Tag Archive: Days Since Last Accident

Kitty on a Milk Carton (Part 2)

On Sunday, after church, I went out to investigate the forest floor beneath the hickory tree we’d seen the vultures in, in case there was any gray fur left from a kitty meal.  I didn’t find any.  Meanwhile, the wife went down the hill to try and talk to neighbors.  They knew D.J. and had seen him around in the past, but not recently.  They agreed to keep an eye out and to check their outbuilding in case he’d snuck in there.

Throughout the afternoon, we kept waiting for him to just meander on in, but other than repeated “Fatty” misidentifications, we saw nothing.  It was to the point that Ashley couldn’t even be sure she’d seen him when leaving on Saturday morning.  She was afraid she’d just seen fatty trotting by the driveway.

“Oh, no,” I said.  “Fatty doesn’t trot.  He lumbers.  And it wouldn’t have been any other cat because it was running toward our house.”

At 4:50, Sunday afternoon, I was struck by the sudden feeling that D.J. was alive.  It was a warm and confident notion that said, he was not only alive but was on his way home.  In fact, it was so strong that I wrote it in my phone, as if speaking or writing it would make it real.  I then watched the back door, waiting to see his kitty face peering through it, or to hear his “wipewipewipewipewipewipe” trademark.  Nothing.

Sunday night, I posted a picture of D.J. to Facebook and asked my friends of a praying mind to say one for him.  A number of people responded that they would.

It was difficult to go to sleep for both of us.  We were both feeling down and with good reason; see, beyond Emmett’s brief disappearance from a few years ago, we’d had a previous experience with a cat disappearing, which did not end so well.

Avie Kitty

Avie Kitty

Our cat Avie was the second cat we had following the passing of my 17-year-old cat Winston.  (The first died of panleukopenia, and the less said about that the better–beyond the standard, “Get your kitten vaccinated!” advice.)  Avie was a sweet kitty, though vicious if you happened to be a baby rabbit.  We nicknamed her Kissy Kitty, because she tended to snuggle up on my wife’s chest and would kiss her sweaters.  We left Avie with our friend Scarlett while we took our dogs with us on vacation back in 2010.   When we returned, Scarlett informed us that Avie had escaped the house during the week and had not come back.  We shrugged this off, thinking she would eventually return, or that it wouldn’t be a problem to locate her.  None of our efforts proved fruitful.  We searched the neighborhood, put up posters all over, went door to door with flyers, and made daily trips to the Bluefield Humane Society for three months because we had a tip that one of their neighbors regularly caught local kitties in a live trap and hauled them in to kitty jail.  (We even called that neighbor, just to let them know we were on the lookout for a particular kitty, but they denied being the neighbor that did this.)  We had a few leads, but mostly these turned out to be the wrong cat.  We had fingers crossed that she might make it across town and turn up at the house someday, but if she ever did it was after we moved to Lewisburg.  We were broken-hearted for weeks, and could only console ourselves with the hopeful vision of Avie sitting on the lap of some little old lady, kissing her knitted shawl.  It still makes me sad to this day.

The coda to that story is that our friend Scarlett, from whose care Avie had escaped, is responsible for giving us D.J. and Emmett.  She’d picked them up as kittens from the humane society a couple months after Avie’s disappearance and her kids had named them Deja Vu and Emma.  Only they wouldn’t stop peeing in this one spot in her house, no matter what she did, so she said we could either take them or she was returning them to the humane society.  We, somewhat reluctantly agreed.  Emma turned out to be a boy, so we renamed her Emmett.  And since one of my Top 10 favorite movies is Silverado, I decided that if we had an Emmett, we needed a Jake, so that’s what I renamed Deja Vu.  The conversation in which we broke this news to Scarlett went something like this…

“We’re renaming Deja Vu to `Jake,'” I said.

“Oh, Jake, like in Twilight?” Scarlett said.

“No!  Not like Jake from Twilight,” I said, annoyed at all things Twilight.  “And the other one we’re renaming Emmett, cause it’s a boy.”

“Oh, Emmett, like in Twilight?”

Knowing that this would be a conversation we would probably have to keep having, we abandoned our Silverado theme and just renamed Deja Vu to D.J.

As we weepily lay in bed Sunday night, the wife said, “I guess we lost another kid.”

“Oh, I still think he could turn up,” I said.  “I keep waiting to hear him wiping at the glass.”

“Yeah.  Me too,” she said.

We talked more about the possibility that he was trapped somewhere, maybe in someone’s garage.  However the fact that it was now Sunday night and this hypothetical family had not returned from their hypothetical weekend trip to free him weighed on us.  If he wasn’t trapped in a garage, and if he wasn’t dead on his head, the other alternative was that he was alive but injured and couldn’t reach the house.  The fact that it was already 20 degrees outside and snowing didn’t help us in this line of thought.

