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TITLE: Axel's Most Excellent Holiday
By Rene McCollum

This was written for my 7 and 12 year old grandchildren. Stories about Grandma and Grandpa are boring, so it is written from the viewpoint of Axel, our Labrador Retriever. Please be gentle, this is my first venture into writing for others outside my family.
For those of you whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Axel. Daddy often refers to me as “stupid boy” because I have a pointy-head. My pointy-head is a gift from God; His way of keeping me humble. Hanna, my sister, did not receive this gift, so I consider myself special. Hanna and I share the same birthday and are four years old; I am yellow and she is black. Mommy and Daddy tell everyone we are Labrador Retrievers; maybe when we are older, they will explain to us what that means. Along with Mom and Dad, we share our log home, in the woods, with Missy and Taz who we know for sure are DOGS, and three miserable cats.

For the DOGS, and us, the most excellent holiday is just starting. This is the long stretch between New Year's Day and Memorial Day when our Mommy and Daddy hardly ever have to board us at the Kennel, also known as, “Uncle Tom’s. The only exception is the 'Timeshare Week' (whatever that is) in March. Mommy and Daddy holidays are tough on us. We know when their holidays are coming when Mommy picks up the phone, dials, and then says, "Hi Tom, we need to see if you have some kennel space available." That is usually two to three months in advance, so like the stupid boy I am, I promptly forget all about it; Hanna and the DOGS forget too.

Right before the Mommy and Daddy holiday, Mommy and Daddy start changing the conversations they have with us. The clue is when, "Get down, Axel"; "Do you want cookies?” or, "Come here stupid boy" becomes, “Oh, you’re going to have such a good time at Uncle Tom’s,” and “Won’t it be great seeing all your friends, again?” However, like the stupid boy I am, I promptly forget all about it; Hanna and the DOGS forget too.

The day before we go to the kennel, Daddy fishes the luggage out of the utility closet and sets them on the bed for filling. The truly despicable cats think the suitcases are for sleeping, and Mommy has to keep shooing them away. As the laundry is completed, Mommy fills the suitcases; a final check for cats and the cover is ready to be zipped. We pace around nervously. Daddy takes the suitcases to the car, and like the stupid boy I am, I promptly forget all about it; Hanna and the DOGS forget too.

It does not take too long before Daddy begins to call us to go for a ride. We are so excited that Hanna and I run and jump into the car. Missy and Taz, the DOGS, do not run as fast; they are old and not quite as smart as Labrador Retrievers. In fact, they are so dumb that they stop short of the car and make Daddy chase them all around the yard. Fortunately, the DOGS do not run too fast; Daddy does not appear amused. While Daddy is chasing the DOGS, Hanna and I are waiting inside the car for the promised ride. Something about this scene is vaguely familiar, “Hmmm, could it have something to do with a bath?”

Hanna and I start barking, “Let us out, let us out, we don’t want no stinkin’ bath!” Daddy finally rounds up the DOGS, puts them in the car, and starts the engine, and like the stupid boy I am, I promptly forget all about it; Hanna and the DOGS forget too.

Taking a ride in Mommy and Daddy’s car is so exciting. The DOGS spend most of the time in the backseat leg space hoping that Daddy turns around for home and they get another chance to escape. Hanna and I sit proudly in the passenger seat looking around, giving Daddy tongue laps on his right ear, and just being appreciative for the chance to see some of the outside world. Daddy senses that us Labs need to have more air after we have soaked the passenger window with nose juice and spit, so he rolls down the window enough for us to get our snouts out. We hope God has cars in heaven because this is nirvana. But wait, Daddy is slowing down -- oh no, we recognize that place; it is the kennel! – This is almost as bad as going to that mean vet man. Daddy has to take two of us in at a time, lest some us run off. He says he is basing his decision upon which two dogs will do more damage in the car, in five minutes, when left to their own devices. We know that the two dogs referred to are Missy and Taz, as we are Labrador Retrievers. That is why we are confused why we always go first. We walk to the front door leashed and held firmly. Daddy lets us have the opportunity to smell the grass along the sidewalk up to the front door. This way we can try to figure out who is in residence at the kennel. "Hanna, I am picking up signs of Scruffy, Snowball, Rex, Scooter and Mugsy; its not gonna be so bad after all.” I hope they put Rex in the next cage; his butt is at nose level...does not matter if we are standing or lying down, oh boy! -- And, like the stupid boy I am, I promptly forget all about it; Hanna and the DOGS forget too.

Daddy signs us in and the attendant takes us to our cell. Daddy has to repeat this procedure with the DOGS, only they are carried in; escape plans are quickly dashed. The people at the kennel are nice, but they do not play with us like Mommy and Daddy. The time goes quickly because we never learned what a day is in the great scheme of things. Before you know it, we are getting our last day bath. I knew there was a bath in here somewhere. Daddy comes to get us, and we are all going home. The car ride home is extra joyful, because not only do we love riding, but we also get to see Mommy and the hated cats again. We show Daddy our joy; the window escapes the nose juice and spit, but Daddy's face does not. Daddy says we will be lucky if we do not put the car in a ditch. Going into a ditch is not a good thing, so I help Daddy drive by crawling into his lap. Since Daddy has become a Christian, he does not use bad words anymore; instead he uses phrases like, “Get out of my lap you big oaf!” He is so funny -- and, like the stupid boy I am, I promptly forget all about it; Hanna and the DOGS forget too.

So, it is once again the time of year that we Labrador Retrievers get out the squeaky toys and chase around the bouncy toy to celebrate. Last weekend, Hanna and I went down to the millpond for a nice long celebratory swim. When we came home, all muddied up in our favorite fragrance, Daddy hosed us down and dried us off, then back into the house we go. This past week, I found some old deer bones in the woods, and brought them back for a souvenir; Mommy tossed them in the trash. Ahhh, this is the life.
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