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A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Last night, after I put up that lame excuse for a post I did as I’d hoped—plopped my ass down on the couch to start watching the stuff I’ve taped in the last week. It’s kind of a jumble and I no longer had any idea what was on which tape. I just popped in the first one to hand, rewound to the start, and found that it was an episode of Arrested Development, which was just the thing. I settled in with the marriage-saving headphones on and commenced to enjoying the epic failings of the Bluth family.

About twenty minutes in I heard a noise. Thinking it was the baby, I slid the headphones off and listened. Nothing. Then I heard voices outside. I had left the back door open so that Doggy Dog could be free to come and go in response to the calls of nature. I wandered back that way, wondering what was up. As I got closer, I realised that I was hearing the sounds of an animal-involved scuffle. It was the sort of noise I’ve heard before. I hurried out in what I guess was a panic. I didn’t even think to turn the porch light on.

Doggy Dog was at the bottom of the stairs, and he was in a fight with something. I don’t know why, but my first thought was that a raccoon had gotten into our yard. I yelled “No!” and “Drop it!” but he wasn’t listening. I realised that the voices I’d heard were coming from our neighbours. Our back yard is like France; it abuts five adjacent properties. Three sets of neighbours were looking over their fences, trying to figure out what was going on. P, the lady to the west of us, said something about a doggy, and I thought for a moment that the little dog I’d seen sometimes in her yard had somehow crossed the fence and was now being mauled by our big dog.

That was all in a second or two, as I was rushing down the stairs. I reached out to grab Doggy Dog’s collar, but there was only fur. We must have taken his collar off at some point and forgotten it. He started to yelp, and I could finally see that the critter he was fighting with was a cat. He had it in his mouth, and it was fighting back, its claws sunk in his muzzle. He yelped, but he wouldn’t let go. I kept yelling, pointlessly.

I was woefully unprepared. I was in my bathrobe, I had no light, and nothing to grab onto. Doggy Dog barrelled under the stairs and around the corner of the house. By the time I got around to the side alley, the fight was over. The cat had stopped struggling, so her dropped it. It didn’t move. I herded Doggy Dog back up the steps. By this time, Mama Dog had gotten up from bed. I had her take Doggy Dog back into the house.

One of the neighbours to the north was worried that the cat might be his. I got my Maglite® and took a look. It was a grey cat with black stripes and a white belly. I didn’t mention the big gash in its side. It was dead. The description was close enough that the guy came around and took a look. He was relieved to find it wasn’t his cat. I guess I was too. He said they’ve had bad luck with cats since moving to the neighbourhood, having lost another one to a car. He gave me some advice about carcass disposal which turned out to be fairly accurate in the fullness of time. We looked down at the unfortunate animal. “That’s a dead cat all right,” I observed, wondering if maybe he’d disagree.

I went back in the house. Doggy Dog had scratches on his face and paws, but nothing serious. He had tracked blood into the house and was busily licking it up. He panted, eyes shining with lingering bloodlust. I couldn’t be mad at him. This is his nature. Cats are his prey. He was just doing what he was built to do. Still, for the first time since he joined our household I found myself looking at my dog with revulsion.

I went back down with the flashlight, a couple of garbage bags, some rubber gloves, and a cardboard box. Mama dog asked me if I thought I needed a shovel or something. I said no, I’d just pick it up like it was dog poop. Turns out that’s simpler in theory than in practice. A dead cat is a lot bigger and a lot heavier than a mound of dog poo, and getting that first bag around it was a tricky proposition. I had to shift and manoeuvre and actually touch the poor thing’s fur, which I’d been hoping to avoid. Once the cat was in, I knotted the bag. The second bag went around easier, and I knotted that too. It was easy to pick the carcass up then, by the knot of the outer bag. I lowered it carefully into the cardboard box, then put the box in our big lidded recycle bin. I was feeling strangely like Chris Eccleston in Shallow Grave.

