Dog stomps lettuce from sleepy head

Column-writing night was devoted to thunder-terrified dogs. So here's the column that ran in the April 21, 2011, issue of the Hastings Tribune. Some things never change.

I had every intention of discussing lettuce this week; the green, leafy weed that torments me in the produce department. Each week I drag it home from the grocery store, filled with honest intentions of actually eating the stuff since health authorities tell me I should. Each week Hunka Burnin' Hubby digs it out of the sack, shakes his head and asks, "Why don't I throw this out now, instead of waiting until it's a smelly, unrecognizable mess?"

Hunka has my number when it comes to leafy greens. I've been trying to make friends with lettuce for decades, but the stuff refuses to wash itself or taste like chocolate. "This week I'll mend my ways," I tell him. "It's an utter bunch of buttercrunch! It's the tip of the iceberg! I won't succumb to the pain of romaine!" He mutters something I won't repeat, shoves the doomed specimen into the vegetable drawer, and goes to the shop to weld something. A few days later he digs the untouched, slimy mess out of the fridge, whistles taps, and tosses it in the trash.

Determined to make use of my peculiar affliction, I fell asleep a few nights ago with lettuce on my mind. "Self," I said, "I expect you to dream up ways to work lettuce into a mirthful and pithy column." I said my prayers, turned out the light, and fell into a deep and peaceful slumber.

A few hours later, my dog stomped that lettuce right out of my head. It was 2:30 a.m., and the season's first thunderstorm was making an unholy racket. The skittish half of the pair of Schlueterville setters scratched open the bedroom door, kangaroo leaped into the darkness, and tap danced squarely on my face. My lettuce dreams wilted faster than their produce-drawer counterparts, and vanished entirely.

Call me mean-spirited, but my king-sized, ultra-cushy mattress is off limits to my canine companions. They've tried unsuccessfully on numerous occasions to change my mind, and always when thunder makes midnight house calls. This isn't the first time I've worn a 45-pound dog as a hat, and I'm sure it won't be the last. I scraped the setter off my face, and planted him on the bedroom rug. He leaned against the frame, and the entire bed shook from his frightful plight.

I'm not entirely immune to the poor dog's phobia. I crawled from the covers, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and swaddled the dog in my favorite Nebraska sweatshirt. That's right; swaddled. Tucked among lettuce factoids in my sleep-deprived mind, I recalled reading that terrified dogs are sometimes calmed when wrapped snuggly in soft cloth. The storm was sticking around, and I was desperate and dog tired. So I swaddled him like a cocoon in Husker red. And for some weird reason, it seemed to work.

Sleep was just returning when setter No. 2 entered the scene. He lacks his brother's skittishness, but makes up for it with chainsaw jaws and razor-toothed tenacity. Visions of shredded fleece dashed my tattered dignity, so I dug a couple of ratty blankets from the closet, drew a ragged breath at how far I'd fallen on the food chain, and swaddled them both.

There are events in life you savor as stories for someday grandchildren, and I need to restock my supply. Slimy lettuce and dog swaddling definitely won't make the cut.

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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