Anything that relies on you to give it nourishment, housing, love, etc., can also provide its own fair share of grief.
I’m not sure if that sentiment is printed on a T-shirt, but is should be. Think about how many things in your life that you are solely responsible for. How many of them make you miserable?
House plants? Check
Yard plants? Check
Animals? Check, check, check.
It’s the last one that’s become bothersome lately. You may remember last year my household became fuller with the addition of Mavis, a mostly Labrador retriever mix my wife and I adopted from the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter.
Mavis, at one time a fuzzy roly-poly ball of worms, coccidia and sweetness, is now a 70-pound beast with boundless energy and a never-ending appetite for things that don’t resemble dog food. More on that later.
A few months back, we — for whatever reason — believed Mavis was bored and in need of a companion. On a whim, we visited an adoption event hosted by New Leash on Life in Huntsville. That’s how we met the furry ball of awesomeness that came to be called Ziggy.
“I think we should name him Bowie,” my wife said, knowing my propensity for naming animals after music stars. Mavis was named after soul singer Mavis Staples.
When I lived in Birmingham, I had an outdoor possum I named J.J. Cale. There was also a gecko named after Ron Blair, longtime bass player for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
I liked the name Bowie just fine, but our pretty new dog looked more like Ziggy Stardust to me, so Ziggy it was. It was certainly better than Raleigh, which was the name he came with.
Like Mavis, Ziggy came from a rough beginning. New Leash on Life picked him up from the Morgan County animal shelter and he had a hematoma on his ear and a large bruise on his side. He was also covered in ticks.
Mavis was one of 16 puppies left outside the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter on a cold rainy night by two uncaring women who were bundled up all snug, warm and cozy.
Mavis and Ziggy became fast friends, but being that they’re both still puppies, they’ve been a source of aggravation. Allow me to list some of their less-than-endearing qualities:
Mavis eats poop. I’m not sure if she eats her own poop, but she loves — and I do mean loves — poop left behind by other dogs. She goes to day care during the day, which is basically the equivalent of an all-Mavis-can-eat poop buffet.
Mavis eats anything, not unlike a goat. Socks, underwear, sticks, limbs, plastic, plants, styrofoam, assorted fabrics, dead birds, car tires, hammers, screwdrivers, rusty nails. All right, maybe the last four are an exaggeration, but I think she would gladly eat a car tire if presented one. That goes double if the tire physically resembles or smells like poop.
Luckily, she’s not big on giving kisses.
Because Mavis likes to eat random and disgusting items from the yard and home, she frequently has an upset stomach and what can only be described as atomic nerve gas. Some nights, her flatulence sounds like a cross between a French horn and a Kawasaki motorcycle. The smell, on the other hand, is so rank and tear-inducing, there is no adequate description. The Army should bottle it and use it in the event of chemical warfare.
When Mavis isn’t cutting a cheese most foul, she’s vomiting up something she shouldn’t have eaten to begin with. A few weekends back, we spent $600 at an emergency vet clinic because the wife came home to multiple piles of vomit throughout the house. An X-ray revealed Mavis had eaten something that was not moving through her putrid digestive track.
Exactly one week later, she ate the foot out of a dress sock. Determined it would not be another $600 weekend, I called the vet and asked what I needed to do. His solution (and luckily the cheapest) was to pour hydrogen peroxide down Mavis’ throat, which I did with a fair amount of resistance from the patient.
Out in the back yard, Mavis vomited a couple of times, but no sock ever came up. I poured peroxide down her throat a second time, and no sock.
After 15 or 20 minutes of waiting, we went back inside. I was about to call the wife and explain I would be taking Mavis to the vet after all. Just then, Mavis began shaking her head. That was followed by the release of the entire contents of her stomach (and possibly intestines) on the den floor.
There, in the middle of the disgusting pile, laid the sad, chewed remains of one black dress sock. Prior to cleaning up the mess, I did a short, enthusiastic jig, knowing the vet would not be getting $600 from me that day.
I have my share of grievances with Mavis, but only because Ziggy (my dog) is the most perfect dog in the whole world. There have been, however, a few minor hiccups on his way to being potty trained. He likes to sprinkle on things he believes are worthy of his marking. If the house were carpeted, it would need to be burned to the ground.
His most offensive move was to pee on the suede microfiber couch I purchased new from Haverty’s in 2003. I paid $800 for it at the time, which was the equivalent of three paydays for a newspaper man. Granted, the couch was mostly trashed already, but I was still upset by his wanton disrespect. He’s still a puppy and pretty perfect otherwise, so I eventually got over it.
Despite their failings, life with Mavis and Ziggy is a real pawty. (Get it?) That being said, I realize I am responsible for their well-being and ensuring they have a safe, loving home in which to thrive and grow. They will not live long enough to take care of me when I’m old, so all I can do is try to enjoy the time I have with them now.
They are also good company and — sometimes — bring joy to my life. That makes all the poop-eating and highly disrespectful sprinkling much easier to bear.
— Dog whisperer and editor Adam Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.