A wise veteran home school mother once told me that I might seriously enjoy reading James Herriot's books to my children. Knowing that I have a degree in Animal Science, worked for a vet, and love animals, she was sure that Herriot's stories of his veterinary practice would be a huge hit with the family. She was right on the money. We've devoured a children's version of "All Creatures Great and Small", so naturally when I saw "Dog Stories" , a collection of short stories about the dogs Herriot treated in his veterinary practice, I jumped on it. I must mention that most all of Herriot's books are found in the adult section, but with the exception of a few mentions of the word "H-E-double hockey sticks", the stories are wonderful to read to the kids. I reasoned that I could read a few chapters to the kids after lunch and a few at bedtime.
My plan was going brilliantly, and my children were beggin' for more. Last night I sat down in my rocking chair next to the fire, dug out my best Scottish accents for the characters, and prepared to wow the kids with yet another story. They were in their jammies, teeth brushed, blankets wrapped around their bodies, ready for entertainment. I started in on the chapter. They were mesmerized....then it all started going down hill. I can't pinpoint the moment, but somewhere in the middle of the story, after we had fallen in love with the old man and his four legged friend, things fell apart. The old man needed the companionship of the dog, the dog got sick, it was terminal, and the dog had to be put down. At first I choked back the lump in my throat. Then my voice got quivery, and ....well... I lost it. The tears came freely, and my doe eyed children began to cry too. It was horrible. I couldn't take it all back, we'd come so far, and I couldn't stop there because we had to know what happened. So I pressed on through the tears to the dramatic finale. My kids were a mess, and I was a mess. So I did what any other loving mother would do. I said, "Well kids, we can't end on a sad note, so lets read another chapter. Maybe it's a happier story."
I was wrong. I was VERY wrong. The next chapter was about a house call where Herriot goes to check on a Great Dane with puppies. The owner leaves the tiny room, and the dog attacks! Herriot is being mauled, and narrowly escapes death and dismemberment of his man parts by beating the dog off with a chair! My youngest daughter, being a sensitive 4 year old, approached my chair with wide-eyed fear. "Mommy, can the scary dog jump through my window and bite me?" "No, no sweetheart, that only happens in the movies." I said reassuringly. Then I read them the Little Mermaid to clear there brains of the trauma, and kissed them all good night.
They couldn't have been more traumatized than if I would have said, "Night night. Don't let the doggies bite." I won't be winning the "Mother of the Year" award any time soon, but I learned a valuable lesson. Always read ahead.