Billy lay there not moving, the woman had pulled him up on her lap blocking him from the snowfall . Both dogs now were lying beside him, Bennie the smaller of the two Huskies was still whining from time to time sniffing the collie. Her soft voice and fingers relaxed the collie; it had been a long time since he had felt this sort of affection. Her name was Kaye Smith; she was in her late 20's, an import from the city. She was a little over five feet tall; shoulder length black curly hair, olive skin , and soft brown eyes. Kaye had the ability to make all her friends or anyone she met feel welcomed and at ease.
Her Christmas and spring breaks and summers, while she was growing up, had been spent on her grandparent's farm. She loved the opening space that farm life offered. The ability to grow your own fresh produce was wonderful. Many hours in the early summers were spent planting rows of peas, beans, corn beats carrots and potatoes. Working with her gram tending the huge garden. They were able to talk about anything and everything as they weeded, hilled or polled the peas and beans.
The life where she lived in the city seemed much harder. The city was a cold and a lonely place. Her parents had divorced when she was 9. She was bounced from mom to dad making sure her weekends and holidays were evenly divided between the two parents. She always seemed out of place with her classmates. At home , there was a constant demand to be more of a young lady from her mother. So she took dance classes, piano lessons that needed to be paid for she had become a bargaining chip. When she reached the age of 10, her Gram saw that she was unhappy and was becoming harder and harder to deal with at home, so she had invited her to the farm for spring break. Her eyes were opened to a wonderful way of life.
That spring, Kaye saw a calf, a colt, and with help from her Gram helped bring a litter of kittens into the world. The farm was full of life and wonder. Her grandfather harnessed a horse every morning, after a breakfast of eggs and pancakes they would gather the sap from maple trees that had been planted when her great Grandfather was a boy. She watched in awe as her grandfather turned the trees clear liquid into an amazing golden syrup, boiling it down further into a taffy that he would pour onto a cold tin plate covered with snow turning it into a wonderful brittle candy. Further reduction turned it into maple sugar. That spring as her father drove her back to the city through tear filled eyes waving back at her Grandparents as she left the yard. Her thoughts of her Gram telling her that in a short time it will be summer and she would be able to stay as long as she wanted. Oh , she wanted; and did, every Christmas, spring break and summer for the next 12 years. She finished high school, her grades allowed her bursaries and scholarships. Then went on to University majoring in geology where she maintained a 4.30 grade point average graduated with honors.
She had met her husband, Ed in her last year of school. It was at a dance the community held every year during the town's Old Home week, a fair put on by the local merchants from the surrounding area. She had known Ed most of her life. But was a little too shy to say much more than hi. Her grandmother noticed Kaye glancing at Ed with her shy silly grin. Ed was about the same age as Kaye he was Tall broad shouldered dark hair and dark green eyes. She loved the easy way he had. He was never rude or loud around her. But she did love his smile. Her grandmother leaned over and whispered in Kaye's ear.
“ Ed has had his eye on you for the last three years, and I know you have been watching him, he won't bite you, I promise. Believe me he's more nervous about you. Trust me.” Kaye just sat there wanting to but… “Well at least go over and say hi for goodness sakes, ” her grandmother paused then shoving Kaye's shoulder pushed her off her the chair she had been sitting on. “Ask him if he would like to dance.” Gram said. She waved her off the chair as if shooing a fly off her table. So Kaye did ask, they danced and chatted the rest of that night. They dated for next two years after her graduation Kaye and Ed married.
One of the many bonuses of farm life was the fact she could have goats, cats and most of all large dogs. Her love of dogs always seemed to have been with her. She had them all her life and they brought great comfort. But to have a dog in a city was something that she was unwilling to do. She loved the larger active breeds and since they needed room to run, the city was no place for the kind of dog she wanted. Her new neighbors respected Kay and took to her right away.
Ed was a perfect husband, partner but lacked the ability to complement her on how she looked. She is still waiting for a; Wow don't you look great! She was still waiting for floweriest to arrive at the door with a surprise bouquet for her on her birthday or Valentine's even a surprise box of candy would be nice. Edward Scott was his father's son that form of affection seemed to escape him. But he did make her feel very secure and safe. He was a hard worker. Ed may have never shown his love for her in that way, but she knew he loved her. She took him the way he was and loved him anyway.
Kaye and Ed moved to the old Anderson farmstead, which Ed had bought the summer before their wedding. The farm bordered his parents farm land and they felt very lucky to be able to get the land for a price they could afford. She loved the romantic old two and a half story Victorian home, even though it was impossible to heat in the winter months. The old home needed new floor coverings, windows, shutters and a good coat of paint. She saw it not the way it is but the way it could become. She fancied it on a Norman Rockwell calendar , a traditional farm home.
Money was tight, but She saved and cut coupons. Looked for sales on paint wallpaper and fabric to restore her mansion. Ed was busy getting the farm land and equipment back into shape.