I slept fitfully.  The wife barely slept at all.  Then what little sleep we were getting was broken by the sound of chainsaws at 8 a.m. Monday morning.

On Friday, some utility workers had been sawing trees and limbs along the power line path, just below our house and evidently they’d returned to finish the job.  It made me wonder if the sawing might be connected with DJ’s disappearance–if, perhaps, he’d been investigating some of the piles of sawed limbs and become trapped beneath them in a limbslide.  The men wrapped things up by 8:30, though, and no cat turned up.

I phoned the office of the veterinarian in proximity to us, but they’d not had any anonymous gray kittie’s dropped off.  Neither had our own vet.  We then tried to phone the humane society, also over the hill from us, but they were closed on Mondays.

We went our separate ways for errands, and met for lunch before heading home.  I was the first to arrive, hoping to find D.J. waiting at the front door.  He was not.  I called “Heeeeeere kittykittykittykittykittykitty” in the front of the house.  No cat rolled up.  I took the dogs inside and then stepped onto the back deck, where the cat also was not.  I gave it another “Heeeeeere kittykittykittykittykittykittykittykitty,” really putting some voice into it.  Screw the neighbors.  No kitty.

Looking down the brambly hillside behind our house, I decided I was going to head out into it to have a look around.  We know this is D.J.’s primary route to getting down into the rest of the neighborhood, so it made sense that he might be in there.  It would also allow me to investigate the piles of limbs the utility men had left.  I went back inside and began bundling up.  As I was doing so, the wife arrived home.  I told her of my plan, which she said was a good one.  I was then pulling on my gloves, headed for the back door, when I looked up and saw a kitty face peering over the top step.  I did a double take, not wanting to be fooled by “Fatty” for the 53rd time in as many days, but this was definitely a skinny kitty.  I then gawked as my brain sent several “Please Confirm!” messages to my eyes.  They confirmed.  I froze in place, refusing to take my eyes off of him for even an instant, as though he would run away or disappear if I did.  Then, in one breath, I said, “Holy shit!  It’s D.J., I swear to God it’s D.J., I am looking right at him, you have to come and see!”

She came over to see and he didn’t vanish.  We then both carefully moved toward the back door, slipping through its gap and not allowing the dogs to follow.  He didn’t run away, but he did seem strangely cautious, or even dazed.

DJ Kitty returned

DJ Kitty returned

“Let me see him,” the wife said, reaching down to pick him up.  She held him gingerly, as though he might be injured, but he made no pained cries.  He just looked like he was in shock to be home.

After a thorough examination by Dr. Ashley, we determined that D.J. was a little dirty, smelled of old dust, had a few superficial cuts, may or may not have had one of his back legs gnawed upon by something, but was for the most part fine.  We took him in the house and gave him canned cat food.  Then Ashley did another more thorough examination before announcing that she thought he was going to be all right.  He spent the rest of the day napping on our bed and seemed pleased to be inside.

We still have no idea where he was all this time, but our suspicion is that he was indeed injured.  His back leg, while not hurt enough to cause him to cry out, did show signs of having possibly been in the mouth of another creature and we wonder now if he might have been caught by one of our neighbor’s dogs down the hill.  He may have been hiding in a culvert the whole time.  Or he might truly have been trapped in a garage.  What matters most is that he was returned to us.  Our prayers were answered.

Actual Conversations Heard in Actual K-Marts #3

SETTING:  Super K-Mart in Beckley, W.Va.  I have enter and approach the service desk clutching a bag containing a defective bubble gun in one hand and my receipt in the other.  This was a bubble gun I had purchased during a tour of multiple Beckley-based retail outlets the previous week, which I was hoping to use for the play I’m directing (“Fish Schticks” by Brett Hersey), which requires bubbles and lots of them.  As previously noted, the gun refused to fire.

CLERK–  Hello, sir.  May I help you?

ME–  (Setting the bag upon the counter)  Yes.  I bought this bubble gun here last week.  It doesn’t work even a little bit.

CLERK– (Looks down at my bag.  Allows a pregnant pause.)  Um, sir, this is from Magic Mart.

(I look down at the bag, from which I had pulled my receipt mere moments beforehand.  Both the bag and the receipt have Magic Mart logos prominently printed on their surfaces.)

ME–  Oh.  You are correct.  Sorry about that.

CLERK–  Oh, no problem.

(I then gather up my bag and my receipt and flee the building.)

I’ll take “Spayed `ers” other than James for $100, Alex.

