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The kids are playing in the basement; the decibel level is akin to a rock concert. I ask my husband to close the door and search for serenity within my fiction cocoon. I am nearly in the zone when I hear feet pounding on the stairs. Small is whining before he bursts into the kitchen. Since his father is the first parental unit he’ll encounter, I stay on the couch and do my best to ignore their conversation. I am semi-successful until I catch a sentence that concludes with “Mommy.” I am needed. Sighing, I look up from my book. Small is heading in my direction; his face tear-tracked and dirty. I sit up and put on a sympathetic expression. I reach for him, ready to whisper words of comfort and absorb all his hurt feelings, but he hurries past me with nary a glance. Throwing himself on the dog bed next to Paco (who sighs as deeply as I had), Small breathes deeply of musty dog and closes his eyes.

“Brendan?” I call. “What did you just tell Henry?”

“I told him to go snuggle with you or the dog.”

Small stops sucking his thumb long enough to give me an unsolicited one sentence explanation: “Paco cheers me up faster.”

Knowing that my child, whom I spent hours laboring to bring into this world without the benefit of pain-dulling drugs, whom I love, counsel, and care for, whose physical and psychological well-being I put before my own, whose head I have held, butt I have wiped, and knees I have kissed, whose everyday actions I chronicle in the hopes that they might, someday, promote fleeting, happy thoughts…he prefers the dog’s company over mine?

That’s just fabulous.

And the Mommy of the Year award goes to a neutered, middle-aged, red dog whose favorite hobbies are surreptitious sleeping on the furniture and overt cleaning of his ass. “He just makes me happy,” says his son.

Humble pie does not go down well. It almost always gets caught in the throat.

I’ve been so busy over the last two weeks that I have hardly had time to breathe, let alone write. Rest assured that I have been reflecting upon many deep thoughts and if I can ever retrieve them from the recesses of my brain, I will be sure to post them. In the meantime, I give you this little bit of crazy:

Yesterday, like so many days, was a whirlwind. Unlike so many days, my scheduled activities required that I fire the few cylinders left in my head. By late-afternoon, I was mentally exhausted. I mean I could barely speak. In fact, I stopped speaking altogether after leaving the very expensive, yet-healthy-and-delicious grocery store where I purchased two pounds of grass-fed, organic, locally butchered, pre-cooked meatballs from their deli case because I could not bear the idea of making dinner from scratch.

If you follow OINKtales on Facebook, you know that I have been carbohydrate-free since Monday and that I have been more tired and even crankier than usual (if that’s possible). How I miss my beloved bagels, pastas and cereals! I agreed to try this experiment at my husband’s suggestion. “Let’s do it for a week,” he said. I’m pretty sure that he wanted me to do it so that I would cook for him. When he’s done Atkins’ in the past, I told him he was on his own in the kitchen and then continued to prepare delicious meals like lasagna and homemade macaroni and cheese for the kids and I. (If it was for any other reason, he hasn’t said…and if there is one, he had better not.)

But I digress. Back to the story. Small and Medium are in the midst of a tickle fight in the back seat of my car. I am trying to ignore them while I drive and daydream about beef. As I turn into our neighborhood, my cell phone rings. It is one of Large’s friends asking to set up a playdate. My carb-deprived brain stops listening when it registers that it’s seeing two escaped prisoners. I toss my phone on the passenger’s seat and slam on my brakes. My next-door neighbor’s golden retrievers are headed for adventure on the open road. They are the picture of happiness – tongues lolling and tails waving. For a long second I debate: should I let them go or try to catch them?

I spring from the car whistling and calling to them. I don’t know their names. They come over to me anyway and I grab their collars. They are huge dogs. I am wearing heels. Neither dog appreciates being caught and they begin twisting and pulling to get away. I struggle to keep my balance and hang on. In this moment, I come to the instant and awful realization that with both of my hands full of furry beast, I can do nothing else. Thankfully, I am rescued by another neighbor who weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. “Can I help?” Neighbor #2 shouts.

“Yes!” I yell back, relieved. “Can you grab a dog?”

In the transfer, one of the dogs escapes. Neighbor #2 runs after him. I look back at our cars and see that my children and one of her two children have unbuckled their seat-belts and are standing in the middle of the road. “Get back in the car!” I say sharply. Neighbor #3 drives up, dodges me, the children, my other neighbor and the dogs all the while gawking at us and continues on his merry way. Neighbor #4 pulls up in her SUV. “Everything okay?”

