A Sign of Things to Come

Finn munching on thorns; Winter 2010. Photo courtesy of Richard Kenney
Finn munching on thorns; Winter 2010. Photo courtesy of Richard Kenney

By Kristen Kenney

Finnegan posing for pictures at Christmas, Winter 2012. Photo courtesy of Richard Kenney
Finnegan posing for pictures at Christmas, Winter 2012. Photo courtesy of Richard Kenney
“Today’s the day! Today’s the day!” my 13-year-old kid sister Colleen yelled as she jumped on the bed to wake me up. On any other non-school day, I would have drop-kicked her and sank back into a coma until at least noon, but today was different. It was before eight o’clock and 16-year-old me jumped up out of bed like lightning. Today was the day that the newest member of the Kenney family would make his journey home.

In the kitchen, my mom was in her polka-dot pajamas, playing a game of Sudoku while talking to my dad. He was making Eggo waffles for my sister and I, sipping on his second cup of coffee, and nibbling on an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Everyone pleasantly said good morning, and my sister and I sat down at the table with a big glass of milk, a small glass of orange juice, a plate of warm, syrup-soaked waffles, and of course, a daily multi-vitamin. My sister had just begun her teen years, and would do anything to go against my parents’ requests. Any time a multi-vitamin found its way to her plate she would fake taking it and throw it away after we ate. As we stuffed our faces, it started…

“Now, remember who’s going to be taking care of it,” my mother said. She reminded Colleen and I constantly that, “it sure isn’t going to be me and your father’s responsibility.” My mother was always nagging the three of us about whatever she could think of. I think it might be her way of trying to start a conversation with us, but it usually ended up annoying us and made us not want to finish the conversation.

It had taken my family over 16 years to persuade my mother into getting this puppy. For years, my mother, like an ice-covered mountainside, only felt our pleads and blubbering as trivial vibrations against her solid, unmoving wall. She was resilient until my dad’s best friend sharply teased her, referring to her as the “Ice Princess” which finally triggered the avalanche that caused her surrender.

The Kenney Family. From left to right: Jean, Kristen, Colleen, and Richard Kenney. Summer, 2013. Photo courtesy of James L'Heureux
The Kenney Family. From left to right: Jean, Kristen, Colleen, and Richard Kenney. Summer, 2013. Photo courtesy of James L’Heureux
She wasn’t an animal person to begin with, and her dread of a defecating puppy gnawing at her slippers and furniture was intense. Busy enough with work, she did not want more to add to her to-do list. Also, in no way was she enthusiastic to be spending a lot of money on a little terror. She was perpetually worried about money.

If there were to be arguments in our house, it was almost always between my mom and dad about the financial situation of the family. They both had well-paying jobs, but as a young couple, they made some poor spending and saving decisions. It seems as though many of these poor decisions were made by my dad, and my mom just could not seem to let it go.

Every year, our family would vacation for a week in the summer somewhere in New Hampshire with the families of my dad’s four best friends. It was always a heated discussion while planning each trip. My mom would argue that we couldn’t afford it that year, and my dad would quickly rebuttal her argument by telling her that she needs to ‘lighten up’ and that they would find a way to make it work.

When discussing the purchase of a puppy, the same argument occurred and after over 16 years, we were finally able to get her to ‘lighten up’. My dad knew just as well as she did that this puppy was going to add an infinite amount of hours to their chore list. My sister and I were great kids, but as young teens we could not have been much lazier. We did not help my parents out with the house chores in the way that we should have, and even though we told them we would, they both knew that they would be taking care of this puppy equally if not more than us.

The four of us piled into my mom’s 2004 Honda CRV and headed two hours west to the town of Leominster, Massachusetts. The puppy was going to be the big Christmas present for the year and after waiting two months for Franklin or Finnegan to grow strong enough to leave his mother, he was finally ready to come to his new home.

When we arrived at the adorable little kennel on top of a large, snow-covered hill, I don’t think my sister and I even let the car come to a complete stop before jumping out and running to the door.

Jean and Richard Kenney; Fall 1992
Jean and Richard Kenney; Fall 1992
The inside of the kennel smelled heavily of the strong musk of dog food and urine. It had wooden paneling all along its walls as well as little clay and marble decorations for every breed of dog known to man.

