Ah, la joie de vie, c'est incroyable, est cela non ? Ah, the joy of life, it’s incredible, is it not? There are just some things that make life très merveilleux, are there not? There are the big things, like love and family and the comfort of home. Then there are the small things, which for me include things like fabulous cheese, the Oregon coastline, and a great antique store. My favorite things-things that make life, well, life. We came to realize that are beloved housemates had their favorite things as well, which were as unique to the dog as the dogs were themselves.
At the time we were living in our first home my parents were living in my mothers first dream house (there are two, the second of which they are currently in). It was a beautiful circa 1927 Tudor revival, all of 2200 square feet, and beautifully remodeled. My mother had lovingly filled it with period appropriate antiques, and kept it polished to a high shine. My father is a pastor, and so after years of living in parsonages, then in a home that was not her choosing, she was relishing living in the house she’d wanted since the day she married. We spent many evenings there, with Blue and Inky in tow, enjoying a great meal and even better conversation.
On one of these evenings we were enjoying said conversation in the family room, when we heard an incredibly strange squeaking sound from the hall bath. “Skreeeaaaaaaaaaakkkk-SKrreeaaaAAAAAKKKK”-over and over….a strange and totally unidentifiable noise. So, down the hall went four adults, to peak around the bathroom door to see what on earth was causing the commotion. And there, in the walk in shower, was Inky, ruuuuuubbing herself down one wall of the shower, then turning and ruuuuuubbbbbing herself down the other. She was in shear bliss-totally unaware of our presence as she wallered and rubbed and rolled in the shower. And thus we became aware of her lifelong undying devotion to Irish Spring soap. And mind you, it wasn’t just any soap that had her undying love and devotion, it was ONLY Irish Spring. She would gladly have bartered her tiny Inky soul for the glory of luxuriating in the delight of just one bar. On the rare occasion that a bar was left in her reach, it would die a slow and incredibly painful death by rolling, wallering and eventually eating. Therefore, we had to take extreme caution to keep all Irish Spring on a high enough plain that Inky couldn’t get to it-and Inky could get to a lot. We decided fairly early on that her legs were in fact made from spring. While she stood only 10 inches tall, she could in truth jump around five feet straight in the air. Hence, Irish Spring had to be kept at an extreme height. However, we did allow her to feed her addiction in a less dangerous way. Whenever a new bar of Irish Spring was opened Inky got the box. And then, for hours and hours on end, that little black dog would waller and roll and push and carry and love to death an empty box of Irish Spring. She adored them to such an extent that when we eventually lost her, at much too young an age, to a strange form of lupus, we buried her with an Irish Spring box. But I get ahead of myself. For Inky, her joie de vie was as simple as a green soap box.
And then there was Blue. Blue loved many things, but few of them with the devotion that Inky showed to Irish Spring. There were perhaps two things that came close for her; rawhide chews and possums. As we’ve discussed before, Blue loved to chew things. She absolutely adored it. And so, in an attempt to control at least some of the destruction that the jaws of a 105 pound dog can wreak on your home, we bought her rawhide chews. She adored them, and we had at least a modicum of peace of mind that we wouldn’t return home to doom and destruction. She’d sit for hours in the corner, slurping away on her chews. Then of course she’d leave the soggy, gooey messes here and there for us to find with our bare feet in the middle of the night. But they kept her occupied, so we kept her well stocked.
One night, while watching TV, we noticed her quietly carrying her chew bone around the living room. And I don’t exaggerate by saying she was being quiet. She seemed to truly be creeping around the living room, searching for something. Then, the most hilarious thing I’d seen up to that point in my life happened. She buried her chew bone…on the carpet. She crept over to the corner, and ‘dug’ carefully with her huge white paw, then ever so gingerly placed her bone in her ‘hole’, and began to ‘push’ her dirt (?) with her nose to ‘cover’ it. Mr. Big Prize and I both sat, spellbound, trying not to burst into riotous laughter. At just that moment she turned, and locked her ice Blue stair on us. After a heartbeat of time she whirled and ‘dug up’ her bone, and promptly began to search for a new spot to ‘bury’ it. She would search and work, but one hint that MBP or I had spied her hiding place, and she was off with it again. Needless to say, I quit picking her chewy-bones up off the floor. Apparently she took exception to that action.
