(originally published January 23, 2008)
It’s in the eyes.
Lurking there behind icy blue-gray orbs rimmed with a dark ring of inky blackness.
Unblinking eyes. Burning a hole through your very soul, reaching in, grabbing your heart and slowly squeezing until its very last pulse vibrates through your body, your final breath escapes in a tiny, faint gasp and you slip away into the nothingness that is death.
Pure. Unadulterated. Evil.
And its name is Nellie.
When my in-laws asked if we’d dog-sit their Weimaraner, Nellie, I thought it best to return the kindness they’ve shown us over the years and quickly said, “Sure.”
It was the last intelligent thought I had that day.
Weimaraners are supposed to be intelligent, athletic animals. Playful and cheerful. I know this because I looked it up on the Web and the Internet would never lie.
Then my husband got home and stopped dead in his tracks when greeted by our beautiful golden retriever, Chaser, and the gray ghost, Nellie.
Immediately on edge, he pointed at the gray one and whispered through gritted teeth, “What is she doing here?”
“She’s staying with us while your parents are gone.”
His reply was two terse words, “How long?”
“Just until tomorrow,” I said as the panic washed across his face and he took a step away from the dog. I quickly added, “Hey, what kind of trouble can she get into in 24 hours?”
His answer was to dash upstairs, pack an overnight bag and race for the door. His SUV shot out of the garage, down the driveway and into the street. He stomped on the gas and tore out of the neighborhood. The sound of squealing tires echoed into the night.
And then all was quiet.
I stood at the window, watching the car’s tail lights slowly fade and began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I’d been had.
I looked down into Nellie’s sweet face. And then – quick like a cat – was a flash of something that made my heart jump.
There. In the eyes.
In that moment of clarity I realized that Weimaraner was German for princess of darkness and all that is unholy.
God help us all.
During the next two hours, she tore the stuffing from our son’s teddy bear (he’s still in therapy – our son, not the bear), she cannibalized a Power Ranger’s right leg, shredded six issues of “Sports Illustrated,” and swallowed whole a Harry Potter movie she somehow managed to wrestle from the DVD player’s grip.
Then she jumped onto the kitchen counter and grabbed a container of grease. She pulled it to the edge and slipped it over the side, slopping the entire contents down the cabinet and onto the floor.
She walked through the mess and tracked it into three different rooms before I had discovered what she’d done.
Because I’d already gone to my happy place and was completely disengaged from reality by that point, rocking gently in the corner and singing the song from the “Beverly Hillbillies.”
Chaser’s sharp bark brought me back to attention. I opened my eyes to see her face inches from my own, fear shining in her dark, brown eyes. Do something, they begged. Save us! Before she finds my milk bones!
Then I looked over to see Nellie calmly walk past with a 12-ounce T-bone steak clamped between her jaws.
My dinner. In that dog’s mouth. I seethed. This is war.
I tore the house apart looking for a crucifix, something – anything – I could use to repel the demon within. And it wasn’t until I was knee-deep in boxes in the basement that I remembered, hey, we’re Protestants.
We don’t even have a crucifix!
I ran back upstairs and quickly fashioned a cross from the left-over chopsticks from countless nights of take-out Chinese. In a pinch, it could double as a stake…just in case she turned out to be part vampire too.
I held it up in front of Nellie’s face and yelled, “Be gone, you four-legged devil!”
She lifted one sleek paw, batted the makeshift crucifix from my hand and sent it flying through the air. She chased after it, picked it up in her teeth and swallowed the thing in one, large gulp.
Then she turned around and burped.
Everything began to turn black and my final thought as I slipped into unconsciousness was maybe it’s not so bad on the Dark Side. I hope they get cable.
You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.