Monday, March 14, 2011


It's been a long time since the days of college housesitting where every gig brought with it the prospect of new revelations. Did a dean like it rough? Why did the mild-mannered humanities professor stow a vast array of birth control options in her kitchen... behind towering pyramids of pink Whiska cans? (Seems like the cats alone would've done the job.) Which faculty members were so smug they didn't allow TVs in the house (presumably they performed masterpiece theater for the children after supper)? Who was on the road to divorce?

That was the last time it was exciting. Now it's just an occasional weekend here and there where everybody swaps houses and pets based on travel plans -- nobody looks for anybody's toy drawer or porn stash or naughty pics -- those already get swapped via iPhones over dinner. It's the facebook/twitter era: what don't we know?

This weekend I was in charge of three dogs and a few fish (who live on sophisticated oceanic-style timers anyway), so no special challenges were anticipated. I stored all my weekend's worth of work up in the Cloud, where I could pull it down as needed. In between, I figured I'd catch up on this season's Californication (since I always kill the Showtime once Weeds ends), and that'd be that. I was looking forward to raiding the lovingly stocked fridge, and maybe reading a new book I'd brought along.

Everything was going according to plan til the most senior, elderly dog wanted out at 2 am Saturday, which was no big deal, until he had a tough time negotiating the stairs to come back inside. But when I went to give him a boost (as I've done a hundred times before), "CHOMP." He clamped down on my right ear.

Blood spewed everywhere in true Dan Akroyd-as-Julia Child style. But, not to be undone, I quickly grabbed one of the dogs' "wee pads" and fashioned myself a turban/burka that would staunch the blood and at least avoid ruining the floors and furniture.

I needn't have worried, because the dog wouldn't come back inside anyway. I checked him lightly but thoroughly for injuries and he wasn't hurt; he just wasn't moving.

My first thought was: "I'll fashion a travois."  Seriously. That's because I remembered nearly every word of the 1960s children's thoroughly non-pc classic The Indians Knew, which taught other assorted miracles like painting from berries and that kind of thing. You drag the travois (a blanket between two poles) behind a horse, and haul stuff on the blanket. There, the plan pretty much fell apart. I had a giant quilt, but once I'd scooted him onto it, and then experimented with dragging him a few feet, I realized we were getting nowhere fast without the horse or the poles.

I tried carrying him, but couldn't get much of a grip because I was trying to dodge the snapping and keep the one good ear out of his reach.

The exotic fish stared out at the escalating debacle from their saltwater aquarium, judgmental and a little smug.

The other two dogs waited reproachfully in front of the fish, silently rebuking me for leaving the door open while I figured this out, having been chided by me, more than once, over the years, "In or out! IN OR OUT! We can't air condition the whole goddam world!"

While I knew nobody would have their ringers turned on at that hour, I did check twitter and facebook to see if anyone was up, but no one was except my BFF, who admitted she could provide little assistance from AFRICA. 

I'm sure many solutions would've presented themselves had I thought them through, but I went with what now seems a fairly stupid option. I dragged all the dog beds out to the patio and we all slept in the yard, (except for the fish). I bled copiously into the dirt, all night long, once my turban untied itself. This is consistent with my memories of  what "camping" entails. We watched the stars. They howled every so often at the neighbor cats. They wrestled me for the covers. Like me, they are most assuredly House Dogs.

By 5 am, my soul-sister "Evangeline" who just happened to live four doors down, had checked her facebook and sent a text, "BRT." I wasn't sure if that meant Be Right There, or was possibly a new variation on a BLT (maybe a Bacon, Rutebega, Tomato sandwich), I was just happy the Cavalry was on the way.

I instantly knew things must not look so good to an outsider when she said, "oh please, please, please let me take an iPhone picture." Flat NO. "I won't even get your face... just all the blood and dirt and your ear... hey, is that urine in your hair? You don't smell so good."

Luckily, she is both a dog person and a mom-person, which means, she's not easily grossed out, and she's prepared for emergencies. First things first, she'd brought along a giant towel, which we used as a sling to haul the dog's hindquarters up off  the ground, whereupon he then scampered right up the steps and trotted into the living room where he flopped down dramatically to take a nap and catch up on Showtime.

That left me. She plunged my head into the sink and irrigated my ear punctures with alcohol. That stung, but not half as much as it did when the alcohol trickled into my eye, and then we had to flood that too. I wasn't that worried about my sudden inability to ever wear earrings again, but I did briefly fear going blind. Then she polysporin'd the whole affected area, bandaged it, and decided she needed to wash my hair -- she was afraid I'd just re-route all the caked-on mud and blood right into the wound she'd just cleaned til it sparkled. (She was right; I couldn't really see at this point. Plus I didn't want to look.)

We finally settled on the orange Dawn dishwashing soap as shampoo, for its antibacterial properties, though she "made no representations, warranties or claims" about what it might or might not do to the color of my hair. I think I might've signed an indemnity waiver. She washed it; blew it out; and then "styled it" with an array of her preschooler's pink barettes and headbands to keep my hair from getting stuck in all the bandaging. I suspect she really, really wanted to shave my head, but somehow restrained herself.

After a day of treatment, it looks a little better. It actually hurts worse though. And I find myself wishing he'd at least bitten me somewhere more visible or prominent -- someplace that would earn me a little curiosity and maybe sympathy. I can't stick a big CAST on my ear. It's not like I'm going to go to a doctor. What's he gonna say? "Stay off that ear."

The good news is, my newly anti-bacteria'd hair is pretty shiny. The bad news is, some of it seems to be falling out.

Trapper John and Wild Kingdom

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