Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dog is not the answer

...and now for something completely different!

People deal with stress in different ways. I get scared, which pisses me off, and then I attack whatever is pissing me off, and violently destroy the crap out of it, render it into tiny little quivering peeing bloody shreds, which I then set on fire and stomp on and call bad names. That's me.

My husband retreats immediately to the top of some remote inner Himalaya from where he'll issue infrequent communiques in response to whatever faint cries happen to reach him, form letters which invariably read 'I don't know', 'nothing', and 'no I didn't'. That's him.

This disparity in coping methods combined with a year of incredible personal upheaval finally resulted in me locking myself in my bedroom for two solid days, during which I did nothing but sob uncontrollably and smoke menthol cigarettes.

In the middle of the afternoon of the third day, as I was lying on the bed thinking about how truly vile menthol cigarettes are and wondering why I was smoking them, I heard his car door slam out in the driveway.

Then I heard a series of excited yips.

Say what?

Oh no.

Aw fuck.


Please God. Please God tell me that isn't a dog.



The bedroom door opened and in ran a dog.

"Guess what? " The Biker announced cheerfully.


Now, 'I got YOU a dog' is bullshit for 'In utter disregard for whatever the underlying cause of this present episode might be, I decided to use it as an opportunity to go get a dog from the pound without your input because I want a dog, and so I'm going to make like it's a sweet cuddly attempt at making up; and in the rapture of the moment, overcome by the mesmerizing cuteness rays emanating from the dog, you'll buy this, and everything will be great.'

I sat there on the bed in utter disbelief. I looked from one to the other, feeling my whole inner being just shrug and give up.

Fine. We have a dog.


Now to be honest, I really wanted to like Maxwell. Maxwell was a good boy and could have been a great boy given an experienced trainer. Experienced trainer, unfortunately, does not even remotely describe anyone who lives at this address. Still, he was a cute little guy, a mutt cross between a rat terrier and a shih tzu, and was as happy and good natured as the day was long.

He was also completely un-housebroken, and, as we were to find out, completely un-house-breakable.

He had a long white high-maintenance coat made of Fiberglas and static electricity that tangled itself into thousands of hard little knots that worked their way into his skin. He was a yapper. He was a climber. He was a humper. He was an eater of carpets and houseplants and shoes and upholstery and the corners of walls and furniture and books and mail.

He carried toilet paper around the house.

He climbed out of the windows.

He climbed into the dryer.

He drug my bras out of the dirty wash and out into the yard. And rolled on them. And got tangled up in them. And then wore them.

Until you looked out the window and realized your dog had been outside wearing a bra for God only knows how long, and ran out to get him, only he wriggled out from underneath the fence and ran off into the middle of the soccer field.

Wearing a bra.

If the lid on the toilet were down he would use it as a step in order to climb up onto the vanity where he'd eat soap. When the lid was up, he fell into the toilet trying to use it as a step to get up onto the vanity so he could eat soap.

His idea of going on a car ride meant to ride quietly in your lap, which is a total lie. Max's idea of a car ride was climbing on top of your head while you were going 75mph down the freeway. Sometimes it meant weaving himself through the steering wheel. It also meant leaping out any windows he found open, and sometimes we found ourselves driving down the road with half a dog dangling out of the side of the car. He would suddenly dive over the back of the seat and land on the side of your face and neck, claws extended, and have to be forcibly removed. Not that he wasn't being safely restrained; he was! I swear to God! Right up until he....wasn't, somehow. And he certainly wasn't scared. He was having the time of his life! He was just being a puppy.

A puppy spawned by Hell.

Since I'm a stay-at-home wife, it fell to me to 'train' him. Dad could go to work each day and come home and either ignore or enjoy doggies' cute antics per his whim. I had the responsibility of attempting to civilize an animal that you literally could not turn your attention away from for a single moment. I now have something of an inkling of what it must be like to raise a hyperactive child. You simply could not have anything but your fullest attention on this animal one hundred percent of the time or he was trying to open drawers, climb into the stove, pulling books off the shelves, or drinking coffee.

Yes. Drinking coffee. He preferred it black.

Cute puppy Maxwell was a non-stop Maxwell. The high speed mayhem and destruction caused by a caffeinated Maxwell was worthy of Sam Peckinpah . But yeah...somewhere along the line before he came to us he'd developed a taste for coffee. At first it was kind of cute. He would sit on the kitchen floor in the morning and stare at the coffee maker and whine. "You aren't getting any, buddy," I'd say. "It'll stunt your growth!"

"Oh yeah, chubby?" he'd grin. "Just set that cup down where I can get at it."

And as soon as your attention was diverted there he'd be with his whole head jammed in the cup, sucking it down like a little bilge pump. I'd chase him around with a rag, wipe off his steaming, coffee-sodden face, and feel him beginning to vibrate as I held him in my arms. One of the very first things I learned about Max was to to keep my coffee mug inaccessible. I was finding full cups for a week after we got rid of him, stashed on top of the entertainment center, the cabinets and the refrigerator.

