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Worldwide Ace » Friend or Foe

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Friend or Foe

9 March, 2009 (10:14) | Random

dog-walker

The huffing and snuffling had roused me a few minutes earlier, but wrapped in the soft down comforter, I had chosen to ignore it, rolling over and descending into dreamland once more. This time, however, the sounds of my canine companions dragged me into a slouched position like a marionette pulled up by the strings.

The three dogs bounced and spun by the door, the old one teetering back and forth on her arthritic legs. I stumbled from bed, sleep still stuck in the corners of my eyes, fully intent on letting the trio out into the backyard and then crawling back toward slumber. Little did I know that the fates had conspired and my simplistic desire were already thwarted.

Last week, I was house-sitting for my aunt and uncle north of Denver. It might be more apt to say dog-sitting as I was watching their two old beagles and their little fox-like dog. Despite being married for thirteen years, they’ve either chosen or been unable to have kids and have supplemented their household with beagles, the latest addition being a sweet but poorly trained 8-year old named Coco whom they found through Beagle rescue. Kelsey, whom they’ve had for as long as I can remember, is the senior of the group. She suffers from coughing fits, waddles at her fastest speed, is partially blind and deaf, and is going gray, which I’ve never seen in a dog before.

The third and smallest dog is the chubby Lucy. If you could take a thick sausage link and give it a head, four stubby legs, and a quickly wagging tail, you’d get Lucy. The tiniest member of the crew is also the most skittish. It took half the week before she’d even let me near enough to her to touch her. Now that things have warmed between us, she can’t leave me alone. While doing sit ups the other day, I startled when her tongue began lapping the salty sweat off my ribs with no warning. She startled in turn when I jolted upright and turned wide-eyed toward her, my elbow slapping firmly against my side in defense.

My aunt and uncle live in a lovely home in a subdivision in North Glenn, Colorado. The house’s two levels, a main floor and a basement, have been decked out in childish glee with the latest in technology. They have a roomba, three TVs including two big screens–one of which is a 64″ rear-projection centerpiece to a home theater that shakes the foundation with bassy thunder and the other is a 50″ plasma conveniently hung in the living room–satellite TV with the works, and two high end computers for WoW. If they had a wireless router and a game console or two, it would be a gamer’s paradise.

The coup de gras, however, is the kitchen, featuring a two thousand dollar espresso machine–which I think makes shitty coffee–a fabulous electric stove and an industrial fridge and microwave. Every time I wandered in, it was as if the little cloudy daydream bubble popped above a chef’s head and this kitchen came tumbling out, somehow finding itself situated in this house.

There were a few other perks of the job: access to my uncle’s beautiful Chrysler 300C, a nice change of scenery, the relative proximity to Boulder (a 30 minute drive instead of 45), and, most importantly, the privacy–assuming the three dogs don’t mar the semblance of privacy. There were also downsides: loneliness, no true space of my own, having to deal with my own meals, TV addiction. Overall, though, it was a reasonable change of pace, though I don’t feel like I accomplished much.

I stumbled out of my feathery haven and carefully traversed the bedroom floor, the dogs anxiously awaiting my arrival. I gripped the gate and moved it back above the stairs, allowing them access to the house once more. Lucy and Kelsey immediately made for the backyard door while Coco, as per usual, plopped his rotund frame in front of the cupboard with the dog treats.

I shook my head as the light poured in through the now open doorway. The dogs burst outside, Coco following after a firm “no” disparaged his dreams of chicken jerky goodness.

SIDE NOTE: My uncle is insane when it comes to his dogs. “When you make a hamburger and you have a few leftover,” he instructed, “just go ahead and give them to the dogs.” When they first got Lucy, she was this tiny, spry little dog. Now she’s pudgy and thick like the overweight beagles they cultivate. Kelsey is too old and worn down to go for walks, but the other two simply don’t have the stamina to go very far. I tried jogging with them, but Coco tires out fast. It’s disturbing. Every time they come in from outside, which is 3-8 times a day depending on whether I’ve gone somewhere for a couple hours, they get in a flurry for treats. I ran out, midweek, of the normal treats because Coco would howl and bark until they got theirs. Now, I just go sit down and they eventually give up.

With the dogs ejected, I glanced back at the kitchen, noticing the dog bowls were empty. Grogily, I stumbled toward the pantry, my eyesight hazy without my glasses, my lids drooping lazily in an attempt to remain half-awake.

The door to the pantry creaked open, the aroma of dog food wafting outward from the large plastic container in which it was stored.

“Holy shit!” I leapt backward as a small black shape scurried across the tattered remains of dog food. That is the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen! The shape darted around the inside of the nearly empty container, its blurry visage trapped in its plastic prison. My heart began to calm as I realized it was unable to traverse the walls out.

I leaned in, squinting for better reception in my ocular antennae. It wasn’t a cockroach at all. It was a mouse. The small gay rodent fearfully cut from side to side like a crack addict going through withdrawal at rehab.

Mouse by Nicole Belanger - nicolebelanger.com

Soundly awake at this point, I snatched a magazine and the plastic cup used to scoop the food. I trapped the mouse beneath the container and slid the magazine underneath, as I would do to relocate a spider outside. Carefully, I lifted, feeling the small frame scurrying in its makeshift carrying case.

The door to the backyard was closed firmly since the dogs would tear up the mesh mosquito netting if I had left the outer door the only barrier. I gently reached for the handle, trying my best to hold the magazine firm and the cup on top as I twisted the handle.

I felt the mouse escape before the door had budged. It’s tiny body leaping grandiosely to the floor as I sprang away. It was beneath the couch and gone with the tiniest movement from me.

A mixture of relief and annoyance flashed through me. On the one hand, I was upset the mouse had gotten away. I had done so well to trap and evacuate it from the pantry, and yet it escaped. On the other, I was pleased it was alive as I loathe the thought of causing harm.

I let the dogs back inside, aware that returning to bed was no longer an option. Flopping on the couch, I soon found Lucy crawling into my lap, her belly revealed to me in hopes of a rub. It was all the comfort I needed and all I would get.

“I wonder if the poison’s still good,” my aunt said, shaking the mousetrap. Immediately I regretted telling them of my rodent encounter.

When I was small, I used to rescue injured mice from the cats and try to nurse them back to health. Not one survived, but it didn’t stop me from trying. My parents set up an old aquarium as a cage in the kitchen and I would watch as they slowly faded over a few weeks.

Perhaps poison is more humane than a cat, but the end result is still the same. In some ways, I hope the mouse gets out of that death trap of a house. In the back of my mind, though, I know it won’t.

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