Shifting gears now just a bit... in reading Tornwordo's blog entry this morning, I found myself remembering oh so many stories related to his topic. Apparently Torn is fond of all things scatological, though this is my first experience reading his thoughts on the subject. I was about to start sharing my memories in his comments section, when I realized I was going to go ON for a while. Apparently he'd struck a nerve. I tried to let it go, but it just wouldn't leave my brain. So I figured I'd write it down here. I justify having this entry because it's about dogs, but I still credit (ie. blame) Tornwordo for its other theme.
My parents' previous dog, Sybil (yes, Sybil) was wonderful company, and I'll undoubtedly write about her many charms at some point, but what I'm thinking of today was one of her less endearing habits. Like many dogs, she has a great penchant for horseshit; apparently that stuff just rocks if you're a dog. If that wasn't bad enough, she particularly liked it if it was frozen solid, in what my Mom took to calling a 'shit-cicle'. There seemed to be many pleasures involved in this. For one thing she didn't have to wolf it down quickly, because we came to realize that struggling to take it away from her was both disgusting and fruitless. If you were lucky, you got to throw a froze horse turd. If you weren't lucky you got thawing horseshit, dog spit and perhaps an accidental bite on your hands, while she held on with jaws like an alligator's. Eventually we just let her keep the foul thing. She trot along cheerfully (maybe even a bit mischievously) letting it thaw slowly in her mouth. If she was really careful, she sometimes made it all the way home where she got to savor it in the back yard.
I had thought that was as bad as it got. Then I moved to New York and became a dog-walker. I soon learned that the dog who doesn't enjoy a good horse doot is by far the rarity. One of my dogs, Aggie, was a chocolate lab. Before I met her she had twice been rushed to the hospital for surgery to remove sticks from her stomach, so we're not talking a rocket scientist, though she was very sweet. She was always ravenous, and part of my duties involved making sure she didn't get anything she wasn't supposed to. Which was anything. We got to a point where if I told her to drop a stick she would, but if she saw a left-over bagel or some foodstuff before I did, there was no stopping her.
And of course she too was fond of the horse feces. We walked in Central Park every day, so horse shit was an occasional hazard. One day she found some before I did, and swallowed it whole. I got down on my knees to look her in the eye and began scolding her. She grinned affectionately at me then --LaLOP- she licked me across the face in one masterful stroke, from my lower left chin right up to my right eye. Now I had the scent of horseshit-infused dog-spit coating my face, with special emphasis around my nose. We were twenty minutes away from any source of water. I swear to god Aggie was laughing at me. As we marched back briskly, I started laughing. Who the hell has this sort of thing happen to him? What kind of weird-ass job do I have?
But that's still not the worst story. See, if you think dogs like horseshit, that is nothing compared to how they feel about HUMAN shit. That stuff is BON-BONS for dogs. I had never been in a position before to learn this, but this was New York City, and sometimes homeless folks would camp out in the park.
Let me introduce Yen. He was an enormous Akita, uncharacteristically large for the breed. On all fours his head went past my waist. He looked to me like a cross between a Shetland pony and a Kodiak bear. He also had one of the sweetest temperaments I had ever encountered, and remember, I loves me some dogs. He gave of an air of nobility, seeming to be a larger presence than most dogs, even big dogs. I don't think I believe in reincarnation, but that said I have met at least three people where we each looked at the other and said essentially "Oh, there you are. I was wondering when you were going to show up." Well Yen was the first dog I experienced that with. He began to show up quite regularly in my dreams, sometimes as himself, sometimes as a bear, sometimes switching from one to the other, but still him. If he wasn't some reincarnated friend, I wondered if maybe he was my spirit guide. If I ran into him out walking with one of his owners while I was walking another dog, Yen would make a huge fuss over me before he'd start playing with the other dog. Lots of dogs kiss, but Yen was the first dog who I met who hugged. He'd sit on his haunches and raise his front legs. Kneeling I was only slightly taller than him. He'd throw his paws over my shoulders and pull me close, resting his forehead on mine. He did this every day before our walk. If I started to break the embrace before he was ready, he'd snuffle and pull me close again. I seriously loved this dog a lot. I usually started or ended the embrace by kissing him on the muzzle or the top of his head.
You see where I'm going with this, don't you.
Because however amazing Yen was, however noble a spirit and however deep and mystical our connection, he was still a dog. One day I came in to walk him, kissed him on the snout, then we began our extended hug. It wasn't until then that I smelled something... unfortunate. On the table was a note telling me that on his morning walk, Yen had gotten into some human feces, the owners had to go to work, and hadn't had time to clean him up.
GACH BLEAH GLURG BLAH BLECH PUTOOIE BLAH BLECH BLEAH.
Okay at least this time I was someplace with a ready supply of water and he hadn't LICKED me (org, bleah blech), really all I got was just the stench, but somehow just the idea that it was HUMAN made it all worse. Though this too was not an issue I had ever had to address before, I instantly learned I had a VERY specific ranking.
Of the worst things for a dog to have eaten right before kissing me, in descending order of ugh, is:
Tied for a close second are cat shit (something else I didn't know about until coming to the big city) and the dog's own personal shit (I mean come ON, really? What the HELL?)
Compared to these three horseshit starts to seem positively benign, wouldn't you say? Hell it's just cut grass and some digestive juices, what's there to get all worked up about? Okay I'm not seeking OUT horseshit-infused dog kisses, but I just can't see ever getting very worked up about an accidental one again. If Sybil were still with us, I wouldn't even bat an eye at a shit-cicle. Life is too short.