Yep.  One week back, we took the dog in for a spayin’.  We chose to do this during a week that the wife otherwise had off from work.  (She had not requested a solid week off, but that’s what they gave her.  Doesn’t matter to her, she gets paid the same either way, but it was a nice and unexpected vacation.)  We did this because if anything were to go amiss with Maya’s recovery from the spayin’, the wife wanted to be home to monitor it.

Since the wife had so many days off, my mother-in-law decided to come up as well.  This is always a welcome event.  For one thing, I love my mother-in-law.  For another, she’s a spectacular cook and I’m guaranteed biscuits and gravy for at least one of the days she’s around.  (Which I then take pictures of and text them to my brother-in-law as proof that I’m her favorite.)  The other advantage to having Ma around is that she helps keep the wife occupied allowing me to otherwise get work done.   Since I work from home as a writer, I do have to actually spend some time doing that sort of thing.  But when the wife is off, I feel obligated to spend a good amount of time with her, too, and sometimes my work life doesn’t get the attention it needs.  So my deadlines were thankful Ma was in the house, too.

Maya’s surgery went well.  I went with the wife to pick her up the following morning.  We were waiting in the vet’s lobby when they brought her out.  Maya went right to the wife first.  After receiving a pet there, she turned, noticed me and I got to see her little doggy expression change from one of mere happiness to happiness double plus joy. 

During her recovery, she was a good deal more subdued than her usual self–which is to be expected, since her belly still hurts.  (“Mama paid money to have my belly cut open,” we frequently say, using our Maya voice.  We’re such idiots.)  Much of her initial recovery time was spent camped out on what we call the dog couch, which is to say our old couch that we never sit on and which the dogs get more use out of.  And while she had pain meds to help, I think she was still in pain, because she became very sensitive to the presence of the other dogs.  If Sadie, for instance, tried to hop up on the opposite end of the dog couch, Maya would sometimes yipe as if Sadie had jumped on her.  But we all saw that Sadie hadn’t come close to even touching Maya.  Perhaps Maya wanted to be in pain in private, because she soon retreated to our bedroom, or even our bedroom closet where she would bury herself behind the clothes hanging from the lower shelf.  Sometimes she would hide under the bed in my office.  Her appetite was also much lower than normal and she almost never finished her own food, let alone tried to steal the other dogs’ food.

Even now, a week later, Maya is still pretty subdued compared to her former boisterous puppy self.  She’s begun to play again, and chases Moose around, as well as the cats, but she’s not as needy as she was before the surgery.  Maybe it’s a hormone thing and this is the new default for Maya.  Can’t say I really mind, but it is a difference.

The other thing that has changed since the surgery (fingers crossed) is that we’ve had no more accidents.  Maya also seems far more willing to vocalize when we ask her if she needs to potty.  She’s even gone to the back door, clawed it and gave off a whine to let us know her intent, a few times.

This.  Is.  Awesome.

So far so good.  I’m not going to go so far as to say anything foolish, like, “Well, guess we finally got her potty trained,” cause if I did I’d probably find I’d been sitting in dog poo for the past two hours.

Days Since Last Accident = -1

Every time we think, “Oh, hey, it’s been a couple of weeks at least since Maya last had an accident.  I think she’s finally potty trained!” we’re swiftly proven incorrect.

This morning, upon rising at the behest of Maya who seemed to be indicating that she had to potty, I let her and the other dogs out and then set about to make breakfast.  Being as how it was still -3 degrees outside due to the polar vortex, I let them back in pretty quick, but gave them plenty of time to do their soon-to-be-frozen business.

Several minutes later, as I wrapped up the preparation of breakfast, grabbed my coffee and headed for the sofa, I spied a huge pile of poop by the back door.  I doubted greatly that this had been deposited before the wife left for work, so it must have happened while I was making breakfast.  The thing about me is, even though it’s entirely unappetizing to have to clean up dog shit before eating a freshly prepared breakfast, it’s even worse to just leave it there and eat that breakfast, knowing it’s there to be cleaned afterward.  So I had to clean it up, but not before shaming the dog for doing it in the first place.  While Maya has made great strides in keeping her waste within her until turned into the out-of-doors, she still hasn’t quite figured out a way to willfully alert us when she has to “go.”  Or, to mangle some terminology from Dune, to demonstrate pottysign. 

At night, she’s much better.  We’ve been keeping the dogs closed in our room, which keeps her from wandering elsewhere in the house to make a deposit.  Instead, she usually wakes up, stands and shakes her jowls violently.  When we hear this, we just get up and let her out and she’s never failed to “go.”  This is as close to achieving pottysign–to paraphrase a term from Dune– as she usually comes.  And it only happens at night.  During the day, when she has free run of the house, we basically have to notice her acting like she might have to potty, which is pretty subtle cause to the casual observer it appears exactly like her normal dog behavior.