Sadly, the chew bone adoration had to come to an end. One night we were sitting peacefully on the couch watching television, when Blue sprung to her feet and was making gagging motions. There was no sound-no air- coming from her though. MBP jumped to his feet in a panic, yelling “Laine, she’s choking! She’s CHOKING”. Being ever the cool head and oh so useful under dire stress, I sat there and stared at him blankly. NOTHING came to mind. I had no solution for this nightmare, and our Bludie was chocking to death in front of us. By the time I collected my thoughts MBP had jumped to action. He was Heimlich-ing the dog. He had wrapped his arms around her abdomen, and was jerking violently on her belly in the absolutely correct upward motion. Suddenly, a chunk of chewy shot from her mouth, and Bludie was saved. MBP was a hero, but we were both emotionally scarred. Those chewys were tossed from our home faster than all the spinning wheels in Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom. They were banned and barred and written out of our lives. But, such as the case with most adolescents when parents have to make the difficult decision to eliminate dangerous things from their lives Blue was depressed and pouting. What was a Bludie to do? She’d lost her very favorite thing. And so, she replaced the chewys with the most natural thing imaginable-opossums.
Ah yes, Didelphis virginiana, otherwise known as the American opossum. These nasty tempered marsupials are in abundant supply in our particular part of the South. They are described as cat-sized, grey-furred, and slow-moving. Bad for the opossum where the Bludie was concerned. You see, when we built our small dream house it was located in a relatively new subdivision being built smack in what had once been a bit of heavily wooded Arkansas wilderness. No one had bothered to tell the field mice, grass snakes and the plethora of opossum that we were all moving in. Kevin and his five iron of death (yes, a golf club) dealt with the field mice. Now, please don’t send me hate mail. We started out with the catch and release system, then moved on to more ‘permanent’ removal methods; but trust me, when your wife is in bed with a migraine and a persistent field mouse ends up in range of your five iron, you take action, period.
But back to the opossum, and Bludie’s fascination there-with. Opossum have the strangest habit of perhaps any creature in the animal kingdom; they play dead. You startle, rattle or unnerve an opossum, and the stupid thing just lays down like it’s dead. Their jaws even pull back into what looks like a rigor mortic state. This is not a get-away strategy I’d likely employ, but more power to ‘em.
So, apparently, one of these stupid cat-like-grey-slow-moving marsupials wandered into Bludie territory, after her favorite chewys had been banned. We can only imagine the scene that ensued upon the encounter of these two beasties, but we do know that it ended badly for the opossum.
Mr. Big Prize found Bludie enjoying her new toy on the deck early one Saturday morning. Interestingly enough, the poor thing was still alive, or at least mostly alive, and soaking wet from being licked by Blue’s huge velvety tongue for hours. Periodically the poor thing would ‘come to’, only to be scared back into it’s death like stupor by the proximity of Blue’s huge canine teeth. Blue just went on licking and licking and licking…until her daddy went out and brought her in. The first time this happened we panicked in true newlywed fashion and called animal control, which promptly arrived and removed the soaked marsupial.
Over the lifetime of that huge Malamusky , some 12 years, we had to deal with no less than five total opossum deaths at her hands. Most of them were discovered outside, but on one very special occasion Blue brought one with her through the doggie door-joy of joys. None of them were bloodied or abused-all appeared to have suffered death by licking. I wonder, can an animal actually drown by being licked by another?? Needless to say, we learned to deal with the dead opossum more expediently. No more animal control; the trash can works just fine.