QUINN: We need to talk about your nighttime friends.
DOG: You mean the special cats?
DOG: I love the special cats!
QUINN: Those aren’t cats. Cats don’t come out only at night. Cats don’t have a white stripe running down their backs. When a large affable dog bumbles up to them, cats don’t raise their tails and saturate the dog in breathtakingly foul-smelling oil.
The dog thinks a moment.
DOG: What are you saying?
QUINN: Okay, if I promise to set up play-dates with the Petunia (the pug next door) and Dolce and Gabbana (the Boston terriers up the block), and maybe throw in a couple of pig’s ears every week, could you possibly stop making yourself the recruiting poster for a career in HAZMAT?
DOG: You bet.
That conversation would be sweet. Of course, I also think it would totally rock if the dog could carry and utilize her own plastic poop bags. I know with absolute certainty that the day Johnny Depp pulls up to the sidewalk to ask me directions, I won’t be carrying Prada.
Sometimes, I think we keep Dog around because it comforts us humans to know that no matter what we do, we are still not the dumbest mammal in the house.
Late Saturday night I woke from a sound sleep to Consort shouting “Oh NO! You (expletive deleted) idiot!” followed immediately by the sounds of dog being dragged to back door, the back door being opened, the dog being ejected and the back door being slammed. Hard.
I decided it was wise to get up. I walked from the bedroom corridor into a solid wall of vile odor. Consort was returning from the back room with a towel over his nose.
I said, “She got skunked?”
Consort shot me a piercing look which said “...for the sake of our child and our future together, I’m going to let that pass.”
Pointing to a pattern of drops on hardwood floor, he said, "She had to go out. I let her out. She must have gotten this close to the skunk because she was dripping stink-oil all the way across the damn house.”
This is one of those situations where being physically defective comes in handy. Thanks to a lifetime of sinus problems, my nose has only two gears : 1) There is a smell present; and 2) There is no smell. I don’t recognize big smell versus little smell. This is why I am not allowed to apply my own perfume. [Remember the weird kid from grade school who walked around half the year with a Kleenex permanently attached to her nose? The one who had laminated doctor’s notes excusing her from outdoor exercise? That was me.]
So while Consort was gagging and retching and clawing at the window, my brain was saying, “Skunk... Huh... You might want to do something about that.”
I sent Consort to the bedroom, opened all the windows, and washed the skunk-saturated side of the house in Murphy’s Oil soap. I waited twenty minutes and rewashed the floor yet again. Twenty minutes later, I invited Consort back out into the main part of the house. He stuck his nose in nervously.
“So,” I asked. “Any better?”
“It’s like…” he said cautiously, clearly not wanting to dismiss my post-midnight mop marathon. “…It’s like a skunk. A skunk with a pine-scented air freshener around its neck.”
I sent him back to the bedroom and washed the floor again, this time with vinegar-based solution. Consort was recalled. He sniffed.
“Now it’s a skunk making Easter eggs.”
I dismissed him and lit some lavender and jasmine candles. I called Consort back.
“A skunk having a massage? Maybe a little Windom Hill music might help?”
I gave up and went to bed.
If I wanted to be a positive sort of person, I could focus on how our dog tends to be an eager-to-please pet. Granted, she only has seven brain cells, two of which are dedicated to eating Kleenex, but when she does something wrong, she looks appropriately abashed. She has no idea what just went wrong or how to avoid doing it again, but my standing there shouting in her direction makes her manifest some form of canine guilt. I know this because she gets this “guilty eyebrow” thing – an expression of such pure, pitiful sorrow I lack the literary skills to describe it , so you’re simply going to have to take my word for it.
The cat is a whole different story. I guess being a completely different species might have something to do with it. The cat and I could have had the following conversation this weekend:
INT. LIVING ROOM
Cat is grooming her stomach. Quinn walks in and sits down on the couch next to cat.
QUINN: Lulabelle, we need to talk. I found another one today. You’re out of control. You need to recognize this. You need help.
Quinn waits. Cat continues grooming. After a minute or so, cat looks up.
CAT: Oh, hey. When did you get here? Shouldn’t you be pouring out kitty stars or something?
QUINN: No, we’re not talking about food right now. We’re talking about birds. Birds in my house. Baby birds. Elderly birds. Wounded birds. Dead birds. And what appeared to be a Cessna. You have to stop this.
CAT has fixated on removing something from between her toes. After a while, she glances at Quinn.
CAT: You like it well enough when I kill mice and rats.
QUINN: Yes, because they are vermin. They eat cheese. They poop tiny cigars. They spread plague. Most birds are harmless.
CAT: Tell you what. I’ll tear the wings off the birds, and you can pretend they’re mice.
QUINN: That’s it. I’m getting you into rehab.
CAT: Fine. I’ll kill all their birds. Then they’ll send me back here and I’ll do something unspeakable in your closet.
Lu is a portly, middle-aged cat. After the Stink-Eye incident, I belled her – which, to those of you who are too smart to own a cat, means I attached a little bell on her collar. Of course, she merely considers this a sporting handicap and continues to stalk and capture birds with gusto. If she had her own nature show, I’d watch it. Being in the middle of a nature show, however, wears on a person.
I’m not a fan of indoor/outdoor cats, especially in my neighborhood where children learn about the automotive risks to pet life early and often. But she came to us as an adult, having already been “owned” by two other families on the block (I think she arrives in the Welcome Wagon gift basket) and she has always been an indoor/outdoor cat. There are just so many times you can fling yourself between the cat and the front door as if saving a fellow soldier from a live grenade before you start to say, “Fine! Go outside. See if I care!” It may be good preparation for having a teenage daughter, something I can’t even begin to consider at this juncture.
But I will promise you one thing: if the cat starts dragging in skunks, I’m moving and I am not leaving a forwarding address.