Free-Floating Hostility

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Dogs Take their Revenge on Brooklyn Dodger, the Rabbits Take their Revenge on the Dogs

It is often easy to forget that the dog is a direct descendent from the wolf, a pack animal, a hunter and a killer. One reason we forget the dog's heritage so easily is that as a hunter, the average dog is quite stupid. Rhoda is no exception. Her excuse is that she is half labrador; labs have had most of their killing instinct deliberately bred out of them because as retrievers their job is to bring back the animal that the human has already killed. The chow half of Rhoda however loves the hunt, and generally shakes the hell out of her squeaky toys because that is an ancient Chow technique for breaking a squeaky toy's neck. In nature, however, Rhoda is a complete failure. Her typical hunting strategy goes something like this.

1. Spot a rabbit in the middle of the lawn.
2. Go completely rigid and still so the rabbit won't notice you.
3. The rabbit has noticed you. Crap.
4. Regroup. As the rabbit hops away, stalk the rabbit, moving as slowly as possible (a rate of about one paw movement per 10 seconds should do) because you are a predator and your natural advantage over your prey is intelligence.
5. You are so awesome. That rabbit is so lunch.
6. The rabbit is right in front of a patch of bushes now, bushes that you can't really go into because you're wearing an electric shock collar and that's where the invisible electric fence lies. This is the optimal spot for attack, because the rabbit will have false confidence and be more likely to panic into error.
7. Charge into the bushes. When the rabbit disappears, stand at the electric fence, wagging your tail furiously, and barking with all the ferocity that is your due as ruler of the lawn.
8. Saunter back to the house, acting tough.

Rhoda has actually caught a few small furry creatures in the past, all of them in Riverside Park, where as Eva pointed out, the small creatures don't belong to anyone anyway. But on the whole she's a bad enough hunter that it had never occurred to my parents to worry about her actually catching anything born in the real wild. But now Rhoda has Ponto as her Lieutenant, and the two of them can hunt in a pack.

At first, it seemed like two lab mixes hunting a rabbit were no more successful than one, because they seemed to be employing a pincer move that forced their prey directly off the property and out of harm's way. But yesterday Mom and Dad came upon the two of them sharing the remains of a rabbit. They stifled their surprise so as not to hurt the dogs' feelings, and decided that this was the way of nature, and that it was the dogs' right to eat what they had worked so hard to kill. Dad was having visions of poor Mrs. Rabbit crying over her chamomile tea, but I assured him it was probably not Peter they had caught, but one of the less sympathetic rabbits, such as Mopsy. Besides, the dogs were getting along so well that it seemed like pack hunting might be the solution to their sibling rivalry. Mom and Dad put the dogs in the car and headed for New York, where they had a dinner date with my in-laws (in the interest of preserving BrooklynDodger's anonymity I am going to call him Fritz and my mother-in-law Queenie).

In the car, all was peace. For once Rhoda and Ponto were perfectly behaved, not once fighting over the back seat. Then, about an hour outside the city, an unidentified canine passenger let out the Fart of Death. One of the major differences between having one dog and having two is that when one dog does something gross, you know who to yell at. With two, there is always reasonable doubt. Mom and Dad felt the circumstantial evidence pointed to Ponto as this was a fart of heretofore unknown deadliness, but they didn't want to punish him if Rhoda was the real culprit. In any case, this was no time to point fingers. A Dog Digestion Red Flag had been raised. Dad sped the rest of the way.

Having arrived on Claremont Avenue, Mom demanded "Take that dog to the park NOW." Dad, who has of necessity developed a certain immunity to Mom's sense of alarm, merely tied Ponto to the fence surrounding a tree while he unpacked the car. Sometime while Dad was in the house, Ponto shat copiously on the sidewalk. Civic cleanup efforts were only mildly successful, especially after Mom went at it with a bucket of soapy water and spread diluted sewage all over the street. Ponto was taken to the park, where he had diarrhea of a nature most pathetic to behold. Dad returned to the apartment to find Rhoda had vomited twice in the interval. Queenie and Fritz were due to arrive in an hour. Both dogs were now puking and crapping all over the apartment. The Gordon-Cash family was suffering an epidemic of Mopsy's Revenge.

As most of you know, my father-in-law Fritz is an outspoken hater of dogs. He considers them dangerous, and finds them personally distasteful. According to Mike, Queenie feels much the same, only, "She's not damn fool enough to say so." So when Fritz phoned, my Dad sensibly pretended that nothing was going on.

Fritz: We're at the theater. Our show just finished.
Dad: Wonderful.
Rhoda: Hurk. Hmmph. Blurkegle.
Fritz: So, we're going to catch the 1/9 and we'll see you in about fifteen minutes.
Rhoda: Kgack. Fpoogputt [vomits].
Dad: I thought we might go out for dinner.

When Queenie and Fritz arrived there were already several piles of anonymous shit and vomit around the apartment. Dad had cleaned up the ones in really obvious places, like the living room floor, but they kept finding them in improbable places with astonishing frequency. The good news, Dad insisted stoically, is that partially-digested Rabbit makes for an unusually granular shit that is easy to clean up. I think they tried to serve cocktails (strong ones, I imagine) so as not to be rude, but as Fritz later put it, "Two dogs puking and shitting has a deleterious effect on ambience." He doesn't like dogs, but he really is a very kind man. They beat a hasty retreat to the restaurant.

When last I heard, Rhoda and Ponto had been locked up together in the kitchen for the night, and in the morning there was only one anonymous shit to be found, which Dad promptly stepped in. The dogs appear to be on the mend.

The moral of this story as I see it (and I'm sure Fritz will disagree with my interpretation) is that living with dogs makes you a better, more flexible person. You develop a strong stomach, and a sense of humor. If you're lucky, you have a partner with a good sense of humor, too, and you learn that you can weather all kinds of disasters.

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