Cherry would like you to think that she isn’t crate-trained, so she stands and looks at you, fawn-eyed and faux-sad when you put her food dish in her kennel. “Please,” her eyes plead, “Won’t you hold me on your lap, feed me by the spoonful, and let me sleep on your bed?” Captain thinks everything is wonderful, including dinner, dinner in his crate, treats in his crate, going in his crate, jumping on your bed, putting his butt on your pillows, going for a walk outside, eating grass, eating deer manure, lying in the sun, seeing dogs he knows, and meeting dogs he doesn’t know. Ok, I’ll stop. I could bore even the most dog-loving person with the list of what Captain loves.
Now that Cherry’s an old, sugar-faced dog, I sometimes find her in the morning with a single nugget of poo, pressed into her orthopedic pad, and baked firm from her body heat overnight. I would always rather clean the pad cover than the carpet (or my own bed).
Except for diarrhea, Captain’s more of a barf-in-the kennel type than a mysterious nugget-o-poo dog. There’s a point where the grass must come up, according to Captain’s digestive tract. Diarrhea, when it happens, is infrequent, but memorable. And it appears overnight, as it did last time.
It was a savory smell, like someone was reheating beef stew. It might have been the soup-stock from the roast chicken the night before, back on the stove, but, then again, it wasn’t quite a chicken smell. The way smells carry can be strange and hard to predict; for example, I can smell from upstairs if the door to the basement is ajar, but I’ll miss the acrid evidence of my kids burning toast in the kitchen. Sounds, too, move, or don’t, in ways I can’t totally explain in this house. I can scream for someone upstairs and they won’t hear me at all, but if someone goes pee in the bathroom next to the office, I can hear every drip and drop. When a crow walks across the roof I can hear it, but I can’t hear a car on the driveway.
I came down to find the houseguest already at work; she was officially “working from home,” a moderately amusing concept for me, a chronically underemployed person. Only her dog greeted me and my friend called out, ”Oh, I had to put your dogs back in their kennels. Captain had diarrhea all over his kennel and Cherry’s. I wiped him off, but I had to put them back because I didn’t know what to do.”
I sent my dogs outside to begin the cleanup, and all three dashed out. The guest was new to being allowed off leash and I didn’t want today to be the day she really tested her new freedom, galloping off into the woods forever, but I had a huge mess to deal with.
I stripped the covers off the dog beds and put them in the wash, and put the beds themselves out in the sun. I was already pretty sure I’d gotten diarrhea on my arms. The wire kennels themselves were going to need hosing, so I had to take the pile of stuff that had accumulated on top of the kennels since the last time I had had to do this and put it someplace else. Picture me, in my jammies, chucking packages of wire and zip ties into any available toolbox drawer and throwing a stack of empty boxes into the garage without waiting to see where they landed. Do you have a vision of mania yet?
I dragged the kennels out to the patio only to discover that the hose had been moved from the side of our house to the spigot by the upper horse paddock. There is an ongoing Hose Borrowing War on the property, since a good, unpunctured hose is always in short supply at the horse barn down the hill. I had the choice of moving the hose or moving the kennels, but concluded that the liquefied dog diarrhea water that was going to be coming from the kennels was acceptable on the driveway (where we drive) and not acceptable on the patio (where we eat). So, I moved the kennels one at a time to the driveway, and this was the point where I am pretty sure I got dog diarrhea on my pajama pants. The guest dog bore witness, and correctly surmised that I was not to be messed with, and asked me to please, please let her in the house so she could be with her much-less-deranged owner.
The sprayer nozzle was nowhere to be found—another casualty of the Hose Borrowing War–so I had to do the hosing “I have no nozzle, but I’ve got a thumb” style, which works great for everyone in the world with well-functioning thumb joints. I am not among those with healthy, well-functioning thumb joints. I collected some preliminary data on my materials science research: big, gooey chunks of dog diarrhea are water-soluble, while dried-on smears of dog-diarrhea are more solid than epoxy.
In my growing irritation, I capped my geyser of profanity to call the dogs. They were not coming. What dog would? They probably thought I was ready to kill them.
I went to the door. Last night’s chicken stock was still sitting on the porch; it had been cold last night, but now the sun was warming the pot. I picked it up; I had a new mission! Diarrhea momentarily forgotten, I had soup to rescue. I let myself in.
Captain had been keeping out of reach, but saw his chance to get back inside (where the nice woman was quietly working) and away from the outside (where the other, terrifying woman was cussing and had a hose). He tore into the house, top speed, hitting me in the back of the knees and himself in the head on the soup pot. In the time-expanding magic of a moment of crisis, my mind filled with the image of me tripping and falling, the soup, carcass, pot, limp and overcooked vegetables, and pot lid flying into the house in a wave of savory slime. But I managed to take that soup-saving giant step and regain my footing. The energy of not falling was translated into the mightiest of mighty yells.
Damn that dog! Running into the house, still covered in now-dried, epoxy strong diarrhea. The roar coming from me had the power to stop a bad dog in his tracks, backed by the rage of a lazy housekeeper, not interested in shampooing the fucking rugs, amplified by wet pajama legs from the splash back of the cold hose. There was still dog diarrhea on my arms. It was a fierce, “FUCK!” full voice, the syllable drawn out as long and as loud as I could. And then, both syllables of, “CAPTAIN!”
My houseguest rose quickly and silently from her chair, turning towards me and fumbling her phone. Her eyes were wide. She was on a work call.