I explain the situation. Neighbor #2 has caught the other dog again. Neighbor #4 generously offers to put the dogs in the back of her SUV. We get one dog in; the other dog runs off. Neighbor #2 chases. I tell Neighbor #4 which house to drive to and follow her, scolding my children to buckle in as we’re driving, hoping the dogs’ owner is home.

I bang on my next-door neighbor’s outside breezeway door. Just when I think no one’s there, the inside breezeway door is opened by a bare-chested, pajama-panted teenage boy that I have not seen in the seven years my next-door neighbor and I have been neighbors. The teen takes one look at me, blanches, and before I can say anything, closes the door in my face.

Now, I don’t think I’m scary looking. At least most of the time. And in this particular instance, I was wearing pants and a shirt that required ironing before I donned them, the aforementioned heels, lipstick and mascara. Maybe he thought I was a Jehovah’s Witness come to proselytize. Maybe he thought I was a Mary Kay representative. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I wanted was to return the damn dog whose origins I was now questioning. Incredulous, I turn to Neighbor #4 who, because of me, is late for an appointment. “I have no idea,” I say to her. “Maybe he went to get a shirt.”

I send Medium home to get our dog leashes, then bang on the door some more, pace, and think dark thoughts about teens today. Neighbor #4 supervises her children and mine and checks her watch. Medium returns with the dog leashes and her father. We leash the dog and encourage Neighbor #4 to get going but she can’t because I unthinkingly parked behind her. I ask my husband to take Medium and our car home.

The door opens half-way and the teen – now shirted – sidles out. His eyes widen at the number of strangers in the driveway. “Dude,” I say impatiently and probably a little shrilly, “We have your dog!”

“Whaat?” He acts baffled and is seemingly unable to look at me. “I didn’t know even know they were out,” he mumbles.

I am irritated and indignant. “It IS your dog, isn’t it? The other one is running up the road and another neighbor is trying to catch him.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Uh, yeah!” I snort.

Neighbor #2 pulls up in her car with the second dog. The teen brings the first one into the house. As he is wordlessly bringing the second dog inside, I call to him sarcastically, “Thank you!” He doesn’t respond.

I need carbs. F#%k this diet.

By the way, in case you’re interested, the house on the other side of ours is for sale.

Robert Frost meet Taro Gomi

I’m fairly certain that this is considered an inappropriate subject but I am going to talk about it nonetheless. This is one advantage of being a little-read blogger. Another is that you don’t have to send out the annual Christmas newsletter because your friends and family have been reading installments all year.

I want to talk about poop. Every member of my family has a poop thing. A few of us like to disappear into the bathroom with reading material and hang out for an indecent amount of time. One of us doesn’t check to make sure he has wiped well enough and so another of us is constantly finding skid marks on his undies on laundry day. Somebody has to be constantly reminded to flush. But when it comes to making Number 2, no member of our family can top the pooping rituals of our family dog.

I’ve explained previously that Paco is a runner. He is, therefore, leash-bound. I am thinking he has some beagle in him because his nose is permanently attached to the ground as soon as we step outdoors. Three seasons of the year, this is fine. Our neighborhood is close to wooded walking trails and in the woods, he is happy. His curly tail bounces, his mouth splits in a doggy grin. When he sees an evergreen scrub tree he circles it like a predator, pees on it several times and then, if the leash holder is lucky, one of his “marks” will turn into a three-legged poop. It’s bizarre. He balances his weight on his front paws (the same paws that he tends to pee on) holding one of his back legs out to the side while arching his back. If a scrub tree is not available, woe is the walker for Paco will only drop the bomb if he is backed up into something prickly. He prefers hemlocks over spruce and pine; he eschews all hardwood varieties. Occasionally, he’ll decide mid-spin that the setting is not quite right and will abort the poop by tugging his human companion to another tree, thereby causing him or her to complain loudly about how weird he is.

Winter has just begun and Paco has already decided that the fluffy white crystals covering his static prey have made them undesirable. The white stuff has so muffled the smells of the woods that it is taking him longer and longer to do his business. When his handlers’ fingers and toes are numb, they beg him to poop on something. When he doesn’t, they conclude he has had ample time to go and will trudge back to the house through the knee deep snow muttering obscenities. On these failed poop days, he will attempt to sneak away to a corner of the living room, release his bowels, and then frolic around in a happy dance. He is often successful. Once, he squeezed out a stealth poop on the cushion of our friends’ couch minutes after we arrived at their house where we were staying for the weekend.

I am at wits end. He is making me crazier than I already am. My children are no longer in diapers. I am done with other mammals’ poop. Is there such a thing as Metamucil for dogs?

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