Cinder and Daddy settle down for a little Game of Thrones after Papa finishes a late evening work call and turns in.
The kids have long been in bed. Daddy enjoys the departures from the books, but Cinder is disgusted. Lying on top of Daddy, he tucks his head under Daddy’s chin to snooze. When it’s time, Daddy takes him to his crate. He struggles against it. Daddy wins the battle and closes the door. He cries. Daddy opens the cage back up, lies on the floor with his head in the crate. Cinder stops crying and nuzzles up.
Ten minutes pass. When Daddy tries to get up, Cinder wakes up. Daddy closes the crate’s door. Cinder’s cries are a bit drowned out by the snoring from Papa and Boston, but he’s crying nonetheless. Daddy takes off his shirt and puts it in the crate. Cinder curls up. There is no crying for the rest of the night.
Daddy explains to the twins how good Cinder was on his first night and how maybe the shirt helped. They are sad to see Daddy put the dog back in his crate while they are run to school.
D (standing by the car): Come on, guys. The bell is going to ring. It is well past gettin’ on to be time. It IS time. Let’s go.
F/C (running out of the house): Okay! Okay!
When Daddy gets back and goes to let Cinder out, he sees what they were up to: Cory’s and Fisher’s shirts from yesterday are tucked through the bars. He apparently needed three shirts to survive the 20 minutes while Daddy took them to school.
Daddy settles down to remote into work. Cinder also settles down next to Daddy, knowing, as even the youngest pup does, what a beanbag is for.
Cinder is a pepper and salt, rather than a black giant schnauzer, mainly because every black giant looks exactly like Kohl. Too soon.
As the car rumbles past the llama pens, a few barks can be heard. Big barks. Giant schnauzer barks. The left side of the driveway is lined with pens with about 10 to 12 black giants getting up and getting excited to receive visitors.
F/C: Kohl! Look, Daddy! Kohl!
Exactly. More barking erupts around the arriving Suburban as dogs begin racing around fields and standing up against their fences. A few pepper-and-salts, but mostly blacks, a few standards but mostly giants. Kohl is everywhere. Literally. His cousins, nieces, and nephews carry his genes and definitely share his look.
C (tentatively excited as Daddy parks the car): Are we going to get a puppy!?
P: Well, I don’t know about that.
D: I wanted to bring you here to see where Kohl was born. Skansen is where Kohl was born. Look around, guys.
The same woman who handed Kohl over thirteen years ago walks over from the house on the property. Dogs are barking everywhere, nearest by are all the giants, big booming barks, but the miniatures are up and at it in their more distant pens. What look like about thirty happy pups crowd the pens near a small barn, all either barking or pre-barking, the ones with cropped ears having bright green tape on their heads, looking clownish as they cock their heads at the visitors. Major racket. The noises, the smells, the sight of so many dogs. Major sensory overload.
W: Good morning. You are here to pick up the male pepper and salt giant, cropped tail, uncropped ears, right?
Cory’s and Fisher’s eyes jump to Daddy.
D: That’s right.
C: We are going to pick up a puppy?
D (turning to the kids, grasping at the fading facade): Yah, guys, we’re here to pick one up and see how much it weighs. I forgot how much Kohl weighed when he was a puppy. You have to pick one up to see how much…
The woman has already reached the holding cell for the one puppy headed home today: Cinder. A skinny little pepper and salt schnauzer, with cropped tail and floppy years, cleaned up and given probably his first ever schnauzer cut, stumbles through the gate. If he weren’t so skinny with big paws at the end of his legs, he might be mistaken for a mini. He makes no sound but bounds right over, all eyebrows and beard. Generally, Skansen picks out the pup for each family, sight unseen, based on a questionnaire.
Sight is now seen…and it’s beautiful. Little Cinder is wagging his rump, rubbing on legs, and getting first tousles from Daddy and Papa.
W (jumping the gun a little): What do you think, guys? Do you want to take this little guy home?
Fisher and Cory are quiet and smiling and holding onto either Daddy or Papa with one hand, reaching for Cinder with the other.
D: Guys, do you want to take him home?
P: He’s going to be our puppy.
C (while Fisher shakes his head “yes”): Uh huh. We get to take him home?
D: Yes, guys, he’s going to be our puppy. That’s the surprise.
They are definitely surprised. At some point over the next 20 minutes, while the woman explains giants and puppies and the Skansen way, all of the oldest group of pups in the puppy pen starts bullying a black female. The woman had explained that there are 55 dogs permanently at the kennel at the moment, and there could be up to 30 or so puppies coming along at any given time. Wow. The noise behind her rises. The woman stops the conversation to excuse herself. It’s time to rescue the bullied little girl. A couple of minutes later, she comes out on the open parking area with the female, who races over to Cinder. Not so little, she’s probably twice his size, and every inch of her screams “Kohl.”
Papa was the most reluctant to take on a pup right now. It’s a commitment.
P (smiling pretty big): Aaaaaaah, do you guys want to get two!?
Both of them beaming and dusty from Cinder and the bullied girl jumping on them, Fisher and Cory declare that they want to take them all. So does Daddy. Everyone settles for Cinder, who will be more than a handful and quite the consolation prize.
The twins load into the Suburban. A huge dog cage fills the back. They decide that the surprise must include a swing by Aunt Tammie’s house to drop off Zoe’s cage.
Over an hour later, approaching Skansen Kennel in Sebastopol, they still think Aunt Tammie’s might be right around the corner. The driveway to the Kennel is a one lane, very rural road leading through lush green vegetation and past several farms.
Because the world is random, Skansen, in addition to raising giant, standard, and mini schnauzers, also raises, um, llamas. The llama pens are at the front well before the open pens with giants running around in knee high grass.
D: Guys, the first person to see a llama should yell, “Llama-rama”!
D (to keep the real surprise hidden, of course): Because.
C: What are we doing back here?
The car passes cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, and three wild turkeys.
C: Daddy, what are we doing way back here?
D: Look, guys!
At the llama pen, the huge dog cage behind their heads, they remain totally clueless what’s coming…