In 1962, two weeks before Christmas, we moved into a large brick home on a side road. The home sat on a hill back from the road in a small town in Western New York. There were ninety acres of hills, ravines, creeks, and twenty acres of small pine trees the former owner had planted to sell as Christmas trees. His wife had left him and he wanted out.
We wanted in.
We had three children. Jeff was ten years old. Craig was six and he had already been operated on for a brain tumor. Our third child was Marlene and she was two. She somehow pushed a chair into the bigger bathroom, climbed up onto the sink, found a bottle of baby aspirin, and ate them all. Away we went to Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, which was twenty-five miles away and it was the middle of a snowstorm. I sat by her side all night after she got her stomach pumped out.
Christmas came and we went up to my brother’s farm for Christmas dinner. My two sisters and their families were there, too – all eighteen of us. After eating more than we should have, we exchanged Christmas presents for which we had drawn names. Relaxing there in the living room, we drank tea from the tiny tea set my niece had received for Christmas.
“Thank you! Aren’t you sweet? Maybe another cup?”
We then realized that the children were too little to turn on the faucets and they were getting our “tea” from the toilet. Everyone raced out to the kitchen to rinse out their mouths – even the men.
When we were settled again, my brother Bob said to my husband, Bill, “I got your name – I’ll go get your present!”
Out to the barn he went and brought in a large box. Bill opened it and there was the ugliest puppy you have ever seen – wiry brown and black fur, long ears and legs, and a three-inch tail. That puppy leaped out of the box and ran around the living room and kitchen like its tail was on fire!
Bob said, “You need a dog. Your house is so far back from the road; it will be protection for you.”
Bill is normally a very quiet man. When I looked at him, his eyes were open so wide as he watched that dog run that his eyebrows almost touched his hairline!
Bob had put a collar on the dog and gave us a rope. Otherwise with all her running around we would never have gotten her into the car.
On the way home, my son, Craig yelled, “That dog just peed on my leg!” All I could think was, Dear God, what are we in for?
We had just moved into this house four days before.
As we drove up the hill to our garage, over which were two bedrooms, we decided to let the dog sleep down there. There was a large radiator in one corner to keep her warm. I went inside to get a sleeping bag for her bed, but she refused to lie down. She kept racing up to the top of the stairs, so we finally had to tie her to the radiator. That’s when she started to yip.
We went down several times that night to reassure her that we were there, but she just kept on yipping. The kids just kept hearing her yipping all night, so they named her “Yippee.”
We finally got a gate and put it across the bottom of the stairs so we could let her loose. She had great fun chewing our boots and the handles of hammers on Bill’s workbench, as well as knocking over all the plants I had on a table under a window. When the boys came home from school she was so excited she scratched the outside door from top to bottom.
In the spring, as I looked out the living room window I saw two women and their kids walking up the road toward our house. I then saw Yippee excitedly race down the muddy driveway, leap onto the women, and knock down the kids!
I raced to the crank-out window. I kept yelling out the dog’s name every time she knocked over one of the little ones. I yelled, “Yippee! Yippee!” as I watched her muddy the woman’s coat. I kept yelling, “Yippee!” until the woman and her children turned around and went back the way they came.
I never saw them again.
The farm we had bought was ninety acres, mostly woods. One acre came down to the Eighteen-Mile Creek and the kids always told people that their dad owned a bank. The kids always thought it was a real bank.
The former owner had planted thousands of Christmas trees on the property, so the next year we cut some down and brought them to our front yard to sell. When families came, Yippee always grabbed the kids’ mittens and hats and raced around with them. One summer we found a cute little hat under a bush.
Bill took the kids down to the bank (the real bank) for a night deposit, and since I was too tired to go with them, I laid on the couch. A while later, my daughter Marlene came marching up the stairs and said, “Yippee’s bed is full of chewed up money!”
Down the stairs I raced and there Yippee laid in a pile of chewed up money. She had found the box where we kept the change from the sale of the Christmas trees and chewed it all up! We gathered all we could find and took it upstairs. We tried our best to Scotch tape it back together!
The next summer, the house next door was being painted, and Yippee brought home the workers’ lunches, paintbrushes, and jackets. When the boys returned them, the workers would always say that they had never seen her take anything.
A prominent doctor had a cabin on the other side of us in the woods. The first time the doctor’s family came to stay in the cabin, Yippee brought home a beautiful sweater that I knew had cost more than our mortgage payment. It took me twenty minutes to get her to give it to me.
Yippee brought home all kinds of things: shotgun shells in plastic containers and an unopened container of chip dip. One time she even brought home a horse collar. We never did figure out where she got that!
One year my son Jeff was showing a pig at the county fair, so he had to wash it. When it was all nice and clean, he put on baby powder to make it look white. He had put bales of hay around and opened up the barn door. We all sat around on the hay bales – even Yippee, as Jeff practiced showing the pig as he would at the fair.
He was doing really well until Yippee hopped off the hay bale she was sitting on and started chasing that pig! It ran through the mud puddle where Jeff had washed her and then Yippee chased it right through the place where the pig did its business!
Jeff tried to catch Yippee and put the pig into its stall. Yippee just came back and innocently sat on the bale of hay like nothing had happened.
Jeff was also going to show vegetables at the fair that year. We all know they have to be the same size and perfectly shaped. As he picked them, he laid them at the end of the row. But when he went back to get them, they were gone. Yippee had eaten most of them and the rest had tooth marks in them. Yippee helped herself to lots from the garden. Thank God she didn’t like tomatoes!
There are so many other stories about Yippee that I could share! We just couldn’t believe all the things that dog did! The kids entered her in the “Most Beautiful Dog” contest at the corn festival. There were so many dogs there with pedigree names! When the owners went up front to show their dogs, the man asked them their dog’s name. When Jeff told him the dog’s name was Yippee, everyone started to laugh. She didn’t win a ribbon, but everyone wanted to pet her.
Every Sunday after church we would load chairs, food, drinks, and a lounge chair into a trailer that Bill pulled with the tractor. We would go way back in the woods to eat and clear out the sticks and dead branches from the area. Craig would lay and sleep in the lounge chair and Yippee always sat close to him. Craig was getting weaker as a result of two surgical attempts to get all the cancer from a brain tumor.
Yippee had come into our lives at a very difficult time. We didn’t know it when we brought her home that Christmas, but she somehow sensed it, and we loved her for every crazy thing she ever did.
I’m sure Yippee and Craig are both in heaven and God is asking Craig, “Where’s that dog and what’s she doing now?”