A Standard Poodle named Louise. Three large layers of a birthday cake to celebrate an 85th birthday. An author’s book signing. Car keys. The holidays. Disaster.
It should have been another December day.
I was going only 75 miles to my hometown to celebrate my father’s 85th birthday and sign books.
The car was packed with clothes, books, and props. My beautiful poodle Louise was sitting elegantly on the back seat. I had just picked up a confection masterpiece at The Mitchell House and Gardens, the business where I direct weddings. The splendid creation was to be part of a holiday celebration where my sister and I would honor our father, a World War II veteran.
One layer of vanilla cake spread smooth with gleaming white frosting. A second layer of chocolate cake also topped with the same frosting – frosting so calorie laden that the Surgeon General should require it to have a warning label, but so delicious! And one last vanilla layer with almond flavoring, topped with a magnificent bow made from red fondant icing. It was the icing on the icing!
Oh! But lest I forget one lovely detail: Each layer was circled with red velvet ribbon that perfectly matched the fondant bow. I hugged the lady who had baked the cake – Patsy, whom I call our “Cake Goddess.”
After leaving the wedding business, I realized that I needed gasoline. My mind racing ahead to all of the day’s events – sign books, take cake to hall where party was being held, leave Louise with Daddy, dash to mall for makeup, return home, change clothes … and on and on.
I got out of the car in the freezing cold on a day when even the Sunny South was soggy and awful. Just as I started to pump gasoline, I realized that I had left my handbag and keys in the car.
I turned around to open the car door. Louise, who panics when she can’t see me, had moved herself to the driver’s seat. She was standing on the handle of the door. As I reached to open the door, I realized: IT WAS LOCKED! Louise’s paw was pressed firmly on the electric lock, and I was out in the cold – literally and figuratively.
I went to each of the doors and the back of my SUV, hoping against hope, that one of them might be open. No such luck!
With only minutes to spare, I did what anyone would do – dash inside to call AAA and beg them to send someone ASAP. Immediately, the customer service representative asked, “Are you somewhere that you are safe?”
“Yes,” I replied, nervous about those three cake layers in the car with a dog that has a penchant for treats and has been on a diet because of eating too many “snackees.”
After a couple of minutes, the cheerful woman informed me that my AAA membership had expired in October. This was the same membership that my father told me that he had renewed for me, as he does every year, for my birthday. There was no point in arguing that detail, however, because all of that cake AND Louise were in the car. It was a dangerous combination!Fortunately, my credit card was in my pocket, and I re-upped my membership for $69, all the while begging the customer service representative to send the locksmith as quickly as possible.
I returned to the car to see Louise, whose beautiful face was pressed against the driver’s window. She kept pawing at the window. I stood there talking to her and trying to get her to move her paw back to the door lock.
In a few minutes, the convenience store attendant said that someone was on the phone for me. It was AAA cheerfully informing me that a locksmith was on the way. But then came the questions: What color is your car? We noticed that Dr. Petit did not renew his membership, either. Would you like to re-instate his membership for him? I was frantic. Minutes were passing. And Louise was still in the car with the cake!
“Dr. Petit is on his own,” I said in reference to my father, who shouldn’t be driving at all. “And as much as I would love to talk to you, I’ve got to get back to my car. My dog is panicked that she’s locked inside! Please tell the locksmith to hurry!”
I slammed down the phone and ran back to the car, continued talking to Louise, and became convinced with each passing minute that I was going to have frostbite and die before I could get in the car, much less get the cake – still in its glorious frosted state -- to the party!
One hour later, the locksmith arrived. He unlocked the car in no time. Louise was bouncing on the seat with joy that she could be reunited with her Mom, and I breathed a sigh of relief until ….I noticed the red “Door Ajar” light shining brightly on my dashboard. What could be wrong now? It dawned on me – maybe the back gate of the SUV wasn’t totally shut. I pulled off the four-lane road into the large parking lot of a florist. I parked the car, jumped out with keys in hand and hurried to the back of the car. But Louise, panicked that she was being left again, jumped across the back seat and into the back of the SUV where the cake layers lay. As I opened the back gate, I saw Louise coming over the seat.
The three layers of cake that had mercifully survived Louise’s large appetite now were prey to her long legs and large paws. I wanted to cry. Louise was heading out the back of the SUV – she would not be shut up in the car again without me. As I grabbed her leash, she pulled her head out of her collar and began running joyfully through the parking lot of the florist – only a few yards from a heavily traveled four-lane highway.
At this point, the cake was the least of my concerns. I tried not to show my panic as Louise dashed back and forth across the parking lot in exuberant glee. I kept saying, “Come on, Louise, let’s get a snackee. Let’s get a snackee.” The word signaling treats was music to Louise’s ears, and finally she came running toward me. I put my arms around her and quickly put her green and rhinestone Christmas collar around her neck.
At this point, people in the florist had begun running to the parking lot, as concerned as I was about the poodle that was loose and in danger!
“Bless her heart,” one lady said. “She didn’t want to get a shot.”
I stared blankly at her: What was she talking about? I looked up. Next door, a Pet-Med van was set up to give dogs their shots! The poor woman thought that Louise had escaped from the veterinarian’s needle! I had neither the time nor the desire to tell her otherwise.
If only it had been so simple, I wanted to say.
I waved goodbye to everyone standing in the parking lot and put Louise in the car. My knees and legs felt like Jello that had been left out on a holiday buffet way too long. I had no energy, no oomph! What brief vision I had of the cake as I was trying to grab Louise from leaving the back of the car told me that the damage wasn’t irreparable. I called my sister frantically. I told her about the disaster.
“Go buy some vanilla icing at the grocery store, and we’ll fix the cake when I get to Greenwood.”
Fortunately, Louise and I got to Greenwood without further incident. I changed clothes in the bathroom of the bookstore, put out my props and hoped to sell books. It wasn’t one of my better book signings. But I didn’t care! Louise was safe, I was warm, and the cake would be OK.
Later, my sister and I were able to repair the cake, even though a small area of the chocolate layer had fallen off. I simply treated the cake icing like glue and slapped the cake together again, turning the ugly area to the back. When it came time to serve the cake, I cut off the section that had fallen victim to Louise’s paw and smiled happily. My father was surprised and thrilled.
Guests kept asking, “Who made that wonderful cake?” I left the party with cake icing adorning my clothes. But who cares? It’s simply one more holiday adventure and another saga in my life with Louise!
Merry Christmas, Karen and Lady Louise
P.S. The photo was taken at the book signing, just a couple of hours after Louise locked me out of the car. Through it all, she was absolutely gorgeous and unremorseful, as any diva would be!