Yesterday we visited Lazy T Ranch with cousins and in-laws. The family who lives at Lazy T opens up their ranch for visitors to explore. As soon as you get out of the car, the family’s dog trots over to say hello.
There were games and pony rides. Goats, horses and cows were out for the kids to feed. The rabbits, ducks and chickens were in their coops. The ranch owner even took us on a hayrack ride to the top of the hill to show us unfarmed prairie — a site with a view that was truly beautiful, especially dressed in fall colors.
After the hayrack ride, we stopped by the Cowboy Cafe, a small one-room barn, to get the necessities: water, popcorn and puppy chow. We returned to the Cowboy Cafe a little later to hear a historian give a presentation about the Kansas Underground Railroad.
The historian was a great storyteller. He was in the middle of explaining how the songs sung by slaves had code words in them. He said, “I’m going to start singing this song and you finish it. ‘Swing low, sweet chariot…'”
“Comin’ for to carry me home,” we sang. Then, the door flew open and a guy and his daughter, who was about nine months old, came in. He went up to a staff member and was talking quickly. The toddler was crying.
The historian kept going despite the commotion, “Slaves were taught at young ages to work, and they worked hard. They were also taught to hate the color of their skin and the size of their nose.”
The door flies open again and this time it’s a woman who appears to be the guy’s mother (the 9-month-old’s grandmother). “There is a wild animal out there! I need someone to address this immediately!” she yelled. She walked over to where the dad, toddler and staff member were standing. The rest of us were looking out the window trying to see what wild animal was leering on ranch.
“I lost my place,” the historian said. “That was rather shocking.” He took a few moments to collect his thoughts.
“That dog bit my granddaughter and I want that dog’s papers!” the grandmother yelled.
“OK,” said the staff member, trying to calm the woman down.
“So…where was I?” asked the historian.
The dog bit the toddler? So the jolly family dog who came over to greet us and play with our family’s four toddler cousins is the wild animal?
“I’ll just start somewhere else,” the historian said. “In those days, slaves were valued at $1,500, which was a lot of money.”
“Oh my god! There’s blood!” the grandmother yelled from the back of the room. “That dog drew blood! I am calling the authorities this instant!” she said as she marched outside. Her son followed, carrying the toddler who had quieted down.
“If a slave tried to escape, its owner would put an iron brace around his or her neck,” the historian continued. As he spoke, the grandmother was pacing outside the window talking on her cell phone.
When the presentation was over, everyone went outside and right around the corner was an animal control officer talking to the grandmother and the toddler’s parents. The toddler’s dad was holding a leash. At the end of the leash was the dog lying like this:
My mother- and father-in-law stood with me debating about what happened and what might happen to the dog.
That’s when my almost 2-year-old started to get cranky. I decided to redirect his attention by asking him to help me throw the popcorn bag away. He took the bag and walked over to the trash can. I followed. Then he saw the dog.
“My pet puppy!” he said and quickly headed toward the heated discussion. He stood next to the dog. “My pet puppy!”
I stood there trying to decide what to do. Here’s a dog that we had all played with that afternoon. Next to the dog is animal control, a screaming grandmother and a teary-eyed little girl who had scratches on her cheek. “Um, let’s wait,” I said. I pulled my son back.
A high school-aged boy standing nearby said, “He’s fine. You can pet him.”
My son wriggled away and sat down next to the dog. “My pet puppy!” he said with determination. He sat down. I sat down between the dog and my son as he reached for the dog’s wet nose.
“No, that’s not how we pet dogs,” I said. “Here, open up your hand. Now keep your hand open and let’s pet his back.”
“Ma’am, I can’t do anything about the dog not having tags,” the officer said to the grandmother. “Tags are a city thing and we are in the country.”
“I need to see papers on this dog!” the grandmother demanded.
My son ruffled up the dog’s fur. The dog was lounging on the ground, enjoying the petting. “My pet puppy!” my son said, proud of himself.
“The dog has had his shots,” the high schooler said as if he was repeating the phrase for the umpteenth time.
“We can observe the dog for 10 days to see if he shows signs of rabies,” the animal control officer said. “But, this young man said he can get a copy of the dog’s papers so I wouldn’t worry.”
Then the animal control officer looked at me and my son petting the dog. “Until then, I suggest that you go over proper animal handling techniques with your granddaughter,” the officer said.
“We know how to handle a dog!” the grandmother said.
I could feel the grandmother glaring at me. And then I could see myself as a spectator would have seen me: Look at that crazy mom taking her son to pet that wild animal. What nerve. She’s just sitting there in the middle of all the drama!
“Alright, that’s enough petting,” I said to my son, not daring to look up. “Let’s go to the maze.”
“No! My pet puppy!” he started crying. I scooped him up he began the mini meltdown that I was trying to avoid. With a kicking toddler in my arms, I made my way to my in-laws who were giggling.
“Only you!” my mother-in-law said.
We walked over to the play area to find the hubs who was keeping an eye on our other son. We must have had unusual looks on our faces because he looked straight at me and asked, “What did you do now?”
“What?” I said. “He wanted to pet the dog and I was trying to avoid a meltdown. Then things just evolved and there we were in the middle of the everything petting the dog.”
“My pet puppy!” the toddler said.
“I see,” the hubs said. “I think it’s time for us to go home.”