Well, the Good Chaplain is on his way to Africa. It’s been a long flight for him with lots stops in different countries, but he should be safely there soon. It hasn’t really hit me that he is gone for a long time. I expect that sometime next week when he should be coming home, but isn’t.
One of the funnier stories from a deployment happened on that first time he left for the summer and went to Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. The girls and I were to fly out for the Fourth of July week and the wing chaplain, who was the Good Chaplain’s boss, offered his house and car to us as he and his family were on vacation. The only coda: Take care of their aging dog, Gigi.
I know many of you can already see what happens next. We took very good care of Gigi. The boss said Gigi was old and the family knew she would die soon and that would be a sad day for the family.
The first day everything was fine. The girls, who were 18 months old, loved Gigi — the first time they ever liked a dog. That night, as we got ready for bed. the Good Chaplain let Gigi out to do her business before retiring for the evening.
As is the case with many old animals, including humans, their bladders cannot hold much and about 4:30 in the morning Gigi was whining to go out again. A grumbling Good Chaplain got up and let her out. The house was located on a large piece of property in the country so he left her out for a while.
But Gigi kept barking and barking, so the Good Chaplain, grumbling again, got up to let her back in. He called her name. All he heard was “yip, yip” and then a high-pitched yelp. “Gigi!” he screamed. Then he came storming back into the bedroom.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“An animal just grabbed Gigi,” he said, finding his shoes, his robe and the bb gun that was in the bedroom.
“What do you mean an animal grabbed Gigi?”
“I saw two eyes glowing and Gigi hanging from an animal’s mouth.”
Now Gigi, while not a tall dog, was no light-weight either. What kind of animal could have grabbed a dog that size?
“Well what was it?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to go see if I can find it,” said the Good Chaplain. So there is my brave husband, all 150 pounds of him, in a robe, shoes with a bb gun walking the perimeter of the property looking for a wild animal who just carried off a dog. Was this really a good idea, I wondered.
Soon, the Good Chaplain returned. “I think we better call the police, ” he said and went off to do that. In the meantime, I threw some clothes on. Shortly, a police cruiser pulled up and then a second from the nearby town, and then a third.
“We heard it over the radio and had to come and see what it was all about,” one of the cops said.
After almost hiding their laughter, the cops all decided it was probably a fox and there wasn’t much they could do, so the Good Chaplain and I went back to bed.
The next morning, we got a call from the base chapel. A neighbor found Gigi in his yard and miraculously she was still alive.The neighbor, klnowing whose dog she was, rushed her to the vet. Our hearts soared. She was still alive. Of course, our girls for the first time in their short lives woke up and immediately started asking for Gigi. Great! They finally like a dog and now she’s gone.
We went to the chapel to try to find out more and find a contact for the wing chaplain. By the time we arrived, news came that Gigi died on the operating table. And this was my welcome to military life! Maybe we wouldn’t pursue this avenue after all.
The Good Chaplain got in touch with the vet and then we set out to find the family. The chapel did not have a number but we knew they were visiting family in one of the Carolinas so I snooped around the house, found an address book with a group of names from the area and started calling. All the time he was dialing, the Good Chaplain was praying that the boss would answer and not one of the kids. No such luck. The teenage daughter answered. She wanted to know what was wrong because, really, why else would we be calling.
“Well, sweetheart, Gigi died today,” the Good Chaplain said.
The daughter’s reply? “Ok, thanks,” and she hung up.
Eventually, the boss called back, gave instructions on disposal of Gigi and thanked us for calling. He wanted the dog buried somewhere on the property, but for us not to tell them where. The Good Chaplain got Gigi’s body from the vet and tried to dig a hole, but the ground was rock solid. So he took her back to the vet, paid him $15 to dispose of the body, and did not tell the boss where she was buried.
We continued our vacation feeling pretty awful that the dog died on our watch.
Soon the Good Chaplain’s time in New Hampshire was up and as he prepared to leave, the boss gave him $15 for the burial. “Next time, you might want to get the receipt,” the boss said.
But that’s not the end of the story. The following year while at a conference in Colorado, the Good Chaplain was walking by a group of chaplain candidates and heard one say, “Yeah the guy at Pease before me killed the boss’s dog.” The Good Chaplain stuck his head in the group and said, “Yes, and it was the worst day of my life.”
Several years later, as he was walking through an airport in France the Good Chaplain heard a voice say, “Sure, you kill a guy’s dog and then don’t even stop to say hello.” It was the boss.
And that is the story of Gigi. A saga that will follow us for the rest of our lives.