She found out two years into the marriage, there would no children, something both of them wanted. They had talked about three maybe four, they never once counted on none. It made her sad and felt that she had become a disappointment. After the discovery , Ed never mentioned children again. She talked once or twice of adoption Ed would not hear of it, so that was that.
But Kaye wanted kids; so she adopted 6 goats 2 dogs and 4 cats, and any four-legged vagabonds that wondered into her driveway some stayed for a day, others coming back now and again; some never left. She even let a few calves spend the odd night or two in her kitchen that need that little extra care. Ed put up with it all because it made her happy and he loved her. It was the vet bills that he always seemed to object to. Money always is tight on the farm. Cash spent on strays was money he thought was better spent on their livestock or on the farm. He wasn't mean or cheap. If he needed something, he bought it. Ed Smith was his father's son; Ed Smith was a practical man.
Billy looked up into the kind face with her soothing voice. His tail wagged, he licked his lips then broke in a fast, nervous pant. He was telling her he was kind as well in his own way. He tried to get to his feet but failed nothing seemed to work much anymore. Unable to hold his head up any longer it fell back and laid his head back on the snow exhausted.
His eyes blinked from the flakes of snow hitting them, he closed his eyes and sighed. She patted him softly, looking him over, Pulling him up she slid her lap under the collie to get him off the ice. Kaye began inspecting him with her index finger and thumb running over his frozen coat, then softly then down each leg. Billy flinched when she touched the tender spots. Finding nothing too bad on his legs, she went back to the worst of his wounds, the ones on his sides and neck. Parting the hair carefully, revealed gashes punctures along his neck and side. Billy's neck was seeping now with infection. Blood caked his matted hair. Burdock's and hitchhikers from bushes were throughout his entire coat. His tails long hair now matted in burdocks.
Kaye's fingers ran through his half frozen coat. She inspected his side then felt over his ribs he was shivering and found she was able to count them very easily. His paws, they were covered in ice balls the pads of his lacerated; tears flooded her eyes, run down her cheeks freely falling on the dog. She never saw anything so disturbing in her life it was heartbreaking .
Wiping her tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand, she reached for his collar her Thumb rubbing the dirt and tarnish from his tag. She tugged on Billy turning into the porches flood light so she could read what was written on his tag. “ Billy, ” she whispered...
Billy responded to the mentioning of his name and made a brief effort to get to his feet once more, his tail wagged. Kaye held him back talking to him softly rubbing her warm hand along his muzzle.
“Shush now Kaye said. “It's alright your safe now baby, where did you come from love? You poor little thing, I will take care of you, you're going to get better, you'll see. I bet you're a sweetheart too, aren't you?” Billy's tail beat up and down once again walkway it was about all he could manage for now.
Kaye began to form her plan, this poor dog on her lap needed all of her attention, but was she too late to help him? She pushed that thought in the back of her mind. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her cell dialing it with her thumb then began talking into it. It wasn't long before a farm tractor could be heard chugging in the distance become louder as it approached. Its headlights turned into the farmyard lighting the area coming to a quick stop. He shut it down, stepped down from the old John Deere farm tractor closing the cabin door as he did. He turned to where his wife lay beside Billy; he heard her say, “Ed get the car!” He saw her point to the Jeep, parked at the side of the farmhouse. Ed wanted to walk up at get a look and see what was going on.“Get the Jeep, now, please!” Kaye said. Ed did as he was asked to do. He jogged to it, brought it close to where Billy and his wife lay on the snow he leaving it running.
“ Oh no, ” Ed said, kneeling beside his wife, “I saw him down the road an hour ago. I was coming back from dropping off hay to the cattle barn. I stopped, but there was no place to put him in the tractor cab and I didn't think he would stay in the trailer, so I was going back to get the half-ton and see if I could coax him in when you called." Ed said.
Kaye nodded her head, then looked at Ed. What she was about to say would not go well and she knew it. “I’m taking him to the clinic to see Mike; I'll call you when I know anything, ” Kaye said. Ed looked up at her hoping there would be room for some discussion. “Do you want me to go with you , Kaye? I think you should wait until the morning after the snow lets up, it's getting nasty out” Ed said. He was trying to slow her down, let her rethink what she was considering to do.
“ We should be okay, just help me with the door, so I can get him in the car.” she said.
Ed looked Billy over quickly, wincing at what he saw. “Kaye, this does not look good.” Ed began. She looked at Ed knowing that voice, of reason and common sense. She didn't want his reason right now. Ed knew it would be hard to talk to her about this when there was a dog involved, let alone changing Kaye's mind when she had it set, but he was going to have his say.
“ Please get the door, ” Kaye asked. Ed did as he was told. “He's going to be fine, just let me do this Ed, ” Kaye said; sensing Ed's growing reluctance. She tried to pick Billy up by herself but was unable to get a proper grip on the dogs dead weight. Ed held her arm down keeping her grounded. Billy coughed, then again. Ed looked at Kaye and down at the dog
“ He probably has pneumonia along with everything else... Dammit Kaye the poor thing needs.. well he needs… Well , he needs to be put..." Ed didn't get to finish. Kaye jerked her arm away from his grasp. She gathered the dog in her arms a second time and was able to get to her feet. As she turned, Kaye shot him a look. It always angered her when he thought that raising his voice would change anything. Ed hated that look; it had always angered him that she thought her look would change anything. He continued but with a warmer tone.
“ Well.” He began. “I just think he is beyond help Kaye, look at him. I don't need a Dr to do what I can be do right here and right now.”He said. Ed closed his eyes wishing she would just listen to him this once, and he began this time choosing his words carefully again. His voice changed becoming calm again trying to reason with his wife. “Listen to me Kaye, please just listen, I'm not sure Mike can help much from what I see here. He's in rough shape babe you know this. I'm not a cruel person dammit all to hell Kaye.” Ed's voice began to rise again. “We just can't afford this right now, let me take him to the barn I can do what needs to be done there and do what is best.”All the color left her face.” Kaye moved her head back and forth slowly her jaw was clenched . “Ed are you going to help me or not?” Ed let out a very long sigh got to his feet. “The roads are getting worse, it's dark, the wind is drifting the snow Kaye, Let me at least go with you."
"He's going to be fine! And I don't want you near me right now.” Kaye snapped.
A tear trickled down her cheek. She hated how she could tear up so easily; she looked over at Ed wanting his approval. “He's going to be just fine Ed; I have to do this, ” Kaye said. Ed said nothing just looked at her for a minute.
“ Dam it Kaye; would you stop, please think this over, ” Ed said.
“ Edward Scott, she said low and slowly, he someone's dog, their pet. Don't you get it? He's not a cow where you cut your losses at the profit margin.” She knew she wasn't getting through. Holding the limp dog in her arms she walked back to him. “Maybe Ed, you are right and maybe it would be best just to take him down to the barn and let you do the right thing. But my heart tells me that someone is missing him right now, he must have been loved by someone somewhere, it's what I hope people would do for my dogs. If he weren't, he would be by me. He's not just livestock... he's not a coyote, not a wild animal we found suffering by the roadside . I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try.” Kaye said. She was upset that she was breaking down in front of him, she was much stronger than this, but this poor animal in her arms needed someone and right now, she was that someone. Kaye felt like she was wasting time. Ed looked in her eyes. He hated to see her lower lip tremble like this.
“ Yeah maybe, ” Ed said, giving up on reason. “I don't want you to get hurt is all. Kaye looked at him smiled.
“ No Ed with you, its always about the money, ” Kaye said. Ed put his head down and gave up. “Kaye you be careful, I mean it.” He said.
He looked into her eyes it was pointless to try any further; he reached out with his hand wiping the tear from the corner of his wife's eye with his thumb. So he helped Kaye load Billy in the back seat of the Jeep both rear doors were open Kaye on the driver's side Ed on the passenger's helping her slide him across the seat. They shut the doors on the Jeep meeting in front of it.
Kaye stopped looked up at her husband. “I love you, don't be angry with me, I really need to do this, ” Kaye whispered as she hugged him.
She looked into his eyes for some sort of an agreement on what she wanted to do, there was none and knew there never would be, so she hugged him again anyway.
“Take care of my boy's while I'm gone okay?” Kaye whispered.
She placed a quick kiss on his cold cheek. Kaye ran quickly back to the house returning dressed now in boots, gloves and hat carrying a blanket to wrap around Billy.
“I'll be back, as soon as I can, supper is in the oven, your favourite, shepherd's pie, ” she said as she tucked the blanket around the dog.
Ed didn't want to but had to bring it up, but he did. “Take the money out of the savings account not the farm account.”
“It will be coming out of my account Ed, so you and the farm are safe for another day. Kaye said as she backed out of the Wagoner closing the back door. She tried to smile at him, her eyes thanking him for letting it go, at least for now.
Ed forced a half smile back, but was thinking how can a smart woman lose common sense and reason over a stray dog that should be put down now and more than likely when she gets to the clinic.
He watched as she slid behind the wheel, turned in the wide driveway and began to speed off. The dogs started barking once again chasing the SUV to the end of the driveway. Ed called to them, the barking stopped, they turned, darted to his side and followed him inside the farmhouse happy to be going inside. Both still not yet understanding what had just taken place. They were happy to be with Ed; it was dinnertime.
Ed stopped in the doorway watching as his wife drove down the road. He could hardly make out the taillights through the heavy snowfall. He worried about her on the icy roads, wishing he had insisted on going with her. He knew it would have done little good to argue with her about anything now mumbled. “Dear God what a mess.” Ed shook his head once more as he stomped the snow from his boot on the welcome mate in front of the kitchen door. Brushing off the snow on his shoulders with his gloves, removed his cap and stepped inside. “Dear God , what a mess he muttered. “What a damnable mess this is,” as the porch door closed behind him.