By ALEXI VENICE
You recall my Duck Tolling Retriever, Zane, who insists on living outside on the deck in his igloo, despite the warm, loving life we offer him inside? (He moved out when Bill thought it was permissible to walk around the house nude. NUDE! This is our empty nest, Bill, not our naked nest.) Poor dog. It’ll take years of dog therapy to erase those images from his mind. I almost moved out, too, but Bill obeys commands very well, now covering himself with a loincloth, so I stayed.
Zane patrols the yard by day and sleeps in his igloo, covered with a blanket, by night. I used to worry when I heard coyotes yipping in the middle of the night, but Zane isn’t tempted by their rock-status allure, enticing him to run wild and free, somehow knowing their only interest in him is as a scooby snack. However, they don’t have the furry balls to sneak onto our deck and pull him out of his igloo, and Zane knows this.
(I think I freaked him out last night by taking a pic. He looks sort of scared even though I didn’t use a flash.)
Zane is so good-natured and intelligent that I don’t worry about him getting into trouble while he’s outside all day. After all, he is now bilingual, obeying several commands in Spanish. (I firmly believe that, in today’s world, it’s important for our dogs to be bilingual. It’s my platform. It’s my cause. Join me.) We also recently discovered that he drives. When we’re not home, he can be seen driving Miss Daisy around town, who is the chirpiest backseat driver you’ve ever heard!
Early one morning a few months ago, I let Zane in, fed the dogs, then sat down to work on whatever writing project lay before me on the kitchen table. Soon, both dogs finished their food and came to rest around my ankles. I leaned down to scratch Zane’s tummy and noticed blood on his butterscotch face. Faint streaks of dried blood. Worried, I turned up the light and examined him to make sure he wasn’t bleeding. Concluding the blood was from another animal, I envisioned a ruckus during the night in our yard. Hmm. I didn’t hear anything last night.
(Of course, my hearing isn’t always a good barometer. There was the time a donkey was swashbuckling around our yard all night—on a self-guided tour of the neighborhood after he slipped the neighbor’s fence. I’ll never forget the scene of the 15-year-old girl chasing him in her dress and ballerina slippers the next morning. Donkey was having the time of his life, leading her around in his own fairy tale—Johnny Depp skipping along behind them.)
The blood on Zane’s face was a new development since he had moved outdoors three years ago. I cleaned him up with Dawn dish soap, which is good enough for birds with crude oil on them, so it’s good enough for Zane. I was afraid for him, but had to push the thought from my mind and get dressed for work. (Why do dogs barf, have diarrhea or come inside with a bloody face on an important work day? Add the stress of dog drama to a critical day, and it makes me wonder if having both dogs and a job is worth it. I’m seriously considering getting rid of the job.)
Anyway, much later that afternoon, I met the furnace repairman at our home. During the course of diagnosing and treating our furnace, he made several trips from his truck to our furnace room, getting this tool or that part. On one such trip, he entered the house and announced, “Your dog just threw up on the driveway. It looks like a squirrel. I think he’s gonna eat it again.”
After dropping this bombshell on me, he proceeded to tell me what he was doing to our furnace—in precise and detailed terms—as if I were going to stand there and casually listen to him while my dog was working on a deviled egg of a squirrel. A deviled squirrel. ABCD squirrel. (Already been chewed and digested. Bet you’ve never heard that before.) Call it what you want, but the thought of it made my stomach lurch.
I quickly said to the repairman, “Follow me while you talk. I have to pick up the squirrel and throw it in the garbage.” He did a double-take but obliged. Since he was a large, masculine-looking guy in his late 20’s, I figured he could handle what I was about to do.
He followed, as I grabbed a plastic bag and hustled outside. There, on the driveway, lay the remnants of a squirrel that Zane had vomited, but was now eyeing for dinner. Without overthinking what I had to do, I picked up the deviled squirrel with the bag, feeling the warmth and floppiness of a partially digested critter in my grasp through the plastic. (Throat constricting, I carried on like the mom, dog owner, and wife that I am.)
I carefully tied the ends of the bag and threw the remains in the outdoor garbage can. (This is something I have come to expect with dog ownership. They do gross things. This was no grosser than cleaning up red vomit after Zane ate an entire package of licorice.) I can still feel the the texture and warmth of the partially-digested fur/bones/entrails on my fingers, though. How do you get rid of that feeling?
While I was tending to my duties, the repairman interrupted his furnace-talk, saying, “That’s really gross. I hunt and stuff, but I think I’m gonna puke. I can’t believe you picked that up!” He turned, covered his mouth and sort of dry-heaved on our lawn.
I mean, for real? I would have expected that response from an urban millennial in flip flops, salmon-colored shorts and a RL polo with the collar popped, perhaps holding a latte and slouched over his cell phone. But, from a man in steel-toed boots who said he hunts—and stuff? (Seriously! Is this any grosser than dressing a deer?)
I was glad he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. Suppressing a smile, I said, “I’m sorry.” (But, I didn’t go all sloppy sympathetic on him because he didn’t deserve that. He needed to man up. Or woman up. Or just plain human up.)
As I reflect on the hurling of the squirrel, I hope none of you tell North Korea about this incident. Rocket Man doesn’t realize that all of his nuclear missile testing is a waste of time and resources. He should go super low tech and stuff the nose cones with dead squirrels! Ideally, deviled squirrels. The sight of those falling from the sky apparently would overwhelm men like the furnace guy. (Grossing out the other side is a scientific fact of war. Remember Lord of the Rings? One of the things I liked about that trilogy was that there was no gratuitous violence in it. Like every other scene.)
Shush. Be patriotic. Don’t tell North Korea about deviled squirrels in the nose cones. Better yet, don’t tell Trump because he’ll Tweet it. We’ll all be doomed. Deviled squirrels will rain from the sky. What will we tell the children?