I am the quintessential "dog person." Born in the Year of the Dog, I love all things canine. When my husband says I have "dog-like qualities," I take it as a compliment.
So naturally, I leapt at the chance to watch a friend’s new puppy for a couple of days. (To protect the innocent, I’ll call the pup "Karma".)
This is the story of Bad, Bad Karma.
Thursday, 8:30 PM
Arrive at C's house. Load the car with Karma, a black fluffball, in her cage (which C. calls a "crate"). As I shift into gear, C. mentions nonchalantly, "If she tries to bite, just put her in the crate or tie her leash to a door."
Crate? It’s nothing more than a puppy prison! Leash? Don’t be silly! Puppies are meant to be free to play! At home, Karma immediately falls asleep in the crate.
Friday, 5:14 AM
My husband and I leap from bed to the piercing squeal of steam pipes bursting. Suddenly I remember we don't have steam pipes. It's 3 hours earlier than usual, but I think, "Great! Let's start our day!"
While my husband readies for work, I imagine a sweet fuzzy pup at my feet while I leisurely sip coffee and read the newspaper—bliss!
Like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil, Karma dashes from the cage—oops, crate—and begins a series of highly focused, lightning-speed experiments in which her teeth calibrate the depth of (my) human flesh. It’s immediately obvious that, though Karma weighs only six pounds, five of them are teeth. Just apply a quick tourniquet, I think, and then have that coffee.
Since Karma seems to like eating, I decide to feed her while I eat my breakfast in peace. This takes care of about 14 seconds, as Karma sucks up the food faster than a Shop Vac. I begin to whimper, quietly.
Still no coffee. I've discovered that Karma will stay still if I stand immobile in the kitchen, facing the counter as if preparing food. I place the newspaper on the counter and start reading. She rests her head on my foot and sleeps.
I've now read the newspaper twenty-three times. (Today I will have spectacular success in publishing, education, or the arts. There’s also a great sale at Sears). I’m lightheaded—the joy of having a puppy around? No, it’s that I haven’t eaten in 18 hours.
I resign myself to the cage/crate after all. Stealthily, I offer Karma a treat. I scoop her quickly from the floor and toss her in the cage, slamming the door shut behind her. She barks. She wails. She gnaws the metal bars. The promise of coffee drowns her out. How long can I reasonably keep her locked up?
The cage is my friend. I love the cage. No, no, the cage is bad. I must forget the cage. The cage is evil!
My husband returns. I shove the black beast his way and announce I’m leaving for "a couple of hours" to work out. "No problem," he says, voice full of bravado. I smile knowingly.
Have I forgotten that we’re moving this weekend? Carpets are rolled, chairs are stacked, even the bathroom door-stop has been removed. Shredded newspaper litters the hallway and there’s a cloud-shaped hole in the carpet’s underpadding.
While Classical music hums softly in the background, I detect whimpering. I tiptoe into the living room. Karma munches gleefully on the antique cherrywood leg of our sofa. My husband mumbles incoherently in the corner, trying to fit his 6-foot frame into the cage.
Saturday, 2:12 PM
We’re enjoying our 12th leisurely perusal of The New York Times while both standing facing the kitchen counter, when the telephone rings. It is C., offering to pick Karma up early. After I hang up the phone, we cannot contain ourselves and dance a jig around the kitchen. This is particularly significant, since we don't actually know how to dance.
Before the receiver is cool, we've packed up the food and assorted puppy accoutrements. We've even thrown in a piece of the underpadding for good measure. A quick glance at the clock reveals we have an hour to wait. My husband breaks into stifled sobs.
C. arrives, thanks us profusely and whisks Karma away. Finally, the house is ours again. We’d planned to celebrate but are too tired, and fall into bed.
Sunday 7:30 AM
We can’t sleep. Something feels amiss. We drag ourselves out of bed and into the kitchen. My husband is preparing coffee when it hits us: no cage, no Negative-Universe Tribble wreaking havoc.
We wander like zombies. I sidle up to my husband, nudge his ear with my nose. "Maybe we should get a puppy," I say.
[originally published in Stitches Magazine, September 2005].