UNDERFOOT AND CANARDLY
A Christmas love story
By beloved fellow May’s friend, a retired writer from Montana
“Grampa, why are those two in the same cage?” asked little Vida.
“I don’t know,” replied her grandfather.
The veterinary assistant said, “They were brought in together and raised such a row when we tried to put them in separate cages that we just decided to let them stay together. They came in just few days ago, but with these crowded facilities I’m afraid they will be put to sleep soon. We just don’t have enough room to keep them all. A young couple brought them in. The owner, an elderly gentleman, had died and the young folks had no way to take care of them, so here they are spending their last days. At least they are together. As old as they are I don’t suppose anyone will adopt them before their time runs out.”
Vida’s parents were not all that opposed to her having a dog, but they were not all that enthused about it either. Certainly, they did not have an older Great Dane and his sidekick cat in mind. And truth be told the cat was the smallest feline specimen anyone had ever seen. One thing they shared though, was a deep bond of friendship, however odd it might seem. At night, the cat climbed up on the big dog’s back and there he slept, the dog and cat very much at ease with each other.
“Grampa, they have such odd names,” observed little Vida, “why?”
The assistant spoke up, “the young woman told me that the old man had the dog since it was a puppy and as it was always under foot that’s what he named him, and as the cat is so small and the same color as his huge companion he was named Canardly since when they are together you ‘can hardly’ see him.”
At the ripe old age of eight Vida thought about that for a moment or two, “that seems reasonable to me.”
Grampa smiled to himself in agreement, then asked aloud, “How much longer do these two have before….”
“About ten days,” replied the assistant sadly, “they are scheduled to go on the 26th.”
“Vida honey, let’s move on to the other cages, perhaps we can find something your folks will approve of.”
But nothing seemed to catch Vida’s eye, and with Grampa Abe, she left the animal shelter vaguely dissatisfied. In the car on the way home she seemed to be thinking very hard on something, working the wrinkles out of a thorny problem, but kept it to herself.
The next day at breakfast she asked if she and Grampa might visit the shelter again that afternoon, after school.
They arrived at feeding time, Vida asked if she might feed the big dog and his tiny buddy. The vet’s assistant smiled and handed her their supper.
Every day for the next week Vida was there at suppertime, feeding the pair, talking to them, petting them. Grampa Abe stood back, smiling to himself.
But it all came tumbling down on the 24th. Vida stared into the empty cage, tears in her eyes, lip trembling.
“An older gentleman came in with his daughter and son-in-law and took old Underfoot and Canardly home, said they had a great place for them to live out their days in loving care.” The vet’s assistant knelt down in front of Vida and put her arms around the little girl. “I’m sure they will be happy in their new home, the people seemed ever so nice.”
The next day, which was Christmas of course, Grampa Abe excused himself from the breakfast table. “I have a small errand to run before we start opening presents. Won’t be but just a minute or two.” Looking at Vida’s folks he motioned for them to take her in the front room where the glittering tree stood guard over a small mountain of gifts.
The first thing they handed her was a rather strange gift, it rattled and clinked. When Vida opened it, she found two stainless steel bowls. Looking at her folks with a wondering glance, she set the bowls on the floor. Grampa Abe called her to come upstairs, he had something to show her.
Vida slowly walked up the stairs, and opened her bedroom door.
The squeals of delight could be heard for blocks!
And for a very long time after, Vida, Underfoot and Canardly were inseparable. The passing years were very kind to the three of them.
And that, my children is another story, for another time.