While scooping poop in the backyard one day, I noticed quite clearly a barcode sticking out from one of Bernie’s turds. Being on doodie duty, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how far-reaching the packaging phenomenon has spread. When crap comes out already assigned a specific code, we’ve either taken a great leap forward in biotechnology or Bernie’s just gotten into something he shouldn’t have. I almost wanted to wrap it in a Ziploc bag and take it to one of those freestanding store scanners and see what rung up. Clean-up on aisle five.
But that’s not the most insane thing I’ve ever troweled into an old shopping bag. A few Christmases ago, my daughter Skye’s nativity calendar was plundered, and she immediately blamed her younger sister, Taylor. It wasn’t until a few days later when, again on doodie duty, I noticed a trail of carnage of biblical proportions. There, sticking out of various backyard scat was, in no particular order: The Star of David, a present, a camel, an angel, two of the three wise men and the Hamburglar. Speaking from my somewhat fuzzy recollection of the New Testament, I can account for most all of the aforementioned characters except the Hamburglar.
“We’ve brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Would you like fries with that?”
The weird part is that I salvaged the players from their turd tableau and brought them inside to our laundry tub, to begin the process of rehabilitation. I used a lot of water, far too much bleach and even some Febreze. They dried out over the ensuing days and I put them through the process again, with my wife’s encouragement. And there they sat, on the rim of the sink for days, weeks, even months.
Along about April, when spring finally spread across Michigan, I had a heart-to-heart with my wife and we decided that there was no stinkin’ way these figurines were ever going to be revered like they once were. So we did what we should have done back in December, and tossed them in the trash. I don’t think Skye noticed or cared.
Dogs are just plain mystifying. We had an earlier dog that suffered from separation anxiety. Marci and I couldn’t leave the house without him getting nervous that we’d never return; he would start trashing the place like a ’70s rock star on acid. We’d go to the corner store for five minutes and when we’d return, the kitchen was in tatters, drapes pulled down, plates broken on the floor, water running somehow and a knife set half-chewed, with a little blood spattered on the linoleum. He once ate half a bottle of aspirin that was, we thought, hidden on top of the microwave. He didn’t even leave a suicide note. Luckily, he was just down and depressed for 18 hours before returning to his abnormal self.
With this dog, Alex the First, it was a day or so after yet another one of his wilding episodes that I took him out for a stroll. He seemed normal at first, but as the walk progresses, he starts doing that hilarious little butt-drag that cracks me up every time I see a dog do it. He gets into a sitting position and then, with his hind legs lifted off the ground, pulls his ass along the grass with his front legs. People say that dogs do this to get rid of worms. Personally, I think it’s a great way for worms to get into their butts.
That day, though, Alex keeps doing this every ten or twenty steps when I notice something odd and amazing. Little by little, something starts to emerge. By the third time, there’s an unmistakable inch-and-a-half piece of blue-and-white fabric hanging from his butt. I seriously have no idea what to do, so I turn back for home. As we make our way past subdivision homes gleaming in the afternoon sun, I realize that they have no idea about the miracle taking place right out on their front lawns.
As we get closer and closer, the fabric gets longer and longer and I realize, with shock and awe, that my dog is pulling a dishrag out of his behind. By the time we’ve taken another several steps, he has produced nearly all of a full foot-long, blue-and-white and yes, slightly brown, Handiwipe. Nothing up his sleeves, either. Doggy Copperfield.
It appears that, for the moment, he is done and happy. His four-footed stride is back to normal and he seems for lack of a better description, to almost spread a smile across his face. And yet that blue Handiwipe still dangles from his butt as we near home.
And here, here I did something that defined me and my mission to make the world a better place. I knew that the rag was stuck and couldn’t just stay there. But I also knew that I had no desire to pull it out with my hands. So I found a stick, told him to heel, and twirled the twig around the dangling doo-rag and pulled. The first tug produced nothing. The second tug brought out not only the remnants of the Handiwipe, but a little, guttural, satisfied yelp from my dog. I half expected him to turn and bite me, but its passing left nothing more than a vague memory on his doggie consciousness.
Leaving the rag by the side of the road, we headed home—him with his intestines squeaky clean and me with an indelible mark on my already-scarred psyche.
I’ve shared this story with my family and some college buddies. They say I need an ending: a conclusion to pull it all together. This April, after a long, grey winter, I was back out on the lawn scooping up Bernie’s backyard bowel movements. And there, staring out at me, was Abraham.
Lest you think, dear reader, that Bernie had sent both New and Old Testament through his digestive tract, I must inform you that the Abraham I speak of was on the face of a formerly crisp and clean five-dollar bill that went missing from our kitchen counter months earlier. Also in the same scat was half of George Washington in the shape of a cylinder. Five-fifty feces.
So yes, I’ve taken up money laundering and hopefully the IRS won’t mind. In the sink that formerly washed the Wise Men, there now sits another project awaiting my attention. Whereas we eventually tossed the Advent figures, throwing money away is another story. Although I can’t think of a plan for passing off the fiver, at least not right now. Maybe the U.S. Mint has a special archive for curious currency.
My wife says we can’t get rid of Bernie, no matter how much of a pain he is. He makes for great stories. He’s generally cuddly and loveable. And, these days, he’s got money coming out the wazoo.