Home Improvement Triage

Our Labrador Retriever is in a gangly, uncoordinated space between puppy and adult, commonly called, “What-is-that-I-will-eat-it.” We’ve lost a lot of our household to Zucca, a precious yellow lab who believes that shredding important documents is the way to a man’s heart.

ImageFor the last few weeks, my wife and I have come home each day with the dreadful expectation of another semi-valuable possession destroyed. Luckily, Zucca loves to eat junk mail. The downside to that blessing is the hour I have to spend in the yard, tweeser-pinching white confetti out of the grass. However, she’s recently graduated to objects whose destruction can be a little aggravating. Beyond socks (and Holly’s socks are a little expensive), she’s eaten part of my Turkish rug, an award-winning book, some mortgage documents, a lot of yellow gel tablets I haven’t been able to identify, and Holly’s glass nail file. She tried to eat the polish, as well, but couldn’t quite swallow.

Last week, I had to send my wife a message that read, “Remember how the rockers on our back porch used to have cushions? They don’t have cushions any more.”

Shame on us, for giving her over to this misbehavior during the winter. We hardly used our backyard, thus allowing her to shred evidence without oversight. It’s only because I’ve started mowing our .05 acres that I’ve had to clean up after her. It was through this that I discovered her greatest sin.

Zucca loves lattice work. The old, rough texture, the chemical taste, the rusty staples – it’s like her crystal meth. Our elevated porch was hemmed in on three sides by lattice last fall. When I began to mow our yard this spring, it was down to two. I did the mathematics: Zucca ate over forty-square feet of thin wood strips. And she still wasn’t satisfied.

In an effort to force her into good behavior – just as our mail now goes into a metal bucket, the Turkish rug stays locked in the guest room, and Holly’s nail polish is kept in a box – last weekend I bought a crowbar for eleven dollars and began ripping the wood off our porch. It took four hours, as the areas where the one-time builders couldn’t use staples, they chose to use screws then file the heads away. I managed to give myself a mild concussion, slamming the crowbar into my temple, and may have contracted multiple forms of tetanus from the different shades of rusty screws.

For Zucca, however, it was the greatest day of her life. She laid at my feet, between me and the wood, enjoying the shadow cast by the porch and occasionally snacking on some loose lattice. All the extra is now in our garage – we’re saving it as a reward for not eating anything else.


“Have I Told You That My Cat’s Butt Exploded?”

This past Friday was my last day of work for Camp War Eagle. I’ve been hired at Walmart Corporate to do something I don’t truly understand but hope to learn soon. At the office, they¬†spent lunch trying to hold a roast, but ended up continuing to affirm my best attributes. I don’t think anyone really understood what a roast was.

That night, several of my (by then former) coworkers joined Holly and I for dinner and a walk around the town square, where there was a street performer competition. Most of the jugglers and magicians spent their time making terrible jokes rather than juggling or magic making. One had amazing hair though, and he made sure to highlight that fact.

At dinner, conversation began to steer away from work towards life, which I imagine will have to become the template for most of my relationships now. I began to rack my mind for any daily anecdotes to share with friends, to practice speaking about personal rather than professional life. So I lead with this:

“Have I told you that my cat’s butt exploded?”


This was a completely truthful and sincere question. For several weeks prior, our cat had become more of a demon than normal. She stopped cleaning herself. She would growl whenever touched. Holly and I once tried to hold her down and search her for broken bones or severe cuts. Her reaction terrified us into submitting to her will, to let her go.

I agreed to take her to vet alone (Holly has bad memories there). When I entered the examining room, the nurse said that she was going to search the cat for any injuries. “She hasn’t been very receptive to that,” I responded.

She picked the cat up. The cat began to growl as an idling chainsaw. Then her butt exploded.

At the time, it looked like projectile diarrhea. Reddish-brown liquid sprayed all over the nurse’s arm, shirt and the wall behind her, like a Jackson Pollock diorama. She dropped our cat, standing with locked arms, and said, “I need to go.”

I was dry heaving near the door (and the cat was purring in the corner) when the elderly veterinarian with the demeanor of a Buddhist yogi entered and explained that, “There’s nothing to worry about, this happens all the time.”

Apparently it was an abscess, like a giant zit, on the cat’s butt. In medical terms, once popped, she felt a gagillion times better. The vet kept her for the weekend and returned the cat with a shaved rear end¬†and a jagged, six-inch long incision. We have renamed her “Frankenbutt.”

Back in the restaurant, after casually inserting this conversation starter, on of my friends spit his drink back into the glass and wiped his mouth. “Finally,” he said, “we don’t have to talk about work.”