Most of the time, we just notice her lingering by the front or back door, or peering out of a door adjacent window, and we just get up and let her out.  Occasionally, when we see her at the door and we ask her if she has to go potty, she’ll give us a satisfying whine in the affirmative.  But, again, it all requires we notice her doing that, cause damn if she’s gonna say a peep.

Toward the end of the day, having been let out for a solid 20 minutes not 15 minutes beforehand, I was in the kitchen making supper when I happened to glance toward the back door and saw another pile.  Two in one day, both while I was otherwise occupied in the kitchen, no effort made to alert me beyond staring out a window.  Maybe.

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard at My House #2

TAMMY– Thank you for calling LOCAL Animal Hospital, this is Tammy.

MY WIFE– Hi, Tammy.  My name is Ashley Fritzius and I’d like to call and schedule for our dog Maya to be spayed, probably some time this week, if you can.

TAMMY–  Oh, very well.  We can get that scheduled for you.  (LOOKS UP RECORDS)  How does…. next Thursday morning sound?

MY WIFE– That will be great.  How much will it cost?

TAMMY–  How much does she weigh?

MY WIFE–  (LONG PAUSE)  You spay by the pound?

TAMMY– (ANGRY)  No, we don’t spay by the pound!

(Tammy then snippily told my wife that weight was a factor in the amount of anesthesia they would have to use and that we would have to pay for.  The wife plans to apologize after bringing the dog in tomorrow.)


Cease Coprophagia Soft Chews.  Yessir.

Cease Coprophagia Soft Chews. Yessir.

Maya has taken to eating, um, well, poo poo.

I first suspected this when I smelled it on her breath as she jumped up to lick me on the face whilest I was sitting on the sofa.

“Ewww!  Get away!  You’ve been eating shit!” I screamed.

A few nights later, when letting Maya and Moose out to potty at 4 a.m., I spied Maya waiting patiently near Moose as he was taking a dump.  Then, from my vantage point inside the glass storm door of our front entrance, I saw Maya calmly walk over to where Moosie had made his deposit and just as calmly lower her head toward it, mouth open.  I flung open the door and hissed “NO!!!!!!!!” unintentionally waking everyone in the house in the process, but intentionally getting Maya to look up suddenly and guiltily and dash for the house before she could be christened a “bad dog.”

“What?  What is it?” the wife called sleepily from back in bed.

“Maya’s eating shit,” I whispered.


“Maya.  Is.  Eating.  Shit,” I repeated.

“Oh, no.”

We then both had to hunker down in the covers and pull all limbs beneath, lest any stray dog licks from the edge of the bed send us flying to the shower in the wee hours.

Yesterday, while taking the dogs out for a walk, we were making our way across the yard toward the trail head, when I noticed Maya bending down for something in the grass.  As I watched, she gobbled up a few recently thawed links of poop, and then moved on toward a new pile, chewing all the while.  

“No!  No!  You don’t eat shit!   You DO NOT eat shit!” I screamed.   Maya heard me yelling and cowered in the grass in “bad dog” pose.  I realized I’d maybe over reacted a tad, and then tried to tell her she was a good dog.  But every time I spoke pleasantly, she would run toward me for petting, reassurance and, of course, slobbery dog kisses, which in turn made me scream “NO!” and run away, which caused her to cower again and start the cycle anew.

Perhaps we’re not feeding her enough, as coprophagia is a sign of underfeeding.

Days since last accident = 0

MAYA MIA (spoiler: she comes back)

Since our little incident in which Maya disappeared during a walk down the trail behind our house, a couple weeks back, I’ve been fairly careful when it comes to walking her sans leash.  For the first few days, I only walked her on a leash.  However, walking all of the dogs on leashes is a time-consuming business, because I either have to walk them in groups of one and two (taking twice as long), somehow convince the wife to join us (hasn’t happened yet, except for excursions to the state forest, where they run around without leashes anyway) or I would have to try and walk all three at once, (which just seems inadvisable on a number of fronts).   So I have returned to walking them down the trail without leashes just so everybody can get a good run in and I don’t have to mess around with multiple trips.  On these leashless jaunts, I have usually carried Maya’s leash, just-in-case, but have just kept an eye on her and if she strays too far I call her back.  Mostly she sticks close to me while the others wander afar.  It’s worked fine, so far.

