Too much whippet

Returning home on the evening of my daughter's 18th birthday, there was something suspiciously amiss as I pulled into the driveway. My daughter was being yanked down the front steps by -- was it possible? -- a four-legged creature of unknown origin.

"Dad!" screamed my jubilant daughter. "Look what Mom just bought me for my birthday! Isn't she beautiful? It's a whippet." A large pair of front paws grabbed me by the shoulders as I emerged from the car. "See, she likes you already, Dad."

"I hope you haven't told her how I feel about dogs as household pets," I said shakily, pinned against the car.

"I know we have agreed in the past 'no dogs,'" explained my wife, coaxing the fawn-toned beast to relax its grip on my person, "but your daughter pleaded she should receive something special for her 18th. She's promised to assume all responsibility."

"I'll reserve judgment on that," I said, gingerly patting the species of greyhound as a gesture of detente.

"From the size of her would you believe she's only seven months?" asked my preteen son. "Imagine her size in seven years." I couldn't.

An hour later our living room resembled a press conference for some blue-ribbon champion. Two dozen congratulatory teens crowded around Fawn (a name I had suggested), posed for instant cameras, and offered advice on the care and coddling of canines. Fawn lapped it up.

Fawn's first night in our home was a sleepless one for me. After enduring over three hours of howling displeasure from the basement, I awakened my wife, who is able to snooze through a drum corps review. "Should I feed her or something?"

"No, just go down there and talk to her," said my wife, snuggling deeper under the blankets. "Remember, these are strange surroundings for her."

"I've been in some pretty alien environments myself," I grumbled, slipping into my robe, "but was far less vocal about it."

"Look Dad, let her sleep at the foot of my bed so she won't be a bother to you," suggested my considerate daughter the following morning. "If she becomes restless I'll take care of her."

But something went wrong. In the middle of the night I kicked my wife from sleep.

"What's the matter?" demanded my wife, wide awake.

"Either I'm sleeping under a chair or these legs on my chest belong to someone who desperately needs attention."

My wife put on her coat and boots and disappeared into the frosty, moonless night. "Your flashlight needs new batteries," she reported, shivering, on her return.

"Have you noticed how soundly your daughter sleeps with responsibility?" I asked with great irony.

"It's your turn tomorrow night," mumbled my sleeping beauty.

"What's this, Dad?" asked my perplexed daughter a few days later.

"It's a list of missing possessions. I can survive without my slippers and work gloves, but I need my TV chair cushion, and there's a half a pound of walnut fudgies at large which I will gladly offer as a reward for the safe return of my Officially Sanctioned Ping-Pong paddle. I can't win without it."

Fawn's bad press continued. A progress report from my daughter indicated her birthday charge could now be trusted to relieve herself at night without a leash. At the conclusion of a late TV film, my wife and I decided to test this out since the chill factor was around thirty below. Fawn galloped unrestrained into the numbing darkness while her co-sponsors waited by the gas heater for her quick return -- and waited. After whistling in the dark for 15 minutes it was decided to send out a search party. Since I didn't volunteer, my wife bundled up and was supplied with a candle (I hadn't replaced the dead flashlight batteries), some matches and a "Godspeed."

About 20 minutes later the phone rang. It was a cat-loving neighbor. Fawn was two doors away consuming a dish of ice cream and five helpings of cat food. When my wife returned shortly thereafter, it was agreed the leash law should be reinstated.

On my return home a few nights later, my wife greeted me. "Your son's got quite a tale of heroic hardship to relate."

"Does it concern you know who?"

"Fawn chewed through her leather leash while I was walking her, Dad," my son began, "and took off like a Saturn rocket. I chased her for miles, finally caught her, and had to carry her all the way home. I should get a reward."

"See your sister about my compensation," I replied with a smirk.

"By the way," said my wife, "I found your slippers and pillow. They're beyond rehabilitation."

Fawn's character flaws were startling: her penchant for unattended sandwiches and chocolate puddings; a disdain for legendary fielding mitts; expensive heels treated like steak bones; no stomach for world crises as daily papers fell victim to "Paws."

It was decided at an emergency family council that I should have a serious man-to- whippet talk. Fawn and I went for a walk in a nearby schoolyard. We frolicked a bit, then sat down on a bench.

"Friend," I said softly, "it appears you're out of sync with the rest of us." My companion tilted her head in disbelief. "Perhaps another family would better appreciate your, uh, free spirit. An ad has been posted on the supermarket bulletin board. I promise you'll be well placed." She laid her head on my knee. She understood.

My daughter's 18th birthday remembrance is now the joyous custody of a family with five youngsters. Her brief stay with us will be an unforgettable one. In fact, I still communicate with Fawn. There's a little matter of a missing paddle. . . .

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