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We’re a “cat family.”

If Thomas had his way, that’d be the end of this story, and I’m confident we can agree it’d be a boring story. However, it’s my story, and this is how it went down.

We adopted our Saint Bernard/English Setter mix, Maisy, in March 2020. I should probably clarify when I say, “We adopted,” I mean the girls and me. Thomas wasn’t onboard.

To be fair, he didn’t put his foot down with a resounding, “No.” There was a “No-ish” he probably thought was enough, but I need things said a bit more clearly. Loopholes, ya know. Or maybe gigantic black holes of, “But I wanted it more than you didn’t want it.”

Tomato … tomato. Potato … potato. I want a dog … oh, Thomas, did you say something?

That June, we decided Maisy needed a canine sibling. As my sister put it, “You have four cats. Maisy is turning into a cat. Do you want her to never listen to you and always treat you like a second-class family member?” And that’s how Eddy joined our family.

This past February, I zipped from Northern Colorado to Northern Iowa, slowed the car to a crawl, and kicked our eldest, Emily, out the door. Luckily, her boyfriend is a good catch, and no Emilies were harmed in the handoff.

For the return trip, I drove country roads. Mostly. There’s a difference between seeing Iowa and Nebraska from the interstate and off the beaten path. Both have “Deer Crossing” signs, but country roads have a lot more, and for a good reason.

I spotted six deer running alongside the road. My keen observation skills noticed each deer was a different color. “Hmm, that’s odd,” I slowed the car. “What the heck? You’re not deer!”

With tongues flapping and wide smiles, a pack of wild dogs were having a grand time. The lead dog wasn’t the best navigator and kept veering into the road. Unfortunately, the other dogs were excellent followers.

In my rearview mirror, I saw a semitruck making its way down the road. “Uh, oh.”

I quickly passed the dogs, pulled onto a dirt driveway, ran to the passenger side, and threw open the back door. Like a mama duck and her ducklings, the lead dog jumped in the backseat, and the other five dogs followed. I slammed the door and ran back to the driver’s side as the semi crested the hill.

“That was close, but y’all are safe now,” I said, taking licks to my face. “Hey, we’re going the same direction. How ‘bout I give you a lift? You’re so adorable,” more licks, “and friendly. I bet ya don’t even have rabies or fleas or ticks or worms.”

And then I had one of my brilliant ideas.

“Prepare to lose your mind,” I rolled down the windows, opened the sunroof, and hit the gas. We sang and howled to Toby Keith’s “Every Dog Has Its Day.” You’ve never seen a happier pack of wild dogs.

And that’s when I had my second brilliant idea of the day.

I voice-texted Thomas. “Hey, found some dogs about to get hit by a semitruck. Taking them somewhere safe.”

“Good job,” he responded.

“They’re sooo cute! You’ll love ‘em!”

“Where are you taking them?” he asked.

“South.”

“I checked your location. The closest Humane Society is in Grand Island, NE.”

“Uh, huh.”

“Krista.”

I itched the new red bumps on my forearms and pet the pup’s head on my lap. “A one-word response means he’s busy,” I explained. “We’ll just let him be.”

Did you know Grand Island has a Petco with curbside pickup? And if you pull your car right up to the gate of a rest area dog park, a pack of wild dogs will jump out, do their business, and jump right back in the car?

I know, truly remarkable, right?

A couple hours down the interstate, Thomas’s text notification lit up my phone.

“You didn’t stop at the Humane Society.”

“Are you stalking me?”

“Yes. Why didn’t you stop?”

“They’re closed.”

“It’s only 4 p.m.”

“Some kinda holiday.”

“What holiday?”

“Don’t know. I’m not from Nebraska.”

“Where are the dogs?”

I looked at the drooling, snoring doggos. “Hey, you’re breaking up.”

“My texts are breaking up?”

“What? Can’t hear ya.”

“Krista. Do NOT bring those dogs home.”

I smiled at our newest family members, “We’re not putting up with his sass, are we?” Turning off my phone was sooo satisfying.

Since I wasn’t supposed to bring the dogs home, the seven of us slept in the parking lot of our city Humane Society. I handed them off the next morning with licks and tears.

A month later, I was tackled by the lead dog at the dog park. His owner and I are now friends, and we’ve had play dates. Technically, one of the dogs came home; Thomas just doesn’t know it. Cuz I wanted it more than he did.

Krista Vance is a former Champaign resident. While she now calls northern Colorado home, she spent five wonderful years here and misses great friends, corn and big-sky sunsets.

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