Yesterday, after the dogs had been cooped up in the house all day, I finished up a bit of work and decided they deserved a walk.  I just caught a cold, so I bundled up, took them out to the edge of the wireless fence boundary and we all went through the motions of the polite fiction that I have some personal control over whether the barrier is “up” or not.  This amounts to me making the dogs all sit within a few feet of the flags, then they have to wait as I back up through the barrier, and, when I think they’ve waited long enough, I point to one of the flags and say “flag.”  Then they dash through and down the trail, leaving me to go fetch my walking stick from the wood shed.  I’m pretty sure that Sadie and Moose know full well that this is a bullshit ceremony, but they placate me cause they get to go on a walk.  Maya does not yet know that it’s bullshit, and she takes the barrier very seriously.

After fetching my stick, I started down the trail and saw the dogs were all up ahead of me.  Then, after looking down to check the ground for dog mines for a few seconds, I looked back up and saw Sadie disappearing into the weeds and brush off the right side of the trail.  There was no sign of Moose or Maya, though could hear doggy sounds in the weeds on either side of the trail.  After a few seconds I tried to call them all back, but they didn’t turn up.  I continued down the trail, then up the hill on the other side and around to the clearing.  No dogs.

For about ten minutes, I just waited in the clearing, calling Maya and clapping my hands–which, at our house, is the international audible signal that Pa wants dogs back in formation right now.  No dogs.

I started back down the trail toward the house, calling for Maya.  Mid-way back, Moosie showed up.  Then Sadie.  No Maya.

Having Sadie and Moose run off for lengths of time during our woods walks is no longer worrisome to me.  They’ve done it dozens of times and always come back, usually before I can make it back to the house.  I know they know their way home.  Maya, though, is still green to the woods.  And while she came back after running off before, I’m less confident in her not running afar and getting in a road somewhere.

At the time, my guess was that she had sniffed out a deer and was in pursuit.  This close to hunting season, they’re absolutely underfoot and it’s a rare day that passes that I don’t see at least three.  So I wasn’t initially worried that she had run off after one.

After making it all the way back to the yard with no Maya, though, I texted the wife just to let her know the situation, and then turned to walk back up the trail, calling and clapping some more.  No dog.

Fifteen minutes passed as I stood around on the trail, clapping and calling, Sadie and Moose running through the brush all around, making false hope Maya’s back sounds. I decided to go ahead and text the wife about the situation.  If prayer was needed, I’d rather she was involved as I suspect her connection is clearer.

I returned to the house, but saw no Maya.  I put the other dogs into the house and then hopped in the car.  Once again I made the trek down the highway and to one of the intersecting roads that Maya could have reached from the trail.  I drove up and down it, calling and clapping through my open window.  While I was driving, the wife called to get an update.  I explained my theory that Maya had run after a deer.  I’d passed five of them in a field during my drive along the road.  And as I looked out at that moment, I saw a flock of wild turkeys and added them to the pile of things Maya might be chasing.  Maybe she would bring one home.

On my way back to the house, I stopped at the humane society.  This time I went in and asked if anyone had seen a St. Bernard running by.  They hadn’t, but said they’d keep an eye out.

I motored on back to the house, feeling down.  I pulled into the driveway, hoping against hope that she would be waiting there, but she wasn’t.  Sadie and Moose were going nuts in stairwell window, but there was no sign of Maya to be had.  I climbed out of the car and, mostly on a just-in-case basis, clapped half-heartedly and called “Maya…”  I waited a few seconds, then turned to head toward the front door.  Then, from behind me, I heard a slight jingle of tags on a collar and turned to find Maya slinking up.  She looked concerned that she would be in terrible trouble, as if she expected me to scream at her.  I just smiled, patted her on the head, and said, “hey, sweet girl.  Where’ve you been?”  She brightened at this and wagged her way beside me into the house.

Days since last accident = 0

Thanksgiving (Part 2)

(Warning: If you’re weak of stomach, or just easily grossed out, this entry might not be for you.)

For Thanksgiving 2013, we held our actual holiday meal until Friday evening because most of us were traveling on Thanksgiving day itself and didn’t want Amber to do all the work.  Turkey was cooked, casseroles were baked, potatoes were mashed and cranberries sauced.  Finally it was time to eat and all dogs were forced out of doors save for Maya.  While the tighty-whitey contraception system had been working so far, we didn’t trust Bailey not to figure a way around them.  Despite Jim’s assurances that the old man couldn’t make the climb atop our dog, he’d demonstrated that the prospect of “gettin’ some” had made him rather spry, for we’d caught him succeeding in “taking the position” on more than one occasion.  Maya was secured in our bedroom behind a baby gate while the rest of us dined.  This resulted in quite a bit of loud St. Bernard singing on her part, though, so Ashley went and closed the door to the room as well.  This resulted in even louder St. Bernard howling as well as clawing of the door.  Finally, she took the dog downstairs and put her in the laundry room of Jim and Amber’s basement and closed that door.  The howling continued all the same, but it was a bit more muffled from that distance.

