[Author’s Note] This story is for a non-fiction challenge. While some may consider this story to be fiction, I dispute those claims by stating that I have recalled this story by memory and chosen to elaborate some details that otherwise would have been incomplete and/or vague. Take it for what it is but remember this, the truth should never get in the way of a good story.
My yellow lab is quite possibly the dumbest animal I have ever owned, while simultaneously being the most intelligent and lovable.
At the time of this writing, she is almost twelve years old. In those twelve years she has been a faithful companion and friend while also being the source of much grief and anguish. (I’m being overly dramatic, if I’m honest.)
I’ll give you an example; every day, for her entire existence, when I go to let her out to use the bathroom she puts her nose against the door. What happens when I open it?
Boop! Right in the face.
Every. Single. Time.
Not hard mind you, just enough to where she backs up because it’s made contact with her. There is no other way, believe me, I’ve tried.
This same dog, while nobody was home, got in a dresser drawer, pulled out a bag of Halloween candy. She carried it onto our bed and opened each individual piece, leaving chocolate stains and wrappers scattered awry.
And what does she say when confronted about behavior she knows is unbecoming of a pupper?
“The risk is worth the reward.”
I get what she’s saying, that she accepts the consequence of her willful disobedience but, still to this day, she says her famous phrase backwards. Always has, always will.
She’s earned a few nicknames over the years, most notable being Oaf, for her inability to do literally anything without causing a ruckus and Iron Stomach, because she will go above and beyond to treat herself to foods she is otherwise not allowed to have and rarely gets sick from her endeavors.
Allow me to preface this story by saying that what you’re about to read isn’t overly dramatic, knee-slappingly funny or otherwise memorable in any way. My family’s Holiday gatherings are rather unremarkable, other than being a festive time to enjoy good food and company.
There is one event, however, that brings all of us great amusement and is still brought up in conversation to this day and thus is the topic of this tale.
In 2017, my wife’s uncle was hosting Thanksgiving at his house in North Carolina. Our family on her side is quite small, consisting of my wife’s uncle, mother, step-dad, younger sister, grandmother, and of course the two of us. Having no dog-sitter, we decided to bring Dobby, our weiner-beagle (to this day his breed still cracks me up) and Chibi, our yellow lab and focal point of this story.
All was well, the two of them were well behaved despite a very minor and brief scuffle with a cat of which the cat was the victor. There were no accidents in the house, neither got into things they weren’t supposed to, nothing. Their behavior was actually bragged on.
So let’s fast forward to Thanksgiving Day, with turkey and all the trimmings set out on the counter and an entire table dedicated to desserts. My wife’s grandmother, whom we call Grams, is diabetic so my mother-in-law baked her a special sugar-free pumpkin pie.
“This one off to the side is sugar-free for Mom.” she said and pointed out where she had put it, away from the other pies because it looked exactly like them. We all took note so we didn’t put Grams in a diabetic coma by accident.
“Wow.” I said, “I can’t tell the difference just by looking at them!”
Just then, the clouds parted and the heavens opened up to allow a ray of sunshine to pierce the otherwise melancholy and cold day. The bright beam encompassed my mother-in-law, a blessing from the Keto Gods.
A blessing she still carries to this day.
“I bet you couldn’t tell the difference in the taste either!” she proclaimed, her optic orbs glowing with such brilliance they appeared as miniature suns, her hair flowing outward as she began to levitate.
She spoke again, her voice intertwined with many others, shaking the foundation as she boomed, “THE SECRET IS MONK FRUIT!”
I averted my stare, the blazing radiation of the divine favor from the low-carb deity too much for my mortal eyes.
Dinner came and went, the conversation was pleasant with all of us gathered in the living room and after an hour or so the subject of dessert was brought up. My wife made her way into the kitchen and noticed an empty pie pan had fallen into the floor.
She picked it up and even though it was pristine and brand new, went to trash it, because well, they're super cheap and it was on the floor.
She then cast her gaze to the dessert table and the sugar-free pie was not where it was earlier. In fact, it was nowhere to be seen.
She let her eyes fall downward and rest upon a very guilt ridden yellow lab.
“Cheeb.” She asked, treading carefully. She didn’t want to start throwing accusations around, especially on such an occasion as Thanksgiving.
“What?” Chibi asked, looking up at her, feigning innocence in those dark brown eyes.
“You know what.” She said, easing into a difficult confrontation.
“No I don’t.”
“Look me in the eye.”
“Did you eat this pie?”
“It was brother.”
Gasps erupted throughout the entire house at the railing accusation.
“What’s going on?” I asked, rushing into the kitchen when I heard the commotion.
“But…but…” stammered Dobby, shivering in fear, “I didn’t do it! Look at me, I have little legs and that pie is bigger than me! I don’t wanna be in trouble!”
The poor tiny doggo began to sob and I knew in that instant he was not the culprit.
“She said I ate that whole pie, but I didn’t.” cried Chibi, struggling to get a grip on her speech impediment but failing miserably.
“How dare you inculpate an innocent canine!” I gasped, “And on Thanksgiving no less!”
“But she ate THE WHOLE PIE!” protested my wife, “It was sugar-free! The artificial sweeteners could kill her!”
“I’ll get to the bottom of this.” I declared.
“Like Cheeb got to the bottom of that pie.” laughed my wife’s step-dad. We all turned and craned our necks to look up at him.
“Humor at a time like this.” I thought to myself, shaking my head in disgust. “It was a joke I would’ve made myself, no doubt, so perhaps my irritation is due to my own lack of wit.”
“I just walked over here and found it like this. I promise. I’m innocent until proven guilty.” said Chibi, the hindrance in her speech playing at the heartstrings of everyone.
All eyes then fell on me, as I knew they would. She had eaten the pie, of this I was sure and licked the pie pan so clean it emulated the appearance of an unused dish.
“The perfect cover.” I thought, strumming my fingers on my chin, “We aren’t dealing with a run-of-the-mill confectionery crook.”
I was afraid there was no backing down. Cheeb and I would face the music, we would go down in league. We had been through so much together through the years; heartache, pain and loss just to name a few. Would I let one measly pastry ruin the longest friendship I had ever had?
Then Cheeb said it, her famous phrase, words uttered after every sweet-tooth driven excursion;
“The risk was worth the reward.”
“I knew it!” I shouted, unable to contain myself.
“So this is what betrayal feels like.” she hung her floppy-eared head, her mispronounced words striking me right in the feels.
Abashed, I stepped back. So much for ride or die, I just threw my best friend under the bus.
“So I guess no pie for me.” whimpered Grams.
“My God,” I thought to myself, “with such a travesty occurring this day, how can one even think of enjoying pumpkin pie?”
“She’s going to be sick.” stated my mother-in-law.
“Do you think you should take her to a vet?” My wife’s uncle asked.
Once again, all eyes fell on me. They all looked to me to see what I would do next. Silence fell and I raised a clenched fist into the air.
“Speak no such evil.” I declared, “She’s got a cast-iron stomach. The worst part of this whole ordeal will be the pumpkin plops that will litter the entire back yard.”
Sure enough, in just the span of about an hour, I was out back with Ol’ Cheeb. It was like someone filled a piping bag with pumpkin pie filling and was making orange decorations in the grass.
I never found them all, never even came close.
Rumor has it that still do this day, in a small backyard in North Carolina, that a person can find pumpkin swirls if they look hard enough.
I don’t know why they would try, but they’re there.
If you stuck around for this entire story, hoping for something epic, well, I warned you. That’s it, the most interesting hijinks to have ever occurred during one of our Holiday gatherings.