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Dog Day Afternoon - A Holiday Story

December 23, 2017



Our Chihuahua must have reveled in the fact that he was the sole proprietor of the household.  I thought he was lonely.  Clueless old lady...


I bought him what I thought would be a good “helper dog,” also a potential mate.  She had been advertised as a Chihuahua-Terrier mix.  The only problem (no, one of the many problems) was that she kept growing. 


There had been two puppies left in the litter. Things could have turned out very, very differently if only I had picked the quieter one.


Like the homeopathic remedies for anxiety in dogs, this “helper dog” should have come with a money-back guarantee.  Not only was the creature warrantless, it cost $499.  I could mention the place where we bought it, but I will leave that to your imagination.  I believe that originally, this creature had been Satan’s own pet, then somehow wandered into another dimension and was rung up at a register.  Along with a “free” bag of “dog” food, which the creature recognized as not being from its real home – hell – and promptly puked up.  The animal – and I use this term loosely – was most likely used to eating human flesh.


I had not been punished enough for my transgression.  Fate had something more in store for me.  I was a bad mother, a worse wife, and the backstory to all of this was that I had been left alone in the car when my family went into the grocery store.  I became bored and decided to leave the car and visit the nearby pet store.  It was almost Christmas and the song “All I Want for Christmas is You” was playing in the background.  I was set up, I tell you.  When my children told my husband that they had left me alone in the car, he started to panic.  They saw that I was gone.  My son ran down and looked in the pet store window (they know me so well).  His face radiated pure shock and awe when he saw me at the register already, with my credit card exposed.  But the more frightening spectre was yet to appear, and that was when the family drove by to pick me up (or not) and I glimpsed my husband’s face.  As frightened as I was, my brain only registered what seemed to be on a Jumbotron – his angry eyes, a terrifying scarlet – and a huge red face, beginning to turn purple.  I almost dropped the puppy.  If I could return to that time, I would have…If only…but no, that was not allowed…


My husband, who would not speak to me for several weeks after my purchase, refused to use the bathroom at night because the thing had taken up residence in there and did not like to be disturbed.  Instead, he used several good-sized mason jars.  I took pictures of these jars and their yellow substance as evidence just in case.

Several weeks later, the creature tried to escape by darting into the garage, with its obvious destination the road beyond.  Blind to an easy solution, I tackled it.  On the cement floor of the garage.  And broke my leg. 


The helper dog had put me in a wheelchair.  Now the little dog really had to worry.  His anxiety reached a whole new level, leading to shivering fits and crying in his sleep.  Digestive issues, irritability, and what appeared to be an early onset of dog Alzheimer’s.  Instead of making his world brighter, the helper dog seemed to have dimmed the little time he had left.  He seemed disoriented.  When it would rain, he would paddle his little feet as if he were preparing to try to board the Ark.  The helper dog would then howl and try to hide under furniture, but this didn’t work because she had grown too large.  She began to exhibit symptoms of fear of darkness, fear of being alone, fear of strangers, fear of crowds, fear of solitude, and just plain paranoia.  She once put her head into a paper bag that had a handle, misplaced her head in the bag, and ran bizarrely through the house, trying to fit under the furniture and boomeranging off each inhospitable piece.  This increased the little dog’s anxiety to new levels and seeing the mason jars, he too began to hike his leg in the house.


When she eventually came into season, not only did the size disparity complicate matters, but he appeared to consistently be attracted to the wrong end.  The helper dog would just sit there, offering neither encouragement nor rebuff.  She had no ideas either.  Eventually, the idea was abandoned and she was spayed.  Satan retaliated by an ugly thunderstorm and unheard-of funnel clouds throughout the island. 


She could move preternaturally fast.  Early on, the photos that I took showed her as a blur with the background in astonishing clarity.  She took the art of chasing her tail to a new level, only unlike the popular spinner toys, she didn’t add to anyone’s calmness.  Maybe like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” she thinks that if certain protocols are followed, she will mysteriously, instantaneously, be able to go home again.  That the spinning will create a vortex and then she can just step into it and disappear.  No such luck.  I’d help her spin if this were the case.  And from the day I brought her home, I noticed that she had the most horrendous habit of pooping, then turning around, amazed that she had created her breakfast/lunch/brunch/snack/dinner. “No!” I would admonish her.  To what avail?  None.  On top of everything else, she – it – appeared to never sleep, and couldn’t understand why anyone else ever entertained this activity. 


The creature began to take on the color of a kangaroo and when it saw other animals on the street, it would stand up, lean against the leash, and begin to walk on its hind legs.  I saw many people do a double take and then cross the street to avoid getting any closer.  It had a very short attention span; minus the interaction of others (such as it was), the entity would go back to all fours, leaning against the collar and leash and proceeding not just forward but sideways as well, crablike, not normal.  It behaved as though it were a zoo animal, on a rope.  I began to wonder just what my $499 had wrought, besides silence from my husband, pitiful looks from the children, who had departed for their homes on the mainland, and immediate and permanent expulsion from the neighborhood Bible study group. 


On a routine veterinary visit, I asked them, “What do you think it is?”  The vet hesitated, seemingly reluctant to be the one to name a new species, finally shook his head and replied, “Who knows?”  I think he meant that yes, it was a dog, but who knew what variety.  However, I didn’t see what he finally wrote down in the file. 

In Kalihi Valley here on Oahu, there dwells a colony of wallabies.  Now, if somehow, there was an egregious union of a rat terrier and a wallaby, this could be the result.  Some sort of throwback to “The Omen” or “Rosemary’s Baby” or even “Alien.”  And there were two of them that I know of, who knows how many more might inhabit this island.


I’d like to say that this sad tale has a happy ending; maybe, maybe it does.  My leg did heal, after eight weeks in a long cast, a month in a boot, and finally, several operations.  I will always walk with a limp.  My husband went back to using the toilet, and the little dog returned to the lawn to relieve himself.  The helper dog finally stopped growing.  She still has this predilection for the color red, though, she has to be somewhere that it stays hot all year long, and once became ecstatic at the sight of pitchforks in Lowe’s, but you know, that could just be coincidence.  It has been three years since we were shown the door in obedience school, maybe we could go back.  Two for one special, you think?  My husband says that he will gladly pay whatever that costs.  But it has to come with a money-back guarantee.







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