After the meal was completed, and I was well and truly stuffed, Amber took some leftovers downstairs to the spare fridge in the laundry room.  She returned quickly, ashen of face.

“Um, Maya made a mess down there and… and I’m not cleaning that up,” she said.

Now, the wife and I both heard this but, despite being the person who’d put the dog down there in the first place, she looked at me as if to say “your turn.”  I grunted and headed downstairs to see what horrors the dog had wrought.

Upon opening the laundry room door I was smacked in the face by the overwhelming stench of dog poo and dog pee.  Then I saw both and knew the true horror that awaited me.  I kind of wish I’d taken photos, because the degree of horror was pretty impressive.  On the floor directly in front of the laundry room door was a wide puddle of dog pee.  And, as she had done at our house when left in the garage, Maya had trod through the wide puddle of dog pee and had then wiped it all over the back side of the laundry room door, as well as pretty much the vicinity.  There were drying pee-prints everywhere.  Beyond the puddle was a section of industrial carpeting and about one foot onto its surface was the largest pile of dog shit I’ve ever seen.  Naturally, she’d trod through it a bit too, so there were big doggy poo-prints daubed around it, limited almost exclusively to carpeted surfaces.  I began to curse.

Twenty minutes later, I was still cursing and was still not finished cleaning up the mess.  I’d soaked up the pee, decontaminated the area with Clorox spray and had cleaned the back of the door.  I’d also removed the mountain of poop, which surprisingly only took one trip as I used a triple-ply collection of plastic grocery bags as a giant poo-bag.  However, when it came to cleaning the remaining poop that was smeared into the fibers of the thin carpet, I shuddered.  I knew I was probably going to have to hit it with a brush and foresaw getting it under my fingernails for certain unless I could find three layers of surgical gloves first.

Amber came to my rescue.  She has a magic spot-cleaning wet-vac device that you fill with cleaning solution, set atop a stain and press a button.  It does all the soaking, scrubbing and vacuuming of the remnants for you.  And if the stain isn’t completely gone, you can just press a button and do it all again.  So I spent the next half hour watching it as it cleaned and sometimes recleaned all the dog poo daubs remaining in the carpet.  I then emptied the spot-cleaner and politely cleaned up the device itself.  I was all prepared to call it done and go ask Amber to come inspect it when I noticed another spot of poo that I missed, as well as a previously cleaned spot that appeared not to have been cleaned so well and I had to get the machine back out again.  By the end of the cleaning process I’d been down there for over an hour.

I found Amber and my wife in the kitchen upstairs.

“You owe me SO big,” I told my wife.  Then I added, “In fact, you owe me a… well, we all know what it is that you owe me.”

“You really do,” Amber told her.  “I saw what he had to clean up.  You really, really do.”

The wife sighed and rolled her eyes, but what could she say with her sister backing me up on the prospect of wifely favors owed?

This, so far, has been the only positive thing about having a dog that refuses to be housebroken.

Thanksgiving (Part 1)

We had planned to hold Thanksgiving at our house this year, which would be a first for the new place, but it didn’t quite work out.  Our newlywed niece, K.T., was restricted from leaving the state of Kentucky by the rules and regs that her fresh-out-of-basic Army-recruit husband was bound by, so the rest of my wife’s local family decided to head to my sister-in-law Amber’s house in central KY.  And by `rest of the family,’ I include all our dogs as well.  It was a dog festival.

Amber and her husband Jim already have three dogs–an ancient and arthritic  black lab named Bailey, an enormous nearly two-year old bull mastiff named Thane, and a half-year-old beagle mix named Calamity Jane (C.J.).  K.T. also brought dogs, including C.J.’s male sibling Gunnar, and a boxer named Isis who was suffering from an unfortunate skin ailment, but was a beautiful and sweet dog despite it.  My mother-in-law was bringing her tiny dog Rascal (a.k.a. “P. Dabber”).  And we, of course, were bringing our three horse-monkeys one of which was in a raging heat.

With five male dogs in the house, at least two of which were packing fully functional junk, the wife and I knew this was going to be absolute chaos for us.  The two of us would have to be vigilant in order to keep Maya and her dog-cooter intact.  And, as we saw moments after we arrived, Thane and Bailey were definitely interested in her dog-cooter.  I had honestly been worried about Thane, as he’s huge, powerful and intimidating to behold.  However, Bailey seemed to be the one more readily interested in Maya, and Thane seemed to defer to him and continued to do so the entire weekend.  Jim assured us that Bailey was so old and infirm of joints, though, that it would be impossible for him to “make the climb up Mount Maya” as it were.  He said we would have no worries.  Perhaps not, we thought, but we had a backup plan and it involved tighty-whities.

