Uma Rose, our great-niece, celebrated her sixth birthday this past week. Uma is a bright-eyed, smart little girl who enjoys little games and the playfulness that most 6-year-olds relish.
When she visits, we have our rituals. When my wife Brenda and Uma start up the stairs toward our living room, upon hearing their footsteps I rush to the couch. I wait until Uma sees me before I act like I am asleep. “Pat, you are not asleep. I saw your eyes,” she always says.
Just to make sure we know she isn’t fooled, she will turn to Brenda and repeats, “Aunt Brenda, Pat isn’t asleep. I saw his eyes,” and we all laugh.
We also have a routine for sleepovers when I go to work in the morning. “Will you be going to the courthouse to change my name?” Uma will ask.
I always respond the same way. “Yes. I am changing your name to Uma Rose Bombeenie,”or something equally outlandish. She always laughs.
She loves animals. Helping Brenda decorate for Easter, Uma added her own assortment of small figures that included cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and a host of other varmints.
She likes to visit the pet ceremony at Sugar Grove Cemetery so she can read the headstones of the many beloved animals.
The tombstones have the full names of the dogs inscribed on them; names such as Fluffy Jones, Spot Ferguson, Buddy Taylor, Duke Grover, Rocky Smith, Tucker Davis and Max Spencer. Uma delights in talking about the puppies.
Well, today’s story started when I asked Brenda if Uma might like to attend the Mutts Gone Nuts performance at the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington on Sunday, March 18.
Later that night I did something I don’t often do. I ate a large bowl of vanilla ice cream with syrup just before bedtime. Anyway, about 2 a.m., I woke up and shook Brenda.
“You won’t believe what I just dreamed,” I said, as Brenda rolled over.
“Couldn’t this wait until morning?” Brenda asked, indicating she didn’t feel the middle of the night was the appropriate time to be talking about dreams.
“No, this is important,” I replied. “I just dreamed we took Uma to see the Mutts Gone Nuts Show at the Murphy.”
“So? What’s so unusual about that?” Brenda asked.
I told her we had arrived at the Murphy and were walking down the aisle like Kevin Kline in the movie “De-Lovely” when we spotted them. Every dog our family had ever owned was there.
The late Doc Haley, Tootsie Haley, Burger Waldren, Skippy Haley, Duke Haley, Pete and Rose Haley, and Halley O’Haley, were all sitting in he front row waiting for the show to start.
The entertainment dogs entered the stage and the people began to applaud, and all the dogs in the audience began to bark and jump up and down.
At first the sound was very faint, so faint I could hardly tell what it was. It sounded like music. It was music, but it wasn’t coming from the stage.
I leaned over to Brenda and whispered, “I think we are going to have a problem.”
The sound became louder and clearer. It was the distinctive sound of a loudspeaker of an ice cream truck playing the familiar jingle kids and dogs love to hear.
Doc was the first dog to hear it. He rapidly jumped up, barked twice, and bolted into the aisle. All the dogs, including the dog performers, and every kid in the theater took off out the door behind him.
This long line of dogs and kids turned east on Main Street and streamed through the South and Main streets intersection like little rockets following the ice cream truck.
The entourage arrived at the intersection of Walnut and Main at full speed next to a man and woman sitting on a motorcycle. The man hopped off his motorcycle and stopped traffic. The mutts ran past the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and rounded the curve at full steam near Buckley Brothers.
By this time, there was a large gathering of spectators. We heard doors opening at houses all along Main Street. People begin to clap, which only made the dogs run faster.
The mutts quickly approached the city park and made a sharp turn onto the driveway near the tennis courts. A small boy directed them to the dog park, where someone had sat out 50 bowls of ice cream. The dogs lapped up the welcome treat.
Then, I woke up. “Why do you think you dreamed about an ice cream truck, ice cream, and all of our old pets?” Brenda asked.
“I don’t know. I guess because I ate that ice cream sundae just before bedtime. You and I had talked about the upcoming Mutts Gone Nuts Show at the Murphy, and I guess it was a powerful combination that set the course for my crazy dream.
“Well, let’s go back to sleep,” Brenda said.
“OK, but I think I will have another bowl of ice cream,” I said, as I headed down the stairs. “I can’t wait to see the second act.”
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner.