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Revenge of a Dalmatian

I need to write something but the thing I’m really working on will take a while, so I’m just going to tell a story about a dog.

In 1993 I suffered a traumatic experience. I was bitten by my babysitters dog, a chow chow appropriately named Tramp. This was traumatic for two reasons. The first being the obvious infliction of pain from an open wound, the second for the pain of betrayal. I have loved animals my whole life. I grew up with a cat named Maddie from the time I was born until I was 14. I came home to her making groans similar to what I imagine an old Vespa that’s running out of gas sounds like, and attempting to shit anywhere she could (but she physically could not). We took her to the vet and they told us the inevitable: she was dying and needed to be euthanized. I cried and begged for a miracle, but the writing was on the wall, and so it goes.

Back to the biting incident. I have been a huge fan of animals for as long as I can remember, so like most humans with souls, I see a dog and I must pet said dog. Well I saw a dog that day which taught me a very harsh lesson in life. Turns out some dogs are assholes. This was one of those dogs. Suffice it to say that an ER visit and two surgeries later, I was terrified to be near any large canines. My doctor told my mother that if she didn’t tackle this fear right away, I would be fucked up forever (I’m paraphrasing here). My mom already had 4 kids who were no picnic, she couldn’t deal with another.

Enter our antagonist

At 8 years old I was obsessed with what every other child in America was obsessed with: 101 Dalmatians.  That movie was the story of love, family, and the evils of the animal fur industry. It was also full of puppies, 101 to be exact. Listen, you can put puppies in any movie and it’s instantly 3 times better. Yes, even Gigli. So of course, prior to the incident, I had begged my mother for a Dalmatian. And prior to the incident she always said no. This was her moment to shine. She somehow found someone in our small town who was homing a litter of Dalmatian puppies (not 101, I asked). I remember the exact square of sidewalk I was on in front of our house when I saw this puppy for the first time. It was like the gates of Heaven opened up to offer penance for the wrong that was dealt to me.

“After the schadenfreudian thrill of watching beautiful people humiliate themselves wears off, it has the same annihilating effect on your will to live.” -Jeff Giles of Newsweek’s review of Gigli

We decided to name her Guinevere. Yes, we named our 16 week old Dalmatian puppy after the hussy who was married to King Arthur but banging Lancelot on the side. It happens. Anyway, I loved her and couldn’t give two shits what her name was. Turns out that “giving shits” plays a pretty big part in this story.

Fast forward about 7 months or so. Guin is much larger than she used to be because evidently my prayers to keep her as a puppy were not heard; woe is me. Guin was a bit….let’s call it “energetic” and “not smart”. We had a pool at our house growing up, and the dog would constantly drink the pool water. Even though we had a full bowl of fresh, safe water right there. We would even show her to her water, thinking maybe she’s just dumb and couldn’t find it. No, she was even dumber than we thought, because she chose to keep drinking chlorinated tap water.

She would also randomly jump into the pool. Of course, that’s not an issue when it’s August in Texas and your face is melting. But she would jump into this pool in mid January….when it was freezing. We would freak out, rescue her, dry her off as she shivered for dear life, only for her to turn around and do it again. Like I said, not smart.

She was also a jumper. Not just “jump from floor up to person because I’m so excited”. More like, “jump off of anything I can possibly jump off of”. She would leap up on the couch, and the back of the couch, onto the side table, then the coffee table, leaving destruction in her wake. This dog gave no fucks about anything. The rambunctious behavior combined with her increase in size became an issue for me. That same winter where she kept jumping into the pool was the same winter where she was chasing me around said pool where I slipped on some ice and fell into the deep end head first. As always, my mother suddenly appeared and pulled me out by my ankle. I swear, moms really do have a sixth sense, and thank baby Jesus for that.