Cujo in Hanes

Cujo in Hanes

Tighty-whitey briefs, you see, had been our solution back at the house to keep Maya’s in-heat status from leaving our floors a, to put it indelicately, Jackson Pollock blood-spatter painting.  We basically took pairs of Hanes medium briefs, cut holes for the tail, and then added panty-liners in the proper place to help insure a lack of “spotting” as it were.  The tighty-whities worked great and had the added bonus of being remarkably funny to see on the dog.  I mean, what isn’t funnier than a big ol’ St. Bernard wearing a pair of Hanes Y-fronts with a tail through the back?   I can tell you what’s NOT funny about it, though: having to take the damn things off every five minutes to let this dog go potty, not to mention the ordeal of putting these soiled-by-degrees dog-panties back on the dog afterward, that’s what.  We brought ten pairs with us to Amber’s house and enough panty-liners to last a month.  We kept Maya clad in them at all times, which worked to both block any escaping fluids, but also prevented intrusions by dog wieners.  Of course, we didn’t trust this method of contraception 100 percent, so we still kept an eye on her and, more to the point, Bailey–who had by then become lothario #1 in the household and was constantly on the make.

The other major chaos-inducing factor that EVERYBODY was trying to keep an eye out for was any doggy incursions into our Thanksgiving food.  There was, you see, something of an incident last year.

Thanksgiving 2012 was tasty, delicious and plentiful.  My wife, her mom and her sister spent a couple of days prepping for it, with all of our family’s Thanksgiving favorites in ample supply.  There were two turkeys, multiple cheesecakes, green bean and sweet potato casseroles, and the whole nine yards.  The meal was fantastic and the Thanksgiving sandwiches that followed the next day were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately, I had to return home early because of rehearsals for a play.  Fortunately, that meant I missed out on what happened next.  See, the wife and her family spent much of the past 40 years in the state of Alaska.  As such, they have certain habits ingrained in them that we in most of the lower-48 just don’t–such as their penchant for using the out-of-doors as a refrigerator.   Took me a while to come to terms with this, because I still think keeping food outside where wandering animals and bugs can get into it is gross.  They, however, point out that when the temps are below 35 degrees at the sunniest part of the day and the actual refrigerator is packed to the bust-line with other food, it makes sense, so all the Thanksgiving leftovers were left-over on the patio table on Jim and Amber’s back deck.  On the afternoon of day two, after several people had munched on Thanksgiving sandwiches and I had departed, my mother-in-law started to get a bit peckish and went to the deck table to find some grub.  She couldn’t find any  turkey, there, so she went to look in the fridge inside.  Nope, no turkey there either.  She asked about it and was assured that the turkey was on the table, because several people had been into it throughout the morning.  Nope.  Neither the turkey that had been half-consumed at Thanksgiving, nor the whole second turkey were to be found.  Eventually it was noticed that there was a white plastic platter located at the far edge of the deck.  It had been one of the platters on which the turkey had been kept.  It was absolutely spotless with nary a bit of turkey grease to be found on it.  Quickly it was realized what had happened.  The dogs had eaten both turkeys.  And they’d left no evidence behind that turkey’s had even existed.  Every scrap of meat, skin, fat, and bone had vanished.  Subsequently, it was discovered that at least one of them had also consumed a whole cheesecake.

Some hours later,  the dogs began violently defecating and some of the previously missing evidence began to see light.  The seven hour car trip from KY to WV, as my wife can assure you, was a nightmare of dog-moaning from sore stomachs, bursts of liquified feces, and sudden poomergency stops on the side of I-64.

For this year, it was decided that all food that was to be left in the “outdoor” fridge was to be placed on top of a high cabinet.  An auxiliary refrigerator in the basement  helped out in freeing valuable space in the upstairs fridge, too.  However, Thanksgiving 2013 would prove to involve pretty much the same level of feces as 2012.  This time, unfortunately, I didn’t miss out on it.


Actual Telephone Conversations One Half of Which Could be Heard on the Trail Through the Woods Behind Our House Yesterday Afternoon #1.

One of our friends is a lady named Belinda who we’ve known since shortly after we originally moved to West Virginia in 2001.  She’s a nice lady who loves our dogs and they love her right back.  Once in a while, she’ll give us a call and suggest we take the dogs for a walk somewhere.  Belinda usually gets to walk Moose, who is easy to control.  For these, we often head to the state forest in Hart’s Run, where there’s a nice two mile stretch of dirt road with no car and little foot traffic.  We can let the dogs off their leashes for most of it and they have a blast running through the woods.

