Today is Henry’s fourth birthday. I wish I could buy him a steak or a hamburger or a hot dog or something meaty he would adore, but Henry is one of those persnickety allergic white dogs who has to eat a very strict and limited diet, otherwise he scratches down to the skin and looks like hamburger meat himself. God, it’s awful if he goes off his pitiful little diet. I used to cook for Henry: fresh meat, veggies, and I’d give him flax seed oil. Now, he just eats this canned single ingredient crap that he just loves and the espresso cup full of the dog cereal that he also just loves and with which I bribe him. And he’s perfect. Thank God for the vet who told me to take him off the healthy and nutritious diet I was giving him and convinced me to put him on the canned crap.
I got Henry because I always wanted a dog, my whole life, and never had one, other than the dogs my mother would bring home once in a while for my brother because he had no father and would promptly give away once the dog did something unseemly in the house as dogs are want to do. Neiman, the cocker spaniel, Flipper, the boxer, Count JoJo, the miniature poodle, Coleen, the dachshund (whom my sister called dog do), they all made brief tenures chez nous and they all departed not very long after they arrived. I loved them all.
My son and I longed for a dog when he was growing up, and when he was punished in school for skipping (which happened more than I care to discuss) he would always opt for working at the pound to be near the pups. And once he brought home a picture he had taken there of the dog he wanted with all his heart but our horrible landlord whom I’ve written about before, wouldn’t let us have him. FUCK HIM. And curse his memory. I’m glad he’s dead. But enough of that. I’m over all that as of 2016. Bud Riley villain of my early years in LA, I let thee go….at least I hope I do.
Anyway, my son grew up dog-less and left home. We moved to a dog friendly place and then when my son’s cat died, my shrink who is a devout dog-a-phile, told me it was time I grew up and got a dog.
The first dog I brought home was from a rescue place I’d been told about that operated out of the back of a clothing store on Montana in Santa Monica. I had requested a small dog, one I could carry with me between LA and New York, and so it came to pass that I got a call one day, and the doggie rescue person told me she had a perfect little poodle for me and I should come and get her. I got in the car and did just that.
She was a sweet little white thing and she had come from a terrible home and her name, God help her, turned out to be Mary. Why on earth would anyone, even a rescue person who is bored already with the naming of dogs, name a dog Mary?
Mary wasn’t “my dog” and I ended up taking her back with a huge donation to the pet rescue place after a couple of days. It took me nearly a year to get over the experience and to this day I wake up in the middle of the night and worry about Mary. Would I have kept her if she hadn’t had the same bloody name as I do? And if she hadn’t come from a terrible place where she was abused reminding me of things I’d like to forget? I have no idea. All I know is that she broke my heart, and every time I looked at her I wanted to cry. Poor Mary.
Just around the time my shrink was reminding me that I had always wanted a dog, I reconnected with Nodie Williams who comes from Shreveport and also went to the convent I went to: St. Vincent’s home for wayward girls. Nodie raises Jack Russells, at Frayed Knot Farm in Arkansas. If you ever want a Jack Russell call Nodie. She said she had a little guy named Seamus, who was the runt of his litter and had a very sweet nature. I sent Nodie a check, she started calling Seamus “Henry”, and I proceeded to be scared out of my mind for the next weeks, until I got down to Arkansas and met Henry, my perfect little pup, whose been by my side ever since.
Actually Henry isn’t perfect. He’s a maniac. He barks for no good reason, he snips at children, once in a while he raises his leg at the front door, but I’ve never met a better little doggie or one who is a better match for me and my husband. And Nodie was right. He’s unbelievably sweet… when he wants to be, he’s a perfect little angel.
Henry started out in a horrible little dog cage known as “the crate”, then we axed the crate, he took over a chiropractic pillow that was supposed to cure my neck, and then of course the thing happened that we swore would never happen, he sleeps in the bed with us. Right between us in fact.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, when I reach out to pat Henry, I’ll find myself holding hands with my husband who has also reached out to do the same: find Henry.
He’s our great solace, our funny little dog child, our ferocious little fellow and the fucking best dog in the world.
Would I trade him for a well behaved dog? No. Yes. Sometimes. But actually no. Henry is my beast, and I’m his person. And that’s that.
Maybe my washing machine was just fed up with all the loads it has been churning out during the recent rodent crises—maybe (and this really freaks me out) the mice ate something vital—I shimmied myself between the shelf above the washing machine and the machine itself, poked my head behind and saw, yes, more mouse shit. I’ve yet to figure out how to get behind there. I guess I’ll drop a trap there, perhaps with a fishing pole.
This morning when I was running the first load of the day, at 7 a.m. right after I came in from walking Henry, a terrible noise erupted from the machine. Think of the biggest imbalance noise with ten pairs of sneakers and multiply that by ten and you’ll have an idea of the noise that I heard coming from the machine. Like the invasion of Afghanistan. I turned it off, opened the door and smoke was billowing out, and the terrible stench of burnt rubber filled my nostrils.
That was the good part.
The bad part is Sears Customer Service. And the home repair phone queue, where a computer has just told me that they now have a brand new computer that understands full sentences. Naturally, the sophisticated computer did not understand my carefully modulated sentence. So, now I’m in the all too familiar hell of being in line with the call volume “unusually high.” And the computer voice telling me over and over that if I visit them online I’ll have better results.