Over the coming weeks Guin got more and more aggressive. Her incessant jumping at my face triggered horrific flashbacks and I began to go out of my way to avoid being near her. Do I let myself around her and risk suffering the same fate I once did at the paws of the chow? Or do I avoid her presence altogether and deal with the sadness and shame of neglecting her? Not to mention my mother who had gone out of her way to find this exact dog to repair my psyche, and now I no longer wanted to be around her. It was like Sophie’s choice. I’m pretty sure this was the birth of the perpetual guilt that I still carry to this day. But of course my mother wasn’t going to force me to keep a dog who scared the hell out of me, so she agreed that we would re-home Guin.

Sophie's choice
Ok so it wasn’t as bad as having to choose which of your children to send to a Nazi labor camp and which to send to their death, but hyperbole is my strong suit.

My mother worked a lot, so she often employed the older children to do some of the basic brunt work around the house. She assigned 3 of the other 4 to drop Guin off at the shelter where we were told someone would be adopting her. I was only 9 and this was of course all my fault according to one of my brothers, so I was forced to tag along. This of course meant spending a total of about 7 minutes in the car from our home to the shelter with a beast who I was sure wanted to kill me.

My sister Lisa opted to drive and I rode shot gun, cause like hell I was getting in the back with that thing. My brothers climbed in the back of our mother’s teal Ford Taurus with Guin and we headed out. I honestly don’t know how I managed to con my brothers who are 7 and 9 years older than me to give up the front seat but I did, and I am forever grateful. What happened in that short 7 minute drive was nothing short of a true to life shit show.

We had severely underestimated Guin’s intelligence. We thought she was literally missing a part of her brain and we kind of felt bad for her. But I guess pool drinking and winter diving were just hobbies she enjoyed. She was ever the thrill seeker. The 4 of us agreed that she knew exactly where we were taking her and why, so she crafted a plan. A very sinister plan that would haunt us all forever.

As she sat in the back with my brothers, she quickly became anxious. The dog was used to almost always having something to jump off of, and now she has nowhere to go. She begins to climb and pace over my brothers’ laps over and over. Then she unleashes her secret weapon. Doggy diarrhea. She is literally shitting all over the back seat, stepping in it, and then stepping all over my brothers. She left no inch uncovered. It was like watching a crack-addicted toddler finger paint. Only it wasn’t a toddler and it wasn’t paint.

Ben from Parks and Rec
I hope this is your expression right now

As you can probably imagine, all of us were freaking out and had no idea what to do. It was chaos. My brothers were desperately trying to distance themselves from the brown liquid, but lo, it was too late. The smell was unbearable, so we brilliantly decided to roll down the windows. The universe has a really sick sense of humor, because just as they went down, so did the rain. What do you get when you mix liquid dog shit with rain? You just get even liquidier (?) dog shit. There was screaming, crying, and laughing. Of course most of the laughing came from the front seat where me and my sister were shit free.

We spent the rest of that day scrubbing the inside of our mother’s cloth interior lined car and no matter how hard we tried, we could never completely get the smell out. My family has never forgotten this day, especially the shit-stained victims from the backseat. You can believe that they will use this against me until the day they die. I’m sure one of them has already designed their tombstone to read “Here lies <name>, friend, son, brother who was once drenched in canine diarrhea which was 100% my little sister’s fault”.

The takeaway here is that dogs are amazing creatures who for the most part are loving companions; but occasionally you will cross ones that have an unappealing temperament or a taste for vengeance. Human beings are even worse. The way we shit on others is metaphorical…(except for in some very disturbing cases). Instead of covering someone we’re angry with in our own excrement, we do maniacal things like damage their reputation, finances, or personal relationships. So the next time you want to get back at someone using Machiavellian tactics, just know that there was once a Dalmatian out there who behaved better than you.

***Side note: I was telling this story to my boyfriend (who grew up in the same small town as me, but we never knew it until we met as adults) and we discovered that Guin actually came from his childhood next door neighbors who were the city’s only Dalmatian breeders. Weird right? We thought it was pretty cool.***

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