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Smelly Socks: We'll be right behind you

By By Johanna Bloom
April 25, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 24, 2013 at 11:25 p.m.

From left, Austin, Jamison stand with  Fen and Baby.

My sons are going to various camps this summer, and they have just realized, even though John and I have been telling them continually, that they are going to have to earn their own spending money.

As a result, they have been brainstorming ideas about what they could do to come up with the much-needed funds. I have to admit it's nice to see them working together for a change rather than one trying to undercut the other. As all of this was taking place, a neighbor called and innocently asked if the boys would be available to watch their dogs while they were away for the weekend.

Without realizing that Austin and Jamison were intently listening to my side of the conversation, I mentioned that I thought they would enjoy taking care of the dogs, but no payment was necessary, the boys reacted like I was trying to take a fresh kill away from a pack of hungry coyotes.

The day before our neighbors left for their trip I took the boys by after school to see what procedures they needed to follow for the care of their dogs.

The boys bounded out of my Jeep without a second thought; suddenly, they jumped right back in with their mouths wide open, as Fen, who weighs more than 200 pounds with a head the size of a lion and teeth to match, came to greet them.

Austin, with a look of terror on his face, told me to go ahead and he would be right behind me. Jamison tied on his shoes extra tight in preparation of a quick getaway and followed me out of the car. Austin finally got out of the car and worked up enough daring to stand behind me and peer around me with eyes that appeared much larger than normal.

The extremely large Fen is an impressive English mastiff who is the apple of my neighbors' eye and a very effective guard dog. He let out a series of barks, which my neighbor said was just him "being playful," and my brave boys gave me a little push forward while stepping behind my back.

I walked toward this massive animal and gently rubbed his head. As I saw a stream of drool running down from his mouth, I realized that he was completely lovable.

Right then, the real boss of the entire operation comes running around the corner. The alpha dog, Baby, entered the picture. Baby is a miniature dachshund that has Fen wrapped around her little paw. The neighbors thought Fen was lonely so they got Baby, as in "Fen's Baby," and she rules the roost. Baby is as tiny as Fen is huge.

These two were complete opposites, and seeing them together was quite amusing. Baby let out a series of barks and then ran around behind Fen for him to handle anyone who might not like her barks.

Our own dogs have a pretty soft life. We give them plenty of food, water, room to run around and lots of attention and love. However, the care given to our dogs simply does not compare to the pampered life that Fen and Baby have.

We walked into the neighbor's house for them to go over the dog's routines with us. We were told how much food and water to give them and where to place it. Apparently, Fen is a picky eater, so they have some special venison that he prefers. Our charming neighbor said that she usually makes an entire meal just for him, but since they will be gone, he should be fine with some venison in his huge bowl.

Austin whispered behind my back that it would be just as easy "to throw him the hind quarter of a deer." Fen and Baby get water and food, and their care is finished up with dental sticks. Baby is not a picky eater, but she is extremely partial to a certain red ball. It is innate in boy culture that when a boy sees a ball, he is going to pick it up.

Baby wasn't happy that my boys grabbed up her red ball, and she took her complaint straight to her enforcer, Fen. As Fen rounded the corner he glared at Austin who stood rather innocently holding a certain red ball.

He slowly sat the ball back on the floor and then very slowly backed away from the enormous, growling dog while mumbling "Nice boy. See, I put it down. Baby has her ball back. Nice, Baby."

The boys performed their duties perfectly, and Fen and Baby seemed to tolerate us invading their space as long as we didn't touch Baby's ball and gave Fen his special venison. Our neighbors gave the boys, against my protests, payment for a job well done.

They also informed them of when they would be going out of town again, as they asked if the boys would be available to care for their dogs once more. Austin and Jamison quickly agreed to this profitable arrangement.

Austin was counting his pay before putting it away for camp when he piped up with, "Mom, a job feeding dogs is really dangerous work."

"I don't want to be a professional dog feeder person," Jamison chimed in, "especially if the dog is bigger than me. Big dogs make me nervous."

Austin paused for a minute, thought carefully, and then summed it all up with, "Yeah, a boy could really lose a leg at this job."

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.

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