The novelty of Maxwells' antics soon wore thin when his destructive campaign moved from general household items to things that belonged to the Biker. When he pulled up long strands of carpet and ate them, that was him 'just being a puppy'. It was a case of 'You shouldn't have left those lying around' when Maxwell ate my glasses. Chewing shoes was funny when they were my shoes. It rapidly became not so funny when they were the Bikers' 250.00 Red Wing work boots. Or his favorite running shoes. Or his socks. Or his pillow. Or...

Maxwell could jump like a little kangaroo. It was amazing. If you've ever seen a Jack Russel terrier leaping six feet straight up over and over and over again as though it had a spring in its butt you have an idea of what I mean.

Max liked to jump up, catch the drawstring of the Bikers' pajama pants in his teeth and give it a tug. He'd come out of nowhere, leap, catch the string between his teeth and the Biker would let out a whoop, by which time Max was a speck in the distance.

Tugging on the string quickly became 'giving the string a good healthy yank and pulling the pajama pants halfway down the Bikers' ass'. And that was hilarious....right up until that fateful day that Maxwell...missed. And nipped the wrong...drawstring.

But the big turning point came when we caught Maxwell humping the baby.

This perplexed the baby and made everyone else fairly uncomfortable. Everyone but Maxwell, that is. No, you'd lift him off the baby for the 500th time and he'd keep right on going, humpityhumpityhumpityhumpityhumpity, humpity, humpityhumpity.....humpity.......hump........what?

So it was that the Biker finally came to agree that he'd made a spectacularly bad decision, and posted Maxwell on Craigslist.

A seller quickly responded, and Maxwell and all his accouterments were gone two days later. I felt kind of dishonest taking their 200.00, truthfully, but somehow I found it within me to do so.

And you know what I did with that 200.00?
I took that 200.00 and went out and bought STUPID SHIT.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

RAT SAGA PART DEAUX: Emerald Aoudad Awaken The Twisted Scheme!

I noticed the first unusually casual Norway rat on my property about five years ago while I was out gardening. What I thought was a mallard duck bumbling around in the flowers turned out to be one of the biggest Norways I've ever seen. This thing had an ass the size of a softball. And there it was, maybe three feet away from me, ambling along, making no attempt to hide. It just gave me a casual 'S'up?' kind of a glance and paid me no further mind.

The first thing that springs to mind when you've grown up around wild animals and one of them starts acting atypically is that it's probably sick, and 'sick' usually means 'rabid'.

I eased back toward the house. The rat ignored me.

For the rest of the afternoon I looked out the living room window and watched while the rat sauntered around in my flowerbeds. "Jesus Christ come look at this thing!" I'd say, while my husband continued to watch Powerblock. "No seriously! The goddamn thing is still out there! Come look at this!"
"I've seen rats," he'd reply.

Over the next couple of years we saw a few more, from a distance. Since I have no problem with distant rats I grew to accept their presence as one of the unpleasant aspects of living in a rural area, like Avon products, fundamentalists, and widespread methamphetamine abuse.

Then we had our next close encounter. You can read about that here. G'head. I'll wait.

As the next couple of years went by I began to see more wildlife around the place, rats included... but since they weren't parking their Winnebagos on my lawn or trying to sell me Amway I shrugged it off. Until the morning I stepped out onto the front porch last summer and a huge goddamn Norway rat came trotting up the steps toward me.

No shit! Just heard the door opening and came merrily right on up the steps like it was going to come in the house! Like a dog!

I took a threatening step towards it, clapped my hands and yelled 'Shoo! Go home! Go home now!' I flapped my hands at it and stomped my feet a couple of times too.

It stopped short and looked up at me, totally perplexed. Just flummoxed.

When it finally dawned on me that I was standing out on my front step attempting to interact with a feral garbage rat as though it were a stray poodle, I booked ass into the house and slammed the door.

I looked out the window a couple of seconds later.

It was on the porch.

Over the next couple of weeks I watched as several more rats came roaming through the yard. Now, not to be boastful, but up until then I'd had one of the showplace gardens in my town. Nothing takes the bloom off that 'showplace garden' image faster than a couple of huge rats wandering around. Not even cement deer. Not even Canadians.

These were some chill rats, too. Nothing phased them; not pedestrians, not passing cars, nothing. They were out there basking in the sun, washing their little ratty faces and licking their little ratty asses! Seriously! And some of these newer rats were not doing real well. They had some kind of scabby rat disease and their hair was missing in big patches. So not only did I have rude rats; no, that wasn't bad enough! I had rude diseased crack addict rats with eczema out in my front yard performing acts of intimate personal hygiene!
This was not acceptable!
No way in hell was this acceptable!

You want to know what was really unacceptable, though? When my husband, the Yummy Biker, walked into the mud room a few days later to find a huge goddamn disgusting filthy vermin covered rat calmly eating out of the dog* bowl.


A wild Norway fucking rat had come into my house THROUGH THE DOG FLAP, and was EATING THE DOGS FOOD.

Now, I was outside when this happened and had no idea what was going on. I remember a huge shout going up and then a lot of loud crashing and banging and yelling. I decided my presence was not required.