After what felt like years to my sister and I, a women emerged from the barking back room with a tiny bundle of cream-colored waves. Our own handsome sweet little Cockapoo! The four of us immediately swarmed the irresistible ball of hypo-allergenic hair and began playing with him. As we played, the woman explained the gist of what we should do to care for him and made a point to tell us that, “He just ate and went to the bathroom, so there should be no troubles on your drive home.” We bid the kennel good-bye and got back on the road.

As soon as we pulled out of the kennel driveway, our new puppy was ready for action. He was nibbling and growling and exploring and tumbling all over the back seat. We stopped for gas a few miles down the road and gave the puppy to my mom to hold. He climbed and crawled all over her; she actually seemed to be enjoying him! She was laughing and petting him and it seemed as though this puppy had begun to break through an emotional wall. When he jumped up and licked her nose she said, “Ew! No, no, no little guy… I don’t like that,” in an Alvin and the Chipmunks kind of voice that people tend to acquire when speaking to animals and babies.

My dad got back into the car after pumping gas and upon seeing the puppy on my mom’s chest, yelled, “Hold it right there!” and quickly got out his handy-dandy camera which he almost never left the house without and snapped some momentous pictures of the new couple.

My mother gave the pup back to my sister and I, and we let him roam around the back seat of the car hoping he would decide to get cozy on one of our laps. As a family, we decided that we must finalize his name before we got home. We debated and debated for the next hour or so, changing our minds every few minutes. I thought for a moment that this puppy might push my parents over the edge if we were already bickering about his name.

During one minute of heated debate, our puppy stopped shuffling around. He stood right in the middle of the back seat and would not move. He arched his back, raised his head, and spread his legs in the way that you would imagine immense heroic horses to stand in Hollywood movies before they saved the day. We noticed quickly and my sister and I started laughing. “Look!” I said, “He’s standing like a stallion!”

We all stared at the strange little fur-ball and giggled at his silliness. All of a sudden, a trickling of puppy pee landed on the seat. “Oh my God, he’s peeing!” my sister said. The four of us gasped, and after a brief moment of silence, what had been a giggle turned into a roar of laughter for almost the entire remainder of the ride home.

My parents’ worst nightmare had already begun before we got home! After we cleaned up, I think we all knew that this puppy was going to cause my parents’ hair to go gray even faster than it already was.

Finn munching on thorns; Winter 2010. Photo courtesy of Richard Kenney
Finn munching on thorns; Winter 2010. Photo courtesy of Richard Kenney
We were able to decide on the name Finnegan, and three years later he is still causing trouble and enhancing certain arguments between my parents.

A few weeks ago, my mom and dad celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary. I thought about how lucky my sister and I are that they are still together. We don’t have a perfect family; no one does. There will always be differences in personalities and opinions, there will always be arguments about things like money and peeing puppies, but my parents have shown and taught my sister and I the importance of compromise, growth, trust, and love.

I truly appreciate this gift my parents have given me especially since many children nowadays live in broken homes. I have been with my boyfriend now for several years, and have directly seen the effect his parent’s divorce has had on him. He and my family came up to see a field hockey game of mine about a month ago, and after the game, my mom brought various college essentials up to my room. Paper towels were one of the items she brought and for some unexplainable reason I snapped at her for buying the ‘cheap’ brand of paper towels instead of the ones that are ten dollars extra and absorb much more. I had clearly hurt her feelings and my boyfriend pulled me aside and said, “I wish someone would bring me paper towels to school.” I immediately knew I had made a mistake and apologized to my mother for being a selfish brat.

Both of my parents have certain attributes that I don’t like about them and as a family, we may fight here and there, but in the overall picture, things for my family are pretty flawless. We listen to each other and learn to change and grow for each other.

My mom has come such a long way with Finnegan. Just yesterday, Finn came flying through the house after rolling in some kind of reeking animal feces. “Ugh! Sweetie, what were you doing out there?!” she exclaimed as he pranced around, oblivious of his rancid mistake. My mom has clearly heard us when we’ve told her to ‘lighten up’. She calmly took Finn into the bathtub and she and I proceeded to wash the stinking pup clean, laughing until our stomachs hurt.


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