Monday, May 27, 2019

Naming the Stray

Naming the Stray
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

           Timid and scared, the brown and black dog ran through the village, rooting in garbage and drinking water from the river. People assumed an owner too lazy to take him to a shelter dumped him in the nearby park. He ran too fast and was too wily for anyone to get a good look, but a quick glance showed he was big, about 50 pounds, a shepherd-collie mix. The twisty tail suggested a smidgen of husky or elkhound added in.
            A group of young boys decided to catch him. “Here boy, c’mon.”  Offered food, the dog, shy as a deer, hesitated and decided it was too dangerous. Off he ran. For two weeks, the dog eluded people trying to help him. He grew thinner. He began to limp, most likely from being nicked by a car when he crossed the highway. The boys were persistent. One day, circling him with their bicycles, they managed to capture him. Now what to do?
My son, Leo Egar, was a veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania at the time.  “We’ll give him to Leo,” the boys decided. “He’ll know what to do.” Meanwhile, because of the dog’s large ears, the tips of which flopped down, and the dirt he’d collected in his fur after two weeks of running, the boys named him “Mud Flap.”

 Mud Flap quickly secreted himself behind a wall of boxes in a storage room in our house and came out to eat and drink only when he was alone. Quiet and still, no one would ever think there was a large dog hiding in the room. He liked our other dogs, though, a German Shepherd, named Veronica and a husky, named Keeka. We’d pet Veronica and say, “Good girl, what a nice dog!” and slowly, Mud Flap would emerge from his hiding place to be pet, too. Being around the other dogs helped him overcome his shyness.
Despite his large size, we soon learned Mud Flap was still a puppy. His large  half-floppy ears began to stand straight up, like a shepherd’s. He wasn’t yet house-broken. He chewed things. Everything. The handle on the hammer.  One shoe from every pair I owned. The cord off the vacuum— three times. In the day when cell phones were as large as a telephone receiver and had antennas, he fished the phone out of my purse, undid the Velcro tab on the case, extended the antenna with his teeth and chewed it off.
He had a knack for carrying things, which usually coincided with his desire to chew them. Liter of water? No problem, he bit onto the cap, carried it to his bed and gnawed on the bottle, piercing the plastic and spilling the water all over.  He delicately removed a frying pan left in the kitchen sink, lifting it by the handle.  His biggest find was a long steel bar with curved ends and a lock called “The Club”, used to prevent auto theft. I’d grown tired of wrangling it onto the steering wheel and stashed it on a lower shelf in the utility room. He spotted it, pulled it out and carried it around, the biggest bone ever.
Though the first thought was to place Mud Flap in a good home, he soon endeared himself to the household.  We decided to rename him and keep him. “Chewy” might have worked, but I hoped he would soon limit his prodigious chewing to bones and nylon dog toys. Dennis? His good-natured mischief reminded me of the cartoon character Dennis the Menace, but somehow, the name didn’t quite fit.  He lacked menace— in his world, there was only curiosity and fun.
One morning, the lanky adolescent dog came bounding through the kitchen, the fabric remains of a recently gutted frog squeaky toy hanging from his mouth. He was moving so fast, he had no traction on the linoleum floor, and for a few brief moments, he galloped, without moving forward. We started to laugh and realized how much we’d laughed since he arrived.  The word ‘snicker’ came to mind and we tried it out. Snicker. The name was just right.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Max Gets A Bath

Max Gets a Bath
          By Valerie L. Egar

            Robbie and Amy overheard Mom talking to Dad.  “The only thing I still need to do is give Max a bath.” Max was the family’s chocolate lab. He hadn’t had a bath all winter because it was too cold.
            “That will be a handful,” said Dad. Though Max loved plowing through puddles, running in the rain and swimming in the near-by lake, Max hated baths.
            Mom sighed. “I know, I’m dreading it. I guess I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”
            Robbie and Amy decided to surprise Mom by giving Max a bath when she and Dad were outside in the garden. How hard could it be?
    Robbie ran warm water in the tub.
    “Where’s Max?” Amy asked.
             Robbie and Amy looked on his dog bed. No Max.
             They looked under the kitchen table, where he liked to lie when they ate. No Max.
             They searched every room in the house.
            “I found him!” Amy yelled.  Robbie ran upstairs.  Max was hiding his head under Robbie’s bed, but the rest of his body didn’t fit.
            “We see you,” Robbie said.
            Max thumped his tail.
            “Doggie biscuit,” Amy said.
            Max squeezed out and Amy gave him a Beefy Bone. Max crunched and wagged his tail.
            Amy held another in front of Max and walked into the bathroom.
             Max got as far as the doorway and stopped. Baths happened in bathrooms and he could smell water in the tub and shampoo.
            “Come on, Max,” Amy said. “Mmm, Beefy Bone.”  Max stepped forward. Beefy Bones were delicious!
            Robbie clicked the door shut as Amy handed the bone to Max. 
   “Come on boy, jump in the tub!” Max sat.
            Amy tugged on Max’s collar and urged him to jump in.
            Max stretched out on the floor and rolled over.
            “Look, water!” Robbie said. He tried to sound excited.
            Max stood. Amy pulled his collar and Robbie pushed from the rear. Max jumped into the tub with a big splash.
            Robbie lathered Max’s neck first, taking care not to get soap on his face or in his eyes. Amy soaped his back and his long tail.
            “Doesn’t that feel good?” Amy said. Max wagged his tail throwing suds against the wall.
             All of a sudden, Max decided he’d had enough.  With one leap, he jumped out of the tub and shook, exploding water and soap everywhere.
    “You haven’t rinsed off yet!”  Robbie and Amy tried to get him back into the tub, but Max resisted.  He’d had enough of bath time.
“Maybe we can wipe the soap off,” said Robbie.  Amy wet few towels and they rubbed the soap off Max. Then, Amy grabbed more towels and they started to dry him. Max thought it was a game. He shook again and again until the bathroom floor was soaked.  Robbie and Amy were soaked, too.
“Maybe we should take him someplace else to dry,” said Robbie. He opened the bathroom door.
            Max flew out, leaving a trail of wet paw prints down the stairs and into the kitchen.  Robbie and Amy ran after him leaving a trail of wet shoeprints.
            Robbie took four rolls of paper towels out of the cabinet and they finished drying Max.  Then, Amy took another roll of towels and she and Robbie dried themselves off.
            “Mom is really going to be surprised,” said Amy.
“She sure is,” said Robbie.

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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.