While I was cleaning up the remains, Mama Dog had been examining Doggy Dog’s injuries and researching carcass disposal on the Internet. She bleached the gloves I’d used and wiped down the surfaces I’d touched. Doggy Dog helpfully cleaned up his own blood trail. I had to stop him because I couldn’t stand the sound.

I had no naïveté about the fact that our dog is a carnivorous predator. He’s injured animals before. This was the third time I’d seen him with a cat in his mouth; it was just the first time that circumstances had allowed him to complete his job. I couldn’t help feeling he’d crossed a line. “I’m never going to look at him quite the same way again,” I told Mama Dog, who looked heartbroken at the thought. Earlier that evening, when Mama Dog had first gone to bed and I had first sat down to type my faversham post, she had invited Doggy Dog up onto the bed over my objections. “I wish he’d just stayed on the bed with you,” I said.

In some ways, it was hard to fathom. Why would a cat be stupid enough to come into this yard? And if it was stupid enough to come into the yard, why wasn’t it fast enough to get away from our big, slow-moving dog? I would have thought any cat could outrun him. “Any cat who comes into our yard is looking to die,” I said to Mama Dog, trying to make myself feel better.

Things calmed down. Mama Dog went back to bed. I sat down in front of the teevee again, trying to take my mind off it. I finished Arrested Development and watched last week’s episode of The Shield. I didn’t want to go to sleep. When I finally turned in, it was slow in coming. I kept feeling this nagging doubt. What do I know about pronouncing an animal dead? What if I’d bagged up the cat while it was still alive? What if I opened the box up in the morning and found the bar torn open? Sleep was a long time coming.

We spent the morning today trying to find out how to get rid of a dead animal on a weekend. There are official channels to go through, but finding out about them takes persistence. It’s a lot easier just to toss the body in the Bay. We persisted. We finally drove out to the Animal Control facility near Alameda. They took the box with no fanfare. We didn’t even have to fill out any forms, which seems wrong to me. The idea of turning the carcass in to Animal Control is that if there are owners looking for their missing cat, they can find out definitively from Animal Control. They didn’t even ask us where the cat had come from. I really kind of think it was feral. It had no collar, it was very stupid, and it belonged to none of our immediate neighbours. If someone’s missing this cat, I hope we can find out soon and let them know what happened.

We took a quick look in at the dogs in the shelter. They were pathetically hopeful and their cages stank. One little puppy, some short of shepherd mix, gnawed gleefully at my knuckle through the cage. It’s no doubt a kill shelter. Most of the dogs we were looking at will probably follow our unlucky little parcel into the incinerator within the month. All in all, it was one of the most depressing places I’ve even been to in my life. There was a donation box by the counter. I slipped a couple of dollars into it and we went home. Our dog greeted us eagerly upon return. That’s his job, too.


Anonymous Mama Dog Duvalier said...

One thing I'll never forget about last night was the post-mauling stench of death that Doggy Dog brought into the kitchen. It was a most putrid smell: that of blood, guts, and adrenaline. It was an evil smell that I wanted exorcized from our house immediately, which is why I got out the bucket of bleach and started vigorously scrubbing the bloody pawprints off the hard wood floor.

I felt differently about Doggy Dog after the incident, too. He's lost his innocence, I thought. Then I pondered how much worse the mauling could have been: it could've been a neighbor's cat; he could've gotten severely scratched up from the struggle; he could have only injured the cat, meaning that we'd have had to pay a large vet bill. And then what?

Trying to make light of last night's horrific events, I joked with Papa Dog that we should rename Doggy Dog (though not his real name) "O.J." because of the bloody trail of footprints leading to the scene of the crime. Oh, and the Akita connection, of course. Papa Dog joked back that maybe Doggie Dog would spend the rest of his life hunting down the real killer.

The weirdest thing is that I still trust Doggie Dog with Baby Dog. As Cornfed & Marjorie Knoller have probably said, "He's really such a sweetheart and wouldn't hurt anybody!" And he is... around people. He just hates other animals.

9:22 PM  

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