Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sola: Origins of.

Sola, just before the flood.

Note: None of the names of those mentioned in this story have been changed in order to protect their privacy.

Of late, I've received inquiries from readers regarding Sola's origins. Some of the details are not known to us, but I'll give it my best shot.

We learned in April of 2004 (by word of mouth) of a three month old yellow Labrador Retriever, sitting in a cage on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We don't like cages. I tracked down the owner by phone, requested directions from her, and Mrs. Author, Nigel and I made the two hour drive to the aforementioned farm. Our journey took us from interstate to two lane blacktop, eventually leading to a dirt road winding away from civilization, drawing us nearer to one of the most bizarre spectacles I've witnessed.

We wound our way up a steep dirt driveway, and upon cresting the hill found ourselves at what appeared to be a typical Vermont farm, perched atop a cold windswept mountain. Two lovely yellow Labs greeted us as we stepped out of our dusty SUV. They were rather amicable, approaching for a scratch, retreating to guide us toward the farmhouse...coming back again for another rub. We knocked on the door, and there she was.

No, not Sola. Bernice.

Bernice (the farmer's wife) met us at the door and invited us to come in. We wiped our shoes in the mudroom, hung our coats, and walked directly in to...the 1960's. Faux wood wall panels surrounded us, our feet cushioned by grass-green shag carpet. Gold flecked counter tops drew our attention to the kitchen. Gaudy, gold filigree framed flea market quality artwork in the living room screamed out for attention. This was full-on, no holds barred tacky of the sort that makes my mannequin wielding neighbor look like Martha Stewart.

Only two items betrayed the 60's decor theme. The first was a dusty computer perched on a hideous desk in the corner; the other: the terrific hairstyle Bernice was modeling. It was perfectly preserved from 1983, frosting included. And it was big. As we sat down to speak with her I was fairly sure I heard Culture Club music emanating from her hair. She lit the longest, thinnest cigarette I have ever seen, struggling to draw a drag from it. Wrinkles around her mouth suggested that she had planted a straw in the ground and spent the last ten years trying to suck her way to China.

Bernice told us her version of Sola's story. According to her, the lovely pair of Labs that greeted us upon our arrival were the parents of the puppy that she had "out back." This comforted us; our experience with them was very positive. They were good natured, bright-eyed, hardy farm stock Labs. According to Bernice, the pup she had was one of a litter of fifteen, and she'd been unsuccessful at finding a home for this last little one. We were also assured that the pup had spent much time in the house and was completely housebroken.

Sola: Total lie.

Author: Our interest piqued, we asked if we could have a visit with the little one. Bernice led us out back to a solitary pen containing one round, lonely little female Lab. We took her out, picked her up, cooed and caressed her. She snuggled in close, kissing Mrs. Author. It was evident that she was starved for attention, and did not want to leave the warmth of our arms to return to solitary confinement. She never had to: we were sold.

Back in the funhouse, we chatted with Bernice while she prepared all pertinent paperwork. I stood at the kitchen sink, staring out the window in an attempt to avoid coming down with a headache from the glare of Bernice's press-on nails. A Buffalo wandered by in the pasture. I mentioned this to Mrs. Author, who joined me for a look. Bernice explained that they had been raising "buffaloes" for a few years, and that they were quite tasty. She then had us review the papers for the puppy we were taking home.

The papers were unfamiliar to me, issued by the CKC, or Continental Kennel Club. I asked Bernice why she did not register her pups with the AKC. Major mistake. She turned three shades of purple and went on a ten minute rant about "them AKC people." It was explained to us that the AKC had issued a ten year suspension to Bernice (and her hair) for not reporting the deaths of puppies from the litters she bred. We understood that some puppies do not survive, but Bernice felt it necessary to tell us that some of the pups wandered in to the pasture and were kicked by the "buffaloes."

Mrs. Author and I exchanged glances, horrified. A quick visual scan of the walls confirmed my suspicions: no Harvard degree to be found. Instead, Elvis stared back at me from his velvet canvas, and even he had a look on his face that said "Get me the hell outa here bubba." We thanked Bernice, grabbed our paperwork and ran for the truck. The farmer waved to us as we peeled out of the driveway, pedal to the floor, Sola in Mrs. Author's arms.

We made the trip home in record time. Sola (we had decided on the name prior to meeting her) never showed any sign of distress at having to leave the farm or her parents behind. We found this odd, but assumed that she was tired. In retrospect, I think she was happy to escape Bernice, her hair, and the buffaloes.

Once inside we stripped off our winter clothes (April in Vermont is still winter) and let Sola explore the house, with Nigel close behind, observing her every move. And then the floodgates opened. In her first twenty-four hours with us Sola urinated in our house no less than twenty-three times, just shy of a one whiz per hour average. She did not miss the 24/24 mark for lack of effort, but was instead waylaid by a one hour nap.

Sola: I told you Bernice lied.

Author: We were very much aware of that, thank you very much. The next hours, days and weeks were spent swearing, screaming, and jumping up and down on bunched up paper towels in every room of the house. Nigel stayed on the couch, safe from the flood waters. Bags of trash surrounded us, overflowing with yellow paper towels and empty wrappers.

Did we lose it at times? Hell yes we did. There were days that I would have paid every dime I could scrounge out of the cars and couches to have someone haul Sola away. Truth be told, we came close one day. But Mrs. Author and I are not quitters when it comes to critters. Weeks and months passed, Sola slowly gained bladder control, Nigel eventually took off his life preserver. The sun came out, and the carpets dried. We stopped torturing our Bernice voodoo doll.

