Stuff Happens

(Author’s note: The events described within this column are true. Please note that it is about dogs and therefore contains several references to, um, you know, the stuff dogs leave behind. In deference to our more sensitive readers, we will refer to this as “stuff.” Please bear in mind it is also a verb.)

Diary of a Dog-Sitter

Day 1:
My charges, two high-strung Italian greyhounds named Queequeg and Astra, are alarmed to find me in their home and their owner, Vigga (names have been changed), nowhere to be found. I inform them that Vigga, a friend of mine, is merely away for a week and will surely return. Queequeg, the smarter of the two, reacts by trembling so hard she becomes blurry. Astra, who is dumber than a basket of pine cones, runs around in circles.

This will be easy, I think. I show up a few times a day to walk the dogs and give them some food, play with them a little, and collect eternal gratitude from Vigga. Plus, since they’re both female dogs, I have an excuse to use a particular swear word all week and it won’t even count as swearing.

The first walk is uneventful, which is a bad thing with dogs. The whole purpose of the walk is for something to happen, lest it otherwise occur indoors. Vigga, in her lengthy instructions to me, indicated I should carry a plastic bag when I walk the dogs, so that I can pick up their stuff and throw it away. I told her I could not imagine any sequence of events that would culminate in my laying hold on another animal’s excrement. She resigned herself to this fact and urged me to stay out of the main walkways around her apartment building. I made no promises.

But the point is moot, because neither dog shows any interest in relieving herself. Astra’s primary concern is eating leaves and sticks. Queequeg seems most interested in going back inside. I agree with her.

Due to my gullibility, I believed Vigga when she said the dogs are used to sleeping with a human being and that I must therefore spend the night there. Why this should matter to the dogs, I don’t know. But sure enough, they curl up with me in bed. The night passes.

Day 2:
I awake having learned something important about sleeping in a bed with dogs: I can’t sleep in a bed with dogs. I now smell so doggy I fear the scent may be permanent. Furthermore, I spent most of the night being all too aware of the fact that beneath the covers and adjacent to my lower quarters lay two animals with teeth and claws.

I enter the living room to discover that, during the night, Astra got up and stuffed on the carpet. I do not fault Astra for this; she is, after all, as dumb as a sack of doorknobs. I clean up the stuff, take the dogs on an uneventful walk, and go to work.

That night, I decide I cannot sleep with the dogs. It is too much to endure. What will happen if I don’t? Will they be awake all night from worry and thus unable to fulfill their dog duties tomorrow?

I tell the dogs I am leaving and that they should go to bed. In response to this — or perhaps randomly — Queequeg commits a felonious act against my leg.

Day 3:
I return to the apartment in the morning to discover that, in my absence, at least a dozen extra dogs must have broken in and stuffed. There is stuff everywhere. Surely this cannot be the work of two rat-sized dogs, unless one of them exploded.

I clean it up and take the dogs for a walk. The walks, which occur several times a day, are merely a formality now. The dogs clearly have no intention of stuffing while outdoors; in fact, they seem unaware that that is even the purpose of the walks. “It sure is nice to be outside,” they seem to say. “But can we head back in? I have to go.”

On the walk, Astra ingests several leaves and pieces of bark, all while running around in circles.

Tonight, I spread newspapers out on the floor in all the places where the dogs tend to stuff, though somehow I realize this will be ineffective.

Day 4:
A disturbance in the force tells me before I even arrive that nothing is as it should be. Sure enough, the dogs, in their continuing campaign of anarchy and mischief, have stuffed in several locations near the newspapers, in every case taking care not to befoul the newspapers themselves. In theory, then, if I covered the entire floor with newspaper, the dogs would not stuff at all.

I take the dogs on a walk, during which nothing occurs. Five minutes after returning to the apartment, Queequeg has an accident on the floor, though I am loathe to call it an accident when she did it while looking me directly in the eye.

Day 5:
The stuffing has reached psychotic levels. I have determined that the dogs are doing it on purpose as an act of defiance. Today, Astra went WHILE I WAS PUTTING THE LEASH ON HER to take her outside. She knew that if she waited literally 10 more seconds, she could go outside. But she chose not to. I don’t care how dumb you are — and Astra is as dumb as a pan of muffins — you must know, after wearing a leash 75,000 times, what wearing the leash means.

The stuffing, it would seem, is now just being done out of disrespect.

Day 6:
I am a broken man. The dogs have won. I now see stuff in my sleep, as well as everywhere I look when I’m awake, though the latter sightings are literal. Astra and Queequeg have claimed another victory for their race. The humans are further subjugated. Woof.

The name of my friend, Vigga, was chosen because she is an avid fan of "Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen.

I should also stress that this is a highly accurate account of my actual experiences in caring for Vigga's dogs. If I were making it up, I don't think it would be very funny. For that matter, while it was happening it didn't seem all that funny.