Sweet, stinky cheese, dog.
In our 25 years of marriage, my wife and I have brought into our home a total of three dogs, two cats, five bunnies, one bird, twelve chickens, hundreds of insects, dozens of fish, and none of them could ever be considered even remotely attached to my wife (except for the praying mantis that landed on her pregnant belly and wouldn’t let go). She has this anti-animal thing going on that manifests itself in a mutual animosity. She barely tolerates our pets and they avoid her like she’s a corpse.
Her aversion has a specific, genetic component, just like blonde hair and blue eyes. She was born into it. I know this because I have it on good authority that her mother used to “accidentally” let the new dog out of the house without telling anyone, in hopes that it would R-U-N-N-O-F-T. D.C. has never just let an animal free to wander the barren land, but she has made it very clear when her tolerance for a specific animal has run its course.
I, on the other hand, grew up with parents that loved dogs and I knew that my own family would one day have a dog. But, before you start thinking that my kids and I are shoe-ins for the SPCA caring members of the year award, I need to confess that only four of the animals ever stuck… and those just barely. The countless others were either carted off to “the farm,” given away to unsuspecting friends, sold on Craigslist, let loose or left in the freezer to die (the insects, not the cats).
It turns out that the reason I loved animals growing up is because I never had to actually deal with the animals, other than show them the occasional attention. My parents fed, housed, walked, washed, cleaned, doctored and scooped. They did everything nasty and I got all the good parts.
Fast forward to me being a parent and the poo was on the other foot, so to speak. I had to do it all. Since D.C. hated animals and made it perfectly clear that she would have nothing to do with any animal that I brought into the house, the nastiness was left up to me to take care of. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate nastiness.
I blame the kids. It always started with an oath, a promise made in all sincerity. “We solemnly swear to feed and clean up after the X” (insert animal type here). All I can say is that I must have had Alzheimer’s from a very early age because my short term memory is only filled with good animal memories and kept promises and I am, somehow, always surprised at how quickly the shine wears off of a new pet. At the end of two months I usually had to step in with my Hazmat suit and pressure washer just to free the animal from its tightly packed excrement apartment. This usually led to the animal living out the rest of its life on the “farm.”
Lather, rinse, repeat.
There are currently 108 official reasons why X animal didn’t get proper care, but that number is added to daily. Mostly, I stand in awe at the length to which my kids would go in order to not have to care for an animal. It would have been easier and quicker just to feed the stupid pet. I’m also an enabler which doesn’t help. There are self help groups I should be attending.
Since it turned out that we weren’t really pet people, the continuous circulation of animals through the house always seemed to baffle Dream Crusher. In fact, the origination of my wife’s nickname came about because of her innate ability to cut off at the pass any request to bring an animal into the home. The first word out of her mouth when the kids got that look in their eyes and asked for, say, a rat or a snake, was always “no.” The first word out of my mouth was always “sure.” The NEXT words out of my wife’s mouth can’t be printed here.
I’m not saying that she wasn’t always right. She was spot on about why we shouldn’t have had that particular type of animal in the house, or about the kids not taking care of X animal, and that I would eventually end up doing the dirty work myself. She was always right. It’s those darn puppy eyes that get me every time (the kids’ I mean). I just have a really hard time saying no.
I may have never said no, but I wasn’t the kind of husband that would add another member to his household without first discussing it with his better half. D.C. and I always discussed her minuses and my pluses before I brought our “next trip to the farm” home. I credit her levelheadedness with keeping a good many bad ideas out of the house – like the de-scented skunk.
“Honey, the kids really want a dog.” I brought this up at breakfast.
“No.” She said this without looking up from her book.
“I think it would be good for them. It would teach some responsibility. Besides, I had a dog growing up.”
“Honey, think how fun it would be. Think how much they would love a dog.”
“You’re crazy. Why would we need another pet?” She had set her book down by this point and was staring me directly in the eyes. “We have four kids, for goodness sake!”
“It would be great.”
“No way. Not a chance.”
“We already tried a dog.”
“But, that was a stupid dog. This would be a better dog.”
(Our first dog Abby had to go for a long visit to the farm. In hindsight the kids were way too young for an aggressive, but really cute lab/hyena cross that left me bleeding on so many occasions that I seriously got lightheaded from blood loss. When the boys and I and D.C. drove off, leaving Abby at the friends who had agreed to take her, the kids never noticed that she was missing until a week later. It hadn’t really occured to them that they no longer had to hold their toys and food above their heads and sprint from room to room or stand on a chair when the dog was around, but Kelly and I noticed a change right away. It was like we had been miraculously cured of leprosy and life seemed fluffy and smooth once again.)
“No way. No more dogs.”
“Okay. Fine.” I sulked and continued eating my Cornflakes.
The next day I brought home Annie.
