My phone was propped up on the ledge of the bathtub—a man was asking another man some question about his educational background. I kneeled, hunched, bent, over the side of the tub, my hands emerged in the brown suds, holding down the front legs of a bernedoodle puppy who is growing at a rate of three pounds per week.
His face, once mostly white, was now caked with earth, like he'd been assaulted with a swampy explosion. He stared at me as I squeezed and scrubbed—a look of betrayal. How could I erase his great work?
He'd been left on his own in the backyard so I could participate in this remote deposition in peace. Well, I suppose he wasn't entirely alone. Duncan was with him. But Duncan would prefer not be dragged into this mess and I'll respect his privacy at this time.
The tip off was the silence. He had been out there for 20 or 30 minutes when I realized I couldn't hear him running or barking or growling or pouncing, out through the back window. Silence is his tell, perhaps second only to the sound of needle teeth gnawing on rubber in the next room, his announcement that we've left shoes out again; we seem to do that a lot.
Duncan sat next to me, there on the bathroom floor, watching his canine contemporary staring sullen at the faucet pouring out water soon to be stained by his frolickings.
I should have known better than to leave him unattended. A website told us when we adopted our first puppy that every mistake a dog makes is the fault of the human who raised them. That seemed harsh, and our sensitivities tried to expel this hot take from our brains. And yet, here we are, now five years later, reminding one another that every time Louie pees in the house, it's the other person's fault.
Once I noticed the silence, I walked to the window to investigate, hoping for something undestructive, like a light humping, which I've stumbled upon more times that I imagined I might when I added a second dog to the existing neutered fold.
But there was no humping.
Instead, there sat Duncan under the covered patio, watching—not intervening—his little brother who dwarfs Duncan in size, digging what I can only assume was intended to be my grave, plop!, right in the middle of our grassy suburban yard.
I sprinted out the door to stop him, but the damage was done. By the time I arrived, he had penetrated all the way through the Earth's crust and was making good progress on the Lithosphere. Scientists could only ever dream of accomplishing what this four-month-old monster managed in less than half an hour on a frigid February afternoon using no tools other than his front two bear paws.
He looked at me, pleased, as I pulled him away from his venture and quickly ran him back into the house where I had left my deposition unattended. Duncan followed—there was support in his step.
I rinsed each foot several times, finding the most effective way to clean him—submerging each paw one-by-one into a plastic cup of clean water until the water turned black. After 20 or so passes on each digit, I began to wonder if I needed to write a letter to the local sewage facility to warn them a city's worth of top soil would be making its way to them by dinner.
I clicked the unmute button on my phone with my nose. "No further questions from me," I said. I thought about asking all to excuse the sound of running water and pathetic whimpers, but opted not to put my family emergencies on the record.
Once Louie was sufficiently cleaned, I pulled him out of the tub and dried his feet, one at a time. He had fully submitted to my will by this point and was no longer trying to fight this aristocratic retrenchment into proper gentlemenhood. I didn't make the mistake of confusing the submission for consent or forgiveness. It was nothing other than a forfeiture, one I remember well from being raised by Cathie McCann who on many occasions dragged me out of church services by my ear because I had thrown candy at fellow congregants.
Louie stomped off, traumatized in the way a puppy whose experience with adversity to date had not surpassed one unsuccessful attempt to introduce him to a spacious kennel.
He spent the remainder of the day sulking in some unknown corner while I, man of great suffering, scrubbed the now dirt-stained bathroom.
This week's Strangerville is a double whammy. Check out our regular episode, which includes Meg explaining she was about to go to a conference called "Alphacon." Then listen to our first ever "Emergency Episode" where she details the VERY unexpected and outrageously experience she had there. Spoiler: Meg is a beta.
~It Just Gets Stranger