While they were eating and talking, I took out Joey’s clothes and set them on the sofa. Walking into the kitchen, “Steven, Joey’s clothes are on the sofa.”
I watched my boys, I felt proud. They weren’t angels but came close. With our 30 boys the usual argument or toss up occurred, but for all of it, the boys policed themselves and all Maria had to do was look at them and they quieted down. After all she fed them so they better listen.
Joey soon became one of my sons. “Dad, sometime I think about our time in LA, Ialmost said no and that would have been a mistake. I owe a lot to Jimmy for him telling me this was a chance of a life time.”
“I wouldn’t have left you in L A or Chicago. If you had said no, I would’ve still flown home and then fly you to Chicago the next day. I knew once you got here, you wouldn’t want to go back on the streets.”
The boys formed friendships, some closer than others. This was natural and I expected that they would develop these ties. With this number of boys, friendships and close relationships were expected. But even though these existed, they still protected each other, they recognized that their history bonded them in a way that no other family could ever understand. Against the outside world, they were the Musketeers.
The idea of the bunk beds did free up some rooms, but I didn’t want to fill them all with Alex’s boys. I still made trips in the US and with an office in New York City, there were occasions I’d meet a child that needed help.
After a long stay, Alex flew home. But I knew he’d be back every chance he could get, if not for the boys then for the food.
My work centered around the UN most of the time now. I still got involved in contractual negotiations over trade deals, even to the point of developing a trade position country by country.
The conservatory and the orchard occupied a lot of the boys free time. The school was built and when it was done I wished I had made it three rooms instead of two. I hired tutors for the boys and even enlisted their help in teaching a working knowledge of their native languages.
The old school area was divided into two guest rooms and a small room I converted to a library. I found that large libraries sold copies or old books, and that was my source for stocking the library. If a book needed repaired, I had that done. It wasn’t unusual to start to see my boys walking around with a book.
“Dad, we need to go shopping. My shoes are getting tight and my tennis shoes have holes in them.” Pass me downs were common, as a larger boy out grew his clothes, they were passed to younger boys. But eventually they needed replaced.
“Okay, we’ll go shopping this Saturday.” I made the announcement at dinner and if they needed any clothing, make a list and we’ll go shopping on Saturday.
Saturday became a day that changed our lives, at least mine. While shopping, there was a man who had a cardboard box giving away puppies. He had 6 puppies, he said they were mongrels, and the boys forgot about shoes, lunch and whatever else was on their mind. “Dad, look at them, they are so cute.”
I had avoided the idea of getting pets for the boys and now I realized there was no way that my boys would leave without those puppies. “Well, sir, this is your lucky day, we’ll take these puppies.” I was swamped with ‘thanks Dad, you are the best Dad, we’ll take care of them Dad, on and on they made the promises. I grew up without pets, I knew some of my friends who had pets and were quite devoted to them.My pets were my boys and to them I was very devoted.
Finishing our shopping, with some very happy boys, we headed home. They rode the back with the dogs and I rode up front with Peter.
“I wondered how long it would take before you caved in.”
“It was easy when it was just an idea, but when those boys saw those puppies, I knew I lost. Now I need to find a vet to have them checked out.”
“I know a vet, he’s a friend of mine and he has an office not far from here. I could call him and set up an appointment if you want.”
“Thanks, Peter, I’d appreciate that.”
Peter did set up an appointment for the coming Monday, in the mean time, the puppies where kept in their box in the garage. Of course all of the kids had to go and lay with them. In truth I expected a few spats, but none happened and after a while some of the boys came back in from the garage. “The dogs are nice Dad but I’m okay without a pet.”
On the way to the vet I thought about where they would stay, they can’t be in a box in the garage forever. “Peter, have you ever had a dog?”
“Yes, we had a family dog.”
“What’s a family dog?”
“There were only two of us, my sister and me, so we had to take turns feeding him, bathing him and walking him twice a day. Dad would pitch in once in a while walking Scamp but mostly it was my sister and I.”
“I wonder if something like that might work at home. I could put up a feedinglist, bathing list and clean-up list. Dog for the day, that way I won’t have to have a dog for each boy who wants one.”
“That might work, I’d suggest that you involve the original boys so they feel like you aren’t taking the dogs away from them.”
“That’s easy I’ll ex[plain my concerns and let the boys draw up the list. I know not all of the boys would be interested. Good project for them.”
The vet was a young man who greeted Peter very warmly. “I dated his sister, but she went to college, met a guy there and they got married. But Scot and I stayed friends.”
Scot recommended that the animals be spayed within the next three months. He gave them their shots and recommended a puppy chow, with a stern warning, no human food.
“That’s going to be hard to follow, those boys will be slipping them left overs.”
“Just tell them that their stomachs can’t handle the food and they will get sick. The truth is that they won’t be getting the vitamins and roughage needed to keep them healthy. The roughage in the dog food helps to keep their teeth clean. Dog food is made especially for them. If they want to feed their dog, get dog bones.”
I paid Scot and made arrangements to bring the dogs back.
“Peter, we need to stop and buy dog food, and I don’t know what else.”
We stopped at a pet store, I bought a 25 pound bag of puppy chow, stainless steel dishes for food and water and a large dogcage. “Do you think all of the puppies could sleep in this?”
“Yes, until they get bigger, you do know they grow fast.”
I took the large cage back and bought a smaller cage. “I’ll have to buy more cages but I’ll see how this one does.”
“Did you get toys and chews?”
“No” I went back in and bought toys and chews. The salesman was quite helpful. I think I made his quota for the day, I not the week.
Arriving home, the boys were waiting. They helped to unload the car. “Boys, we need to talk. There are some rules and the Vet recommends no human food. So I don’t want you to feed the dogs food from your plates. Human food is not good for the dogs, the Vet said they would get sick. The dogs need to go outside to do their business twice a day and maybe more since they are puppies.”
“I have an idea, what do you think about posting a schedule that shares the responsibility of taking care of the puppies. I know not everyone wants to help, but some of your brothers would like to help. What do you think about that?”
“But they are our dogs.”
“Of course, I was thinking like sharing some of your responsibility. We won’t be getting anymore pets and this way those boys who wanted a pet can share in taking care of yours. It’s up to you, but the needs of the dogs come first. I won’t let you neglect these animals.” I gave them the dishes, the dog food, and the treats. “Theyneed to be in this cage instead of the cardboard box. I don’t want them in the house until they are trained to do their bathroom outside. That means you must take them out after they eat and once between meals. Right now they need to be fed. You need to feed them twice a day, one cup of dog food moistened with water. Keep their water dish full of fresh water.”
I watched the boys when I said all of this. They were very attentive and I wonder how long would it be before the list would be posted. Taking care of animals can be fun but there are chores as well.
The boys took the cage, bowls and food to the garage. I’d keep an eye on them as I knew Peter would also.