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"You're the Dog Lady!"

Dogs and cats, rabbits and lizards - pets have always been part of my family's life. Most have been welcome, pure-bred or mongrel.

Back in the 1970's I had a bit of an adventure with six half-grown pups. Our mini-farm was thirteen miles from town, out of sight of any other houses and with lots of room for pets to roam. We had just the right number, a couple of hounds to satisfy the dog-lovers among us and several cats to satisfy us cat-lovers.

Then one day six half-grown pups showed up. Dropped off without permission, they sported perky ears and humongous paws. Mastiffs?! I thought as they pranced around my feet. No, probably labrador mixed with something else. They were friendly, lively and very hungry. Our resident pets took cover under the station wagon and atop the tool shed, barking and growling to beat the band. The visitors didn't seem to mind. Their curiosity took over and nose to ground they went snooping around the car to see what the fuss was all about.

After a couple of days the uninvited visitors had outgrown their welcome. No bush or tree or blade of grass had gone unscathed and I began to understand why their former master had made us this "gift." Our own animals couldn't eat their dinner outdoors any more, the cats seldom ventured down out of trees and reluctantly I realized it was going to be my task to solve this problem.

The next Saturday the children and I spent the morning rounding up the herd, one of the kids opening the back door of the station wagon a little as I grabbed a pup around the middle and squeezed him inside the car. If we weren't careful, while pup number two was going in, pup number one was coming out! By the time we had all six loaded up I was covered with dog hair, sweat, and general gook the pups had acquired while exploring woods and ditches. Even with the air conditioner wide open the doggy smell was pretty powerful inside that car. Off we headed to the dog pound.

Three miles down the road I hit a highway patrol inspection check. I rolled my window down a few inches, handed the officer my driver's license and tried to ignore the barks coming from the back seat. After circling the car, the young man handed me back my license with these words: "You can't drive anywhere on those tires, ma'am."

I stared at him in shock. "What?"

"You've got one bald tire and the others don't look too good. You can't drive anywhere ‘till you get some tires."

Tears started down my face as I thought back to the morning. My silent children were wondering what on earth mama's going to do now, and so was I.

"These your dogs?" By now the din was hard for the fellow to ignore. I was so glad he asked.

"No, they were dropped off at my house and it's taken us all morning to get them in the car to take them to the dog pound. Can't I at least do that?" I guess my free-flowing tears got to him.

"Tell you what. If you promise you won't go anywhere else until you get some tires, I'll let you take them to the pound. But don't come home until you get tires on this car, okay?" I would have promised him the moon and stars, but I just said, "Thank you, thank you, yes I promise!" And on down the road we went.

After a lengthy explanation at the pound of why we wanted to drop off "our" puppies, we headed to B&G Firestone. I marched right in as if I wasn't covered in dog hair and smell. The kids kept their distance, although from our similar appearance it was obvious we were together. I sat there and reeked while reading a magazine, and after another hour or so we rode home on new tires. By now the roadblock was gone. It took several baths for me, the children and the station wagon, but we finally scrubbed our skins and scents back to normal.

On my way to town a couple of weeks later, lo and behold there was another inspection check in the very same spot. And wouldn't you know it? The very same officer circled the car, checked the tires, then said with a smile, "I remember you, you're the dog lady!"

"And I have new tires!" I smiled back. As he waved me on my way, I thought to myself, "Dog lady — I guess there are worse ways to be remembered by the highway patrol!"

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