Why oh why am I in every phone queue with unusually high call volume? I’ll tell you why… Because there are not enough outsourced phone representatives, even in Mumbai or Manila where that’s a good job and “big company” doesn’t have to pay living wage, never mind benefits. I will go even farther and speculate that no one responsible for foisting this dishonest, unethical way of doing business with its customers has ever had to wait through a call line; blood pressure rising, nerves tingling with hatred, kicking and shrieking. Or had to endure being put on hold where one is hounded every five seconds with the reminder that “your business is very important to us.” Never mind, the horrible spirit-crushing background musak. Musak. Perhaps that was the real beginning of the end. A portent no one recognized.
Having visited India some years ago, I have nothing but pity for the poor men and women who have to politely put up with being yelled at by Americans day in and day out. Does anybody do anything BUT yell at the souls who politely and firmly read from their scripts and listen as we shriek at them? And who must by the standards of their country consider themselves not only lucky but also privileged.
I haven’t visited the Philippines but I’m sure I would feel the same: pity for the people. And guilt when I shriek at them.
Yet what am I to do?
I’m holding for Mumbai, as I type this. It’s been now forty minutes. And when someone finally gets on, it’s going to be ugly. I’m going to yell, and the individual at the other end is going to calmly, implacably read from the script.
We are all so inured to the whole corrupt system where we know that if something breaks, the best thing to do is throw it out and buy another cheap-shit-badly-made replacement and the sooner the better.
Anything, anything is better than being on hold waiting for Mumbai, or wherever it is that I’m calling.
I left the back door open a couple of weeks ago and now much to my disgust and horror, we have a mouse, or two mice, or God forbid, a pregnant mouse who will hatch more little mice behind the sofa or in one of the closets, or behind the washer dryer, or up on the ledge above the kitchen sink. I’ve found those revolting little half moons of rodent shit in all of the aforementioned places in the past few days. Also, he/she/they have torn through one of my little cloth bags with their horrible little teeth. Now all the fruit has to go in the fridge. Because I found little teeth-marks in the apples. My husband and I both hate cold fruit.
We can’t put out those hideous traps because Henry could get himself hurt or traumatized though not as traumatized as I feel even thinking about those little critters. And speaking of Henry, why isn’t he doing something about this? Isn’t he supposed to take care of this situation? I certainly can’t, I don’t have the nerves, the sang froid, the lack of squeamishness it takes to deal with this. My husband who is only appearing late at night, due to the TV show he is working on, can do the manly thing, if he were around more. In fact, the last time he went mouse hunting, I think he rather enjoyed himself. I hovered in the other room when, with rubber gloves and in his underpants and wearing his eyeglasses he’d go first thing in the morning to check the trap he’d set out. And within days the culprit would be assassinated. And the mouse shit, gone. The only time I ever came face to face with a mouse was one who got in the kitchen garbage can some years ago, he/she/ had crawled down, and when I went to go put a fresh bag in, there it was its little face, its little peep, its little tail, ears and so on. I took it outside and let it scamper off, what was I to do?
Today, I went to the farmer’s market and discussed the situation with the large man in a caftan and beads who sells lavender and potpourri. He solved the ant and moth situation some time ago.
“Baby,” he said. “You got to get you some mint oil.” It was very costly, this mint oil; it comes in a little amber bottle that was just like the bottles that coke came in. I was tempted to ask him if he sold something else, as he was mumbling, “They run the fuck away from the mint.”
Still and all, I don’t know why I’m so afraid of them, why other than the fact that mouse shit is fairly revolting, unhygienic, not to mention hazardous to one’s health, am I so frightened of something so small, so cute in certain circles, someone named Mickey, (whom I always hated). Or even Amos? Which is my dear son’s name, and also the name of the mouse in Amos and Boris, one of the great children’s tales: Amos, as in, a mouse.
What did a mouse ever do to me?
I can stand on my head; I can stand on my hands, walk after dark in tunnels under freeways, stay by myself in the woods, but not confront a mouse?
I don’t get it.
Is there –yet another—trauma in my past connected to the sight of a mouse? Or is this phobia, something genetic, a musophobic gene I was born with?
One of my all time favorite short stories, by the master, I.B. Singer, involves a man named Herman, his pet mouse Hulda, and his woman visitor, Rose, who saves his life during a bout of the flu and also saves the life of Herman’s pet mouse. It sounds very corny and cartoony, but The Letter Writer is one of the best short stories ever written. And these past days, as I’ve searched hither and yon for mouse shit, I’ve tried to think of Herman, the letter writer, who loved the mouse, and eventually the woman who saved the mouse from starving to death. In the pivotal scene of the story, it’s the middle of the night; Herman awakens after many days of near death. The mouse Hulda appears and Rose, Herman’s visitor, sets out a bowl of milk and they watch Hulda drink. This beautiful story ends on this revelatory moment.
No such revelatory moment exists here with my mouse and me. I hope mint oil works, or my husband comes home and sets out the trap and I don’t have to deal with it in any way, shape or form.
And oh how I wish, or should I say, OY how I wish, (this being Chanukah) that the mouse was scared of me or even better, just plain scared shitless.