Apparently upon seeing the rat, my husband grabbed a broom and began randomly flailing away at the rat there in the small entryway. The rat responded by leaping at the broom and hanging onto the end of it, which caused the Biker to whip it around in the air, kind of like rat lacrosse, which activity finally flung the rat up into the air and behind the dryer. The Biker jumped right up onto the dryer after it, and with the broom now held like a javelin began stabbing at the rat, which was jammed back there down in the small space between the dryer and the wall. All this did was dent the dryer and chase the rat beneath the nearby washing machine. My husband leaned over, yanked the washer out from the wall, and continued to try and skewer the rat with the bristle end of the broom, something he reports wasn't getting him much of anyplace fast, although it seemed to annoy the rat, which ran out into the kitchen. Where it went after that he didn't know. It disappeared. So he ran into the bedroom, grabbed a rifle and systematically began tearing the entire house apart. Broom in one hand, rifle in the other. He was prepared.

Thank God it was summer. We think what happened was that the rat ran straight through the house and out the front window. We never found a single trace. Still, getting to sleep that night was....difficult.

*TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!!!!!*


*we briefly owned a dog this last summer, but he will be the subject of a future post.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Temperate Azure Chicken In Instant Rescue Caper!

If you've been visiting 'Paul' awhile you know that I've had ongoing problems with my next door neighbors.

Big sister, while usually a quiet type, occasionally goes prowling around her yard at night growling and screaming. She also has some kind of ongoing conflict with the pear tree back there, which has lead to several loud disagreements with same. Mom and Big Brother are harmless, if quiet, furtive and unwashed. Actually all of them are harmless and generally pleasant folks (unless you're a pear tree)and its not them specifically I've had the issue with; its the overflow animal problem.

At first it was just cats. Sis collected cats. White cats, when we first moved in, although as they had kittens that changed rapidly. Over the past ten or so years I've had these cats die in my compost bin, have kittens in my flower pots, barf on my front porch, climbing my trees, digging up my plants, and crapping everywhere they damn well pleased. Now, that last issue is just not normal cat behavior. I've had cats. Even the feral ones are usually cool enough to take a dump in an out-of-the-way place. These things were shitting on the hood of our pickup truck. They shit in the middle of the porch. They shit in the middle of the lawn. They built big volcanoes over their butt nuggets in the middle of the driveway. I have no idea what that was about. They shit in my potted plants, in the middle of the steps, just any damn place the urge struck. And these cats were host to some downright frightening intestinal fauna too. Huge squirming clods of it. This was not, as my grandson would say, beautiful OR propriate.

Now as time went on the neighbors' property became overgrown to the point that you could not make out the house behind all the underbrush. That was fine with me. It was also fine with the wildlife. I enjoyed the various native and migrant birds the thick brush and tall trees invited. In the summer evening three different types of bat flutter and chirp overhead, venturing out and returning in acrobatic loops to the immense Scoulers willow in their front yard. I even got a kick out of the big old boar raccoon that used to amble around in the evening, fat jiggling, in no hurry, like he owned the place.

Until he started living under my back deck.

And climbing up the lattice on the side of my house, right next to my bedroom window.

In the middle of the night.

Did you know that raccoons make noise? They do. They make lots of noises. Not just 'throwing your garbage all over the driveway' noises, or 'going through the toolbox in the garage and throwing sockets onto the floor' noises. They also make creepy yipping, growling, barking, screeching noises. At night. They have lots to say, turns out. All of it at night. Outside my bedroom window. I have no idea what its about, or why they're doing it; I didn't ask. They probably would have told me, though. I should have.

Turns out there were a lot of raccoons living over there. Lots and lots of them. Enough so that they were sending out reconnaissance squads to my place. They've blazed a permanent trail, bare of grass, across the lot and straight into my back yard...From there it goes around the garage, the shed, the raised beds, around the side of my house and right up onto my front porch. How do I know it's raccoons? I've seen them. Bold as fuck. And they leave footprints, too. They aren't big on wiping their feet. They come right up on my front porch, go right up onto the bench out there and look in my window. Oh look, the fat broad got new curtains.

Now, right from the beginning when we moved in, there were rats. Not in the house, mind; outside. Regular field rats; of course, this is farmland so you simply expect field rats. Not a big deal.

A couple of years later, the Norway rats showed up.

Well, OK, you know, Norways are a part of life. What are you going to do? Again, theres a lot of farms out this way, lots of manure ponds and grain silos and silage tips. The fact that you'd see them in broad daylight was a little worrisome; but I'm no rat expert either. I figured they came from the surrounding farms, and they'd gotten a little bold from smelling the presence of people all the time or something.

As time passed this all became so much a part of everyday life it went without notice.

Then last summer the animal population around here just exploded.

I had raccoons running around on my roof every night. I had raccoons going through my garbage, looking in my windows, barking and yipping from the top of my umbrella tree, dragging boxes around the back of our pickup truck and tracking dirty footprints all over my car. Cats everywhere, crapping in my garden, wandering up and down the sidewalks, yodelling from the top of the shed, squashed into little cat pizzas all over the road up and down the block.

And rats.

Oh yes.

...and rats.