It all began on Sunday evening, with an invitation to hang out with D., the awesome church office administrator, at her house, where there is a pool and an enormous bottle of White Zinfandel. “And you can even bring your dog,” said D., in her generous way.
I was really grateful she was open to the idea. On Sundays, Barnaby is generally alone for a seven hour stretch, and then when I get home I’m so utterly wiped from doing what my friend Linnea aptly dubbed “wurch” (work/church) that I don’t have the energy to do Barnaby’s bottomless pit of enthusiasm for walkies and fetch any justice. So getting an evening invitation to a place where I can bring my dog, so I don’t have to feel guilty for leaving him alone even longer, and where the very newness of the situation might just exhaust his little doggie synapses, sounded awesome.
D. was a little hesitant about inviting Barnaby, and I understood. She just lost her own little dog, Muffin, a couple of months ago, and wasn’t sure how she felt about having another dog in the house. Especially an enormous honker of a canine like Barnaby. He’s 85 lbs. of black hairy tail-thrashing joy. On paper, he seems a little overwhelming.
But Barnaby possesses a remarkable amount of canine schmarm. He can schmarm his way into almost anyone’s heart. It’s the way he bludgeons you lovingly with his furry baseball bat tail. Or perhaps the way he gazes at you adoringly while his jaws rhythmically pump a disgustingly slobbery tennis ball that he’s going to want you to throw. Maybe it’s the simple joy with which he goes about destroying every single thing you will let him destroy, from small trees to tennis balls to pumpkins (BTW: he ate my jack o’lantern).
In any case, I have strong (and, events would come to show, FOOLHARDY) confidence in my dog’s ability to win just about anyone over to his side. So I brought him over to D.’s.
We went straight to the backyard, where the in-ground pool is contained in a fenced patio area. As I let Barnaby off-leash, D. asked, “You don’t think he’ll jump in the pool, do you?” “No, no, don’t worry,” I said, thinking of Barnaby’s aversion to baths of any kind.
Fifteen damn seconds later, that dog was in the water.
Not one to do things by halves (except when it’s part of his dastardly food-stealing plan), Barnaby had jumped in at the deep end. When he realized he couldn’t feel the bottom, he promptly freaked out, and began trying to reverse his poor decision. But he just didn’t have the upper body strength to get himself out of the water. I had to keep pushing him back in, and trying to get him to follow me to the shallow end where there were stairs, like some deranged mother at a kiddie pool swim meet.
Having saved my dog from drowning, you’d think he’d show his gratitude to me by behaving for the rest of the night. Oh no.
D.’s husband made the terrible mistake of giving the dog a tennis ball. Barnaby tends to obsess about items he can play fetch with, and so he spent the rest of our time by the pool in a dedicated quest to convince people to throw him this increasingly squishy, slobbering, gross projectile, each arc of its flight distinguished by trailing ribbons of drool. And you know what? It worked. AND NOT ONLY THAT. Every time the ball landed in the pool, he would whine pathetically until D. got the skimmer and nudged the ball close enough to the edge for Barnaby to retrieve. I’m telling you, this dog can schmarm.
I convinced him to drop the ball before we went in for dinner. But it was only a matter of time before the schmarm took effect again. After dinner I went in to help D.’s husband lay down a few vocal tracks for a character he’s designing for a website. While I was gone, Barnaby managed to convince D. to open the door, let him retrieve his revolting ball, and bring it back into the house.
The whole “my dog will be so well-behaved he’ll utterly charm my lovely but hesitant hosts” thing was really going well.
But guys. Guys. It gets worse.
Despite having been taken out for a bathroom break after dinner, Barnaby was still apparently having some tummy trouble. So while I was off recording enthusiastic accolades for online coupons, my dog sneaked into this lovely couple’s only child’s bedroom (she’s off at college), and crapped all over the floor.
All. Over. The floor.
People, I housebroke my dog myself. It took sleepless nights and constant vigilance, but it worked. He has never messed indoors since he was 10 weeks old. The first time in three years he decided to break this streak of good behavior, he did it all over the nice light carpet in the nice clean house of the nice large-dog-shy people who I work with.
Barnaby’s contribution to the evening’s entertainment wasn’t discovered until after he and I left, and D. only showed me the picture of his gastrointestinal triumph the next day because his stools were exactly the kind you hope your dog will never ever leave indoors: loose and runny, and hard to clean up. She didn’t show me for that reason. She was worried about the little bugger’s wellbeing.
I had to do something. I was too late to help clean up the damage. D. assured me that her husband had already been planning on cleaning the carpets that week. (Oh God.) In a crisis, I revert to my Lutheran training, which left me in this situation with two options: 1) casserole, or 2) gift basket.
Which is how I ended up traipsing the aisles of my local Trader Joe’s this afternoon, wondering exactly what one puts in a “Dog Poop Apology” basket.
Here’s what I went with:
Because remember, kids, nothing says “Sorry about that poop” like a combination of alcohol, air freshener, and a shameless attempt to renew positive associations with the color brown. 😀