Annie, whom one of the kids wanted to name Darth Vader, grew up to be a 90 pound Yellow Lab, but when I picked her up from the breeder she was the cutest, fluffiest, ball of yellow excitement on the planet. She was perfect, all paws and pudge, with a ridge of hair that rain down her nose like a long cowlick. I wanted to name her “Ridgy.” NB: The one concession was that D.C. got to name the dog. Annie was her choice.
When I got home, the boys, who were always up for an experiment, immediately cornered Clark, our tabby, and introduced him to Annie. The result was spectacular in the minds of the kids and less than stellar for the animals. The cat was incensed. The dog was wounded. It was the beginning of a great, long lasting friendship.
D.C. was less than happy with me and never really warmed up to Annie. At first, when she had that new puppy smell (like freshly washed leather shoes), I would put her in D.C.’s lap and she tolerated her just fine, but when she started to get into the teenage years (Annie, not D.C.) and lost the cuteness and started secreting that stinky, oily liquid that coats the fur of all Labs, any hint of emotional attachment flamed into resentment almost overnight.
She really was stinky. We could have attached an oil rig to that dog and lived off the oil she produced. It got so bad that the spot on the linoleum near the backdoor where she slept turned from a bright white to a burnt orange and no amount of scrubbing would remove the stain.
But it’s not like we could bathe her. She was 90 pounds and had rancid fur that, like Gore-Tex, had been specifically engineered to repel water. Not bathing was fine with Annie because she hated water. It seemed ridiculous to me that an animal so well suited to the water hated getting wet. It was a bad combination of weight, stink and aversion. In the end we tied her up in the backyard and hosed off the big chunks and called it good.
As Annie got older it became apparent that we might have bitten off more than we were willing to swallow. Not only did this 90 pound sweet beast of a dog emanate an awful stench that kept us from snuggling with her, her own fur didn’t want to be attached to her either. The sheer amount of rancid hair she sloughed off on a weekly basis was overwhelming. It got so bad that the floor in our basement looked like it had a layer of fog on it, only it wasn’t fog, it was fur. As you walked through the “fog” it would swirl and tumble around you like weeds tumbling along the desert.
Dogs need to come with warning labels because within the first year of her life we discovered that she had magical intestines, but not magical in a good way. Annie was a veritable poop factory. She could eat and excrete like no dog I have ever met. If we fed her a cup of dog food, three cups of NOT dog food would come shooting out the other end. She averaged a three to one ratio her entire life.
No matter what she ate it came out three times as big at the other end and what she ate was the stuff of legend. Her appetite knew no limit. It was like the voice in her head never spoke up and said, “Okay. Step away from the bowl. You are at capacity.” She red-lined her intestinal system way too often.
It was her propensity to eat that caused D.C. to reach out and touch Annie, on purpose, for the first and only time and did she ever touch her. It was Annie’s first Thanksgiving and, wanting to participate in the festivities, she quietly pulled the turkey carcass out of the garbage and proceeded to drag it and fling it around the kitchen and dining room like it was a play toy.
There were turkey parts stuck to the ceiling, the wall, and we even found pieces years later when we moved the piano. It was at that very moment when D.C. touched Annie. There was so much touching going on at that point that I had to rescue the petrified animal by letting her escape out the back door. Annie was so afraid of Turkey after that incident that we had to switch her from turkey to lamb flavored dog food to keep her from losing weight.
Her eating had nearly killed her a number of times, so I wasn’t too surprised to find her at the back door a few years later dreadfully ill. I was sure that she had eaten poison and realized that her gluttony might have finally done her in. I felt awful for her and when I opened the back door her head hung low and she barely made it to her bed before she flopped down, with a sigh, and lay deathly still. Her stomach was distended and tight like she was in the throws of labor and drool was forming at her lips. Rat poison was what I suspected. I put a bowl of water next to her and left her for the night, fully expecting to have to bury her the next day.
I was awakened by Christian in the early hours of the morning.
“Um, Dad, Annie threw up.”
I was still groggy. “Can you deal with it son?”
“Um, I think you should come see this. I don’t think I can do it.” I was fully awake now and quickly pulled on my pants and made my way downstairs expecting the worst. What met me wasn’t a dead dog; it was the largest vomit pile I have ever encountered. It was as big around as a garbage can lid and a full three inches thick. It was like an enormous oatmeal raisin cookie. I looked over at Annie. She thumped her tail cheerfully against the wall obviously proud of the gift she had deposited onto our new carpet.
It is completely accurate to say that the pile in front of me was like an oatmeal raisin cookie because it was nothing but a huge pile of bile and horse feed. The stupid animal had gotten into the molasses and oats that we fed the horses and had gorged herself to the edge of the abyss. I had to use the snow shovel to scrape the epic vomit pile off the carpet.