miserable. I knew that by now the chances of finding Barney was slim. You know what they say about the first forty-eight hours in a missing person’s case. Coyotes are numerous in the area we live. You hear them howling at night. Barney was a small dog at nineteen pounds and would have no chance against such beasts.

On Tuesday, Chris was home getting a trailer to load a piece of equipment. Suddenly, he thought he heard Barney. He looked out across the lake that lines our backyard, but he couldn’t see anything. Chris continued calling and thought that he spied something move. He dropped what he was doing and drove around to the other side of the lake, but he could not get down to the water’s edge for all the scrub trees.

Joyce called while he was on his way back. She could see Barney. Hallelujah! He was out on the end of an old tree that had fallen into the water. Chris pulled down the driveway and jumped out of his truck. He called out, “Hang on boy. Daddy’s coming.” Chris hopped into the boat and motored across to the other side. To his amazement, Barney jumped into the boat. Chris motored back, but before he could reach the dock, Barney jumped overboard and swam for shore. He then ran down the street. Chris caught him after a forty-five-minute chase. Barney was so wet and nasty Chris put him in a kennel in the garage until he could get back home. That night Chris washed Barney thoroughly in flea and tick shampoo and then held him down while I pulled 93 ticks off.

I could not help but be happy that the little goof returned safely. Our happiness was short-lived, however. He broke out again the next day under Joyce’s watch. He returned hours later with his manhood hanging out. Joyce was furious because he went out and got all sexed up. We are Baptist, and she was deeply offended by Barney’s having premarital sex. She refused to let him back in the house in his excited state. I had to beg her over the phone. I repeat I had to beg her to let him in. I had been through too much with this dog to lose him now over his canine sexcapades. Joyce finally relented, but bestowed him with the new nickname of “Horny Barney.” I rewarded Horny Barney for his many safe returns by keeping my Thursday appointment to have his testicles removed. This did not keep him from romancing Cookie, but I always thought him a gentleman because he spent a good twenty minutes licking her ears before he began hunching her back. For a dog, I thought that most courteous.

Now I want to talk to you about your desires. I’m not talking about sexual desires here, as in Barney’s case. I’m talking about the other desires. Your hopes. Your dreams. Your ambitions. Those things that get you out of the bed excited in the morning. What? You don’t get out of bed excited in the morning? Well, why not? Okay, I love my bed, and I understand, but it begs the question, why do we grow up and settle for boring?

When you were a kid, chances are you wanted to grow up and be something awesome. A ballerina or maybe an astronaut. At the twins’ preschool, they always have a segment in the graduation ceremony where they put your kid’s picture up on the big screen and play a recorded message of them telling what they want to be when they grow up. Veterinarians, Popstars, and driving a garbage truck were all very popular last year. Kids want to grow up and do something cool or something that looks fun or rewarding. Who wouldn’t? It should be obvious to want that right?

Then we grow up and squash those dreams. We stomp them into the dirt. We tell ourselves that they are childish or unrealistic, or that we just aren’t good enough. Why? Why do we decide that while working at a bank might not be a sexy job, it pays the bills and paying the bills is good enough? Why do we settle for good enough? God puts a desire in everyone’s heart for a reason, and he puts these nuggets of talent in us to fulfill those dreams. When you don’t chase those dreams, your soul slowly starts to die. You feel lukewarm about getting out of bed in the morning. Okay, you have to drag your ass out of bed with a spatula. Not fulfilling your purpose drains your energy and your joy. Stop doing that!

But Amber, I like to eat. I need my boring job. I hear that. I like to eat too. I get it. But what good is eating if you are dead inside? Start small if you have to. Take baby steps. If you did something that made you really happy as a kid, and you quit doing it, then take it up as a hobby. You don’t have to quit your job and start training for the Olympics. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just has to make you happy. Make time to do something that makes you happy. Give yourself permission. Don’t worry about it, if you feel a little silly at first. Do it anyway.

I felt a little silly when I started writing again after years of not picking up a pen. The thought of telling anyone made me choke inside so I didn’t. I kept my big news that I was writing a book buried within. I finally got over it, and you know what, it feels great.

Is there a chance that people are going to laugh at me? There is always that chance. Is my work perfect yet? Well no. Again, I will reiterate for you, I am not perfect. Hell, I’m Baptist and I love the occasional swear word. As a writer, I love that swear words have a little extra punch. As a person, I like them when I hurt myself. Saying shoot when I run into something just doesn’t do it for me. Am I letting my lack of perfection stop me from creating my art and putting it out into the world? No. Don’t wait until you think you are talented enough, or educated enough, or perfect enough or the right size. Start now. What you need is in there. The seeds have been planted. Chase your desires and just watch what they grow into. It doesn’t matter if you have to break through some barriers and get a little lost during the process. Why? Because not chasing your desires is going to hurt more in the long run. That’s why. Now go do it. Follow your passions and see where they lead you. Just don’t let them lead you to my door. Seriously, Joyce won’t let you in.


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