Would I change anything if I had a chance to go back in time? I would have loved to have snapped some pics of the funhouse, the hair, the buffaloes. But I would not give up Sola for the world. She flooded the house, ate furniture (more on that in another post), and chewed on Nigel relentlessly. She tested our patience beyond reason. She also brought Mrs. Author and I together as parents, eventually made peace with and befriended Nigel, and she stole my heart.

I wouldn't trade Sola for all of the tea in China, which may very well be lodged in Bernice's straw as I type this.


Sola: Could you give me another bath? I want to make sure you washed all of the tacky off me.
Nigel: It's gonna take more than soap and water...

25 comments:

  1. I don't subscribe to RSS. Can I get automatic updates when you post new stories? I love this!! More please!

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  2. Anonymous12:36 AM

    I think you may be crazy. :)

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  3. sI have no idea how I got on your mailing list, but I must say, I read your posts and smile.
    Give the furry ones a hug for me.
    Janice in Indiana

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  4. " Anonymous said...
    I think you may be crazy. :)"

    I think you may be right. ;)

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  5. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Hey, I use press on nails!

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  6. " Anonymous said...
    Hey, I use press on nails!"

    That is most unfortunate...

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  7. Great Story! Have you thought of publishing some of your work? Very good stuff.

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  8. Anonymous2:58 PM

    Great story, but "sola" means "alone" in Spanish and Italian, I figured you named her that b/c she was alone in a cage??

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  9. Christine3:38 PM

    Hey! I live in the NEK! We are not all stuck in a time warp worshiping snakes and eating buffalo.

    I read this whole journal. Thank you for curing my depression. I don't think I need to laugh for the rest of the year.

    Oh, have you been to the Dog Chapel? Dog Mountain?
    I think they have another dog social in October. You two (Sola & Nigel) should come to it. Meet Ringo (our dog). It's just over an hour from Burlington...and it’s open year-round.

    Anyway, great journal. Great dogs.

    Take Care!

    ~Christine

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  10. Jodi Walters5:53 PM

    What a wonderful way with words you have. You should be a published writer!!!

    P.S. If you're crazy, it's no wonder I like you!:-)

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  11. "Guiness said...
    Great Story! Have you thought of publishing some of your work? Very good stuff."

    Are you a publisher? I hope so, because Sola read this and is now shopping for diamond studded collars...
    ;)

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  12. " Anonymous said...
    Great story, but "sola" means "alone" in Spanish and Italian, I figured you named her that b/c she was alone in a cage?? "

    Actually, we did know that. But I like your take on it! We didn't like Sol or Sole..so we added our own twist.

    Cheers,
    NB

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  13. " Christine said...

    Hey! I live in the NEK! We are not all stuck in a time warp worshiping snakes and eating buffalo.

    I read this whole journal. Thank you for curing my depression. I don't think I need to laugh for the rest of the year.

    Oh, have you been to the Dog Chapel? Dog Mountain?
    I think they have another dog social in October. You two (Sola & Nigel) should come to it. Meet Ringo (our dog). It's just over an hour from Burlington...and it’s open year-round.
    Anyway, great journal. Great dogs.

    Take Care!

    ~Christine "

    A good laugh, my favorite. Glad to know you've had a few today!

    a. It's an NEK stereotype that I could not resist.
    b. We have not been to the Dog Chapel, but we'd love to go! E-mail me if you have details.
    c. Thanks for you kind comments, and thanks for reading...

    Cheers,
    Your Neighbor

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  14. " Jodi Walters said...
    What a wonderful way with words you have. You should be a published writer!!!
    P.S. If you're crazy, it's no wonder I like you!:-)"

    Are you positive it's me that you like, or could it be the invisible friend I have next to me? He feeds me cashews.
    ;)
    NB

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  15. great story! very entertaining. love the description of the house and bernice. haha! it is too bad you were not able to get pictures of both.

    when i first got casper, he too kept peeing in the house. and he would never pee in the same spot. so now that he has marked every inch of the house, he does not pee inside anymore. that's how he got housebroken. haha!

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  16. Our first flat-coat had a hard time gaining bladder control for the longest time. He really tried our patience several times so I can relate.

    Luckily now the floodgates only open after three hours of swimming and drinking the water...

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  17. mppwith311:06 AM

    OMG, you have me rollin' on the floor. I love how you view the world.

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  18. Anonymous6:11 PM

    i love your story about Sola origins. ur dogs are lucky.

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  19. Anonymous12:35 PM

    What a wonderful insight you have of the world. Clever and funny. Let me know if Mrs. Author is ever out of the picture! I would love more humor in my life!! My Mr. Author just rants and raves about my dogs. He does not like the floodgates or the furniture eating!

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  20. Something tells me that if Mrs. Author happens across this she'll have something to add ;)

    Tell your Mr. Author you are replacing him with a Labradodle. And let us know how that works out for you!

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  21. What a great story! My older lab is registered with the Irish Kennel Club, and my younger guy a rescue from an idiot woman, possibly Bernice's sister, that I came across on Craigs List here in Va. I resent the way that idiot woman treated my guy as a pup, but I am thankful that she realized she couldn't keep him. Strange how things work out in the end!

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  22. I love this story! You are such an excellent writer! I am certain that Sola is forever thankful for saving her! Not to mention now Nigel has his partner in crime.

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  23. GREAT story.

    How lucky is Sola to have escaped Bernice and the "buffaloes" (and to have found YOU).

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  24. Ruby B.♥♥1:03 PM

    That is a good good read.Lucky Sola,unlucky buffalos.
    Neil you are a belting writer,we were gripped from begining to end

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  25. Great story. Glad you didn't give up on your Lab. ".....not quitters when it comes to critters." Love it!

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