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Charlee and I were racing home as fast as we safely could. I had only one client and then some food shopping, necessary if we wanted to eat anything for dinner. We never got in and out a supermarket so fast. Charlee held the cart and ran along side. Thru the parking lot, into the store, thru the isles, finding the shortest line, and then back thru the parking lot to the van. She was strapped in her seat as fast as she could without even having to be told. I scurried to get the groceries in the van. We were off... only to be held up by the bad timing train tracks. Charlee chided from her seat ‘Stupid trains!’ Stupid is a bad word in our house, but at this moment it was worth the risk of reprimand... I had to agree with her. We waited for the, not one, but two trains to unload. Both of us uttering the ‘Come ons...’ as we did.

Finally the gates lifted, and so did our attitudes. We made it home soon enough. We had someone very important to see. There she was, all sleepy and stretching her limbs awake. Toots methodically stepped and stretched to our direction. Alex - the ‘watch kid’ - had fallen asleep on the job. You could see only half of his face as the rest was squished into the pillows. ‘Alex?! You fell asleep?! Your supposed to be watching the dog!’ I was not happy, although there was nothing wrong. He didn’t move. Toots was better at waking up than my son.

I told Charlee to take her for a walk in the yard. She was, of course, more than happy to do this chore. She called for Toots to ‘Come’ and then ‘Sit’ praising her gleefully after each obeyed command. Charlee is really trying to be a good dog owner, and she herself, obeys the ‘doggy rules’ to the tee.

I went into the kitchen to start dinner. Broccoli was the first thing on the menu... So there I stood in my kitchen chopping broccoli, yelling into Alex to wake up and talking to Grandma on the cell phone that was tucked into my bra strap. This is my multitasking life....

Charlee bolted back thru the side doors all too quick. ‘What happened? Did she go potty already?!’ ‘No Mommy!’ She was red faced and flustered. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t go outside, I heard a noise and I am scared!’ She was. I said ‘Okay, I get Alex to take her out.’ With that I called to Alex again... ‘Alex, are you up?’ I was still chopping broccoli, and Grandma was still on the phone... Toots and Charlee walked into the living room to see what Alex was doing.

The next thing I hear is my cute puppy, growling and snarling and barking - like a big monster dog! - right in Alex’s direction!!! I dropped my broccoli, screamed ‘Mom, I gotta go!’ hung up, threw my cell and ran to see what was going on. There Alex sat, blinking and trying to wake up. He could not get a grasp on what was going on... all he knew is that the dog was intensely unhappy and he was in the path of the intensity. I order the kids to not move a muscle trying to survey what was wrong. Good God, this can’t be happening! In an instant all the dog bite incidents flashed thru my mind.

 With each snarl, each growl, each and every ominous bark... my heart cracked.
Growl, Woof! Oh, No!

Growl, Rrrrrrrrrrr, Woof! The kids, please don’t hurt my kids...

Growl, Woof! Okay! Okay! You win dog - I’m scared...

Growl, Woof! Woof! Woof! This isn’t a cute puppy - this is a monster!

No one moved, except me. I, with great fear, navigated the leash around the dogs neck. I was praying she wouldn’t turn and bite me. I wrapped the leash tightly around my hand. I had her leash held so close to her body, deluding myself that I would have the best chance to control her teeth should she attack. My mind was spinning, so were my thoughts. It is amazing how fast you can think when pressure moments like this happens. It was time to get Alex to move. ‘Alex! WAKE UP!’ Now blinking with more vigor, he responded ‘I am’ he still wasn’t as alert as I would like, although the dogs behavior was quickly changing that. "Alex, get up and SLOWLY move out of the corner" Charlee still hadn’t moved a muscle. Poor girl. I can only imagine what was going thru her mind. She was the one that spent the week in the hospital. She was the one that screamed in pain and horror as a dog bit her tiny hand. She was the one that fought SO hard for a dog. Now she was the one that was standing - statue still and petrified - between the dog and the dogs cage. Only thing was that the dog was not focused on Charlee, she was focused towards her brother.

Alex was now getting up. Mommy held tight. Alex moved a few steps. The dog still barked and growled. Alex moved a few more steps. Mommy still held tight. The dog stopped barking for a moment. We were all stuck in the ticking seconds of time. You know, when everything slows down and clarity is at its painstaking peak...

The odd thing is, as I held Toots she never pulled or moved. She just stood there. Okay she was not the cute little puppy I had fell in love with... but something else just didn’t compute. I just didn’t know what, and the situation was not allowing for contemplative thinking.

As Alex continued to slowly move, I told him to rub his face. He was all distorted looking from sleeping on the couch pillows. I though, maybe, that was why the dog was having a problem... not that that would make this situation any better. I would still have to get rid of her... can’t have a dog that attacks when you look weird... but at least we would all survive this moment relatively unscathed. Relatively - of course - because all of our hearts were breaking as this situation unfolded.

Then the miracle happened. Alex was now out of the corner, Toots had stopped barking. Her demeanor flipped instantly. Enough for me to release her movement... but not the lease. She went up to Alex wagging and sniffing, clearly checking on his condition. Then stood by his side, turning back in the direction of where he was sleeping and started barking and growling again. What the heck!!??? This dog was not going after Alex, she was protecting him!!! Protecting US! We all gasped a huge sigh of relief!! But only for a moment... it was not over. Toots was still not happy. Charlee’s earlier comment of hearing something outside flashed through my mind. I went and locked the front door.

The livingroom shades were still open, although it was dark outside. I was in a rush to get dinner started, so I did not pay them any mind. Now the fact that they were open was making me feel exposed to whatever was out there. I went around the room closing one at a time. As I got closer to ‘the’ window Toots again went nuts. She was delving out warnings to something. There must have been a ton of adrenaline in the room for this poor dog. Yes, much of it was due to her, but she didn’t know that. As far as Toots was concerned she had a job to do, and she was not making any apologies.

I closed the shade. It took Toots a few moments to calm down. She paced the living room watching the shade for any signs of trouble. None came. When she decided that all was safe she went to Alex wagging and licking him galore.

The room was still filled with lots of noise, only now it was of happy, relieved, overjoyed people and a puppy that had just claimed - and protected - her family. On this night Toots staked her claim, and we were it.

As we quieted down. We heard another noise... We all turned startled, our senses were still in high gear. "Hello??" Hello? Who is saying hello? There it is again... "Hello??" Then I realized it was my cell phone. Although I thought I hung up Grandma was still on the phone. She had heard the entire event. "What just happened?!" After hearing all the growling and barking, it was confusing to hear us all so overjoyed.

I explained as fast as I could talk. Aunt Cece happened to call on the house phone at the same time. I filled her in as well... She stayed on the phone while I took Toots outside to inspect the yard. Nothing was there. I still needed to know what she was so upset about.

Then Alex - the lame dog watcher now turned competent child detective - uncovered the problem. When the shade was open, being that it was dark outside, the window was reflecting what was playing on the TV. The dog saw images coming from the window, right at Alex, and was not having it. Mystery solved. Doggy rule # 1 Night time comes, shades must be closed!

She may be a ‘monster’ in cute puppy camouflage but she’s our ‘monster.’ We can rest assured, for the flip side is also true. We may need some work in the area of puppy etiquette, but we are hers. Tonight, we added to the number of family members - and suddenly, I feel safer in my home.