A woman with a paw print tattooed onto her clavicle knocked on my front door on Monday afternoon. She was returning Louie, and I had been anticipating her in urgent anxiety all day.

"It's daddy Skylar's fault." I had prepared this simple monologue of blame earlier that morning. I needed to make sure no egg would land on my face for this one. Had it been up to me, Louie's life would have continued in unfettered bliss, even if at the expense of our wellbeing and the wellbeing of the various shoes he has destroyed.

But Skylar had called me while I was out of town for work the week before. I was distracted and so didn't really think about what he was saying. "I'm ready to send this brat to boarding school like a mean stepmom from a 90s children's film," he yelled.

"What now?"

These are words I say at Skylar often when he calls me and begins a rant mid stream, as if I was there for the events and thoughts that preceded whatever he just said.

"Ugh," he has muttered to me from time to time when I remind him he needs to give me context for some dramatic declaration he has just shouted at me. "It's so annoying that you aren't just inside my head."

"What brat? What boarding school?" I interrupted to ask him as he continued.

"Louie," he clarified. "We've been trying to get him to stop jumping on people for a year and today he ran down the street and I had to chase him in my underwear and he's not getting any better and I think we need help."

Skylar sounded desperate and stressed, and he asked me what I thought of the boarding school idea. I wasn't there, and I told him I would support whatever decision he made on this. The very next day, Skylar dropped Louie off at some place with dog trainers who have paw prints tattooed onto their clavicles. The texts that followed and interrupted my work conference for the better part of an afternoon were soaked in guilty desperation.

"Did we do the right thing?" he asked at one point. "Louie looked at me when I left the facility like I was giving him up for adoption."

"We?" I responded. "Don't pin this cruelty on me. This was allllll you, bucko."

I may have missed the "for better or worse" part of our wedding ceremony.

But I did think Skylar was being a bit dramatic. The dog would be staying somewhere for five days. Sure, we'd feel a tinge of guilt during that time. In our weakest moments, we'd even miss him. Until we reminded ourselves that he recently pulled an entire pan of brownies off of the kitchen counter, ate all of them within 12 seconds, and then spent the next 72 hours shitting all over the house.

"He'll be fine," I assured Skylar that night when he called me to bemoan his life choices.

"I think I'm just stressed about how hard it's going to be when we have to take him back for round two in a couple of weeks," he told me.

"Oh?" I said. "I didn't know he had to go back again. So he does two five-day sessions?"

And then Skylar said something at me that he swears he had told me already but I swear he didn't and if I was being honest I would have to admit that it was more likely he did tell me this thing and I just wasn't listening. But I wasn't being honest.

Skylar responded to my "so he does two five-day sessions?" question by saying: "What? No. He goes back for THREE FULL WEEKS."





And look. I was not prepared for this information. Which is why a string of profanities then erupted from my mouth. All of the profanities. Every one of them. Even profanities we retired during the Great Depression. I was automatically given a Vaudeville residency by the time I was done yelling my old-timey profanities.

I was not emotionally prepared for a three-week separation.

"He won't even love us at the end of that!" I yelled to Skylar.

"Does he love us now?" he asked.

"I don't know!"

Over the next few days I talked nonstop to Skylar about whether we could cancel everything and get our money back. The topic occupied my mind and all of my energy, until, finally, the clavicle tattoo woman showed up with a polite version of the monster we had deposited.

Louie walked into the house with an air of noble yet demure greeting. It was like in The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews gets married and then comes back a mature woman.

The trainer sat with me for 90 minutes, showing off the various tricks Louie had learned. She walked me through some practices and extensive homework assignments we were supposed to perform every day until it was time to bring him back. Louie performed masterfully.

"Maybe we don't need any more training!" I hopefully thought. "Maybe we can just cancel the three-week visit!"

The moment the trainer left, Louie looked me dead ass in the eyes, walked over to the coffee table, and in one aggressive move of his front paw, cleared it of all of its contents.

Yesterday he started smoking and we think he may be in a gang now.

We can't wait for him to go back.

~It Just Gets Stranger