Unfortunately, our vet put the kibosh on the park, at least for the time being.  We’ve still not received any vet records or proof of breeding from Maya’s former owners.  (We don’t really care about the proof of breeding, but vet records would have been nice.)  We’ve contacted them and they say the records are boxed up somewhere from their move.  But they did let us know that she’d had none of her major shots.  So in we went to get those from the vet.  One of them is her parvo booster, which comes in multiple parts.  Until she’s received at least two of them, the vet said she’s not allowed to hang out in places that strange dogs might frequent–which included the state park.

When Belinda most recently called to suggest a walk, I told her the park was out but suggested we could walk the trail through the woods behind our house.  It’s not terribly long, unless you take the less-beaten path that runs along a lumber-truck trail and down a very steep hill.  But it’s a decent walk and the dogs don’t have to be leashed.

The trail winds from our house, down a gentle slope and then up a slightly less gentle slope before winding around to a large clearing where the former owner of our house has deer stands set up.  We had not yet reached the top of the not-so-gentle slope before all the dogs vanished into the brush.  I figured they’d be waiting in the clearing, but there were no dogs to be found there.  So I clapped for them and called.  After a bit, Moosie appeared.  I wasn’t worried about Sadie, who had probably just gone off to find some deer shit to roll in.  I was more concerned, however, about Maya, who was new to the woods and possibly didn’t know her way home.  I called and called and clapped some more, but no other dogs turned up.

Belinda and I started back for the house, which is what I usually do when Sadie doesn’t show up.  She usually heads to the clearing, finds me missing and then come storming down the trail after me.  And, not long back down the trail, this is what she did, her neck covered in deer shit.  (“Why don’t they learn?  Why don’t they listen?”)  Still no Maya.

I stood mid way down the trail and called and clapped some more.  No dog.

We then decided to return to the house, in case she’d wound her way back there–another old Sadie trick.   Nope.

I then decided that what I really wanted to do was get in the car and head over to McIlhenny Lane, which runs in proximity to the wooded area the trail runs through.  It was not inconceivable that Maya could have made it over there, attracted by the turkey farm or just chasing a deer.  I asked Belinda if she could walk back to the clearing and wait for Maya there.

There were no St. Bernards on McIlhenny.  While over there, I stopped at the Shriner’s lodge to peer down into the valley beyond it, which is the other side of the hill that the logging trail runs up and along the ridge, and beyond which is the clearing and our trail.  No dog.

On the way back home, I took a quick detour over to the humane society’s headquarters, which is just over the hill, about half a mile from our house.  Great big field to be found there, which Maya could have made it to with no troubles.  There were people around, but I called and called all the same.

“You lose something,” a guy with a shaved head asked.

“Yeah, a St. Bernard,” I said.  “We live just over the hill and she’s gone missing.”

He said that she might have been attracted to some goats that were penned up in one of the next lots over.  Oh, goats,I thought.  So that’s why I’ve heard “bahhhing” on occasion.  As I looked in the direction of the goats, I saw what looked like Maya’s tail sticking up above the weeds.

“Oh, wait, there she…” I started.  Then realized I was seeing several tails swishing in the weeds and that the tails were attached to at least four deer who were probably running away from me and my clapping.  At least they didn’t seem to be chased by a St. Bernard.

Belinda called my cell phone and said she had an appointment to get to.  I drove back, depressed that I’d managed to lose the dog and wondering what I would say to Ashley.  I decided to call her, if for no other reason than to get someone else praying.  She didn’t answer and I didn’t leave a message.

Back at the house, I said bye to Belinda, who was distraught at having to leave me in the lurch.  I then grabbed my walking stick and headed back down the trail, just calling Maya’s name.  I’d only just reached the slightly less gentle slope when the phone rang.


(I see it’s the wife and answer.)

ME– Hello?

THE WIFE– I saw that you called a few minutes ago?

ME– Yeah. Um. I’ve lost Maya.

THE WIFE– What?!

ME– Belinda and I were walking the dogs on the trail and then they all vanished in different directions. I figured they would just be at the clearing, but when I got there only Moosie and Sadie came when I called them. I’ve searched and searched and called and I can’t… Oh, wait. Nevermind. Here she is.

THE WIFE– What?!

ME– She’s back. We’re good.

Mid way through my sentence, Maya just wandered up, having come down the trail headed for home.  And just like that my emergency situation vanished.  I then got to return to the house with all the dogs, one of whom was immediately put in the shower for some deer shit scrubbing.