Loyalty, unconditional love, comfort, moments of disgust so complete they stay with you for hours...
I am not a squeamish person. I spent years as a surgical assistant seeing things like face lifts and liposuction, third degree burns and genital warts the size of small, organic cauliflower heads. I do not shudder easily or often.
I am, however, a very visual person. I form pictures in my head when people describe things to me and fix images I've seen in my mind. Yesterday I came to regret that.
Eve had her first-ever cross country meet yesterday afternoon and I decided, since it involved running along trails in the park, it would be cool to bring the dog along. We could cheer Eve's team on and the dog could get a mini-walk and some fresh air out of the deal. It was pouring rain, torrential rain, but we could handle it.
The meet went off without a hitch. Eve came in at about the middle of the pack, wet ponytail slapping against the back of her neck with every footfall, her cheeks flushed and a huge smile on her face. I waited under a nearby tree with her coach and some other parents for her to get her official time and join us for a snack and some water. The dog, who believes that social outreach is his most pressing duty, was using every ounce of his 80 pounds to strain at the leash in an attempt to get to the other dogs in the park, but this was nothing new. I planted my feet and stood fast as I chatted with the other parents.
A few minutes later, I noticed a distinct absence of tugging on the other end of the leash and looked down to see CB's head dip to the ground as he snatched something off of the leaf litter underneath his feet.
"What are you eating?" I figured he had gotten ahold of some child's leftover granola bar or, at worst, discovered some bunny poop (AKA doggie M&Ms). I heard him crunching something and looked down to see a long grey form protruding from the left side of his mouth.
"A stick! Drop it! Drop it, CB!" I bent down and reached for the piece that was sticking out of his mouth and in that time-altering thing that happens when your brain finally catches up to your eyes, the split second before I grabbed it, I noticed it had claws. The thing poking out of the side of my dog's mouth had claws. I reared back for a moment as I tried to remember whether I had actually had that glass of wine with lunch or just thought about it, and the coach yelled, "He's got a crow's foot in his mouth! Eeew!"
A struggle ensued for the next several minutes as CB realized he was busted and did everything possible to hang on to his prize. His jaw strength is only slightly less than the holding power of Crazy Glue, so even with both my hands clamped onto his muzzle, I was completely unable to pry his mouth open. I finally realized that it was going to take a trade. I needed something he wanted more than that thing in his mouth to make him open up. Of course, this was the first time in recorded history that I was wearing a jacket without a pocket full of dog treats and the only thing the coach had was Eve's post-run snack, a Fruit Rollup. I tore a piece off and waved it in front of his nose, begging him to release his treasure but he just rolled his eyes at me 'duh' style and kept on gnawing.
Somehow I finally managed to wedge the sticky fruit snack past his teeth and up on to the roof of his mouth and that shocked him enough that I got a finger hold in and was able to open his mouth. I felt like the Crocodile Hunter! Now, the only problem was that it took both of my hands to hold his mouth open and the claw wasn't coming out. It was stuck.
Eve had finally shown up, no doubt to berate me for causing a scene and ruining her social standing forever (at this point, I'm pretty certain I won't be invited to the next meet, if she even tells me when it is or where). I hollered at her to yank the thing out of CB's mouth but she squatted down, took one look and said, "I'm not touching that thing! Forget it!"
Thank goodness for mothers. Mothers who are used to spit and pee and vomit on their hands. Eve's teammate's mother came to my rescue, bent down and pulled the claw out of his mouth. We were all surprised (and disgusted and appalled) when that claw came out attached to a three inch length of leg bone.
After about five minutes of compulsive hand-washing we all came back together underneath the tree and surmised that the foot belonged to a possum at some point. It didn't take much more than a nanosecond beyond that conclusion for us to all tilt our heads back and look up into the tree, expecting to find a very pissed off possum hanging above us. I have no idea where that leg came from or how it managed to get there and I'm pretty sure I don't want to think about it much.
As for the dog, he sulked all the way home. How dare I take his fairly discovered treasure and toss it in the trash and think that a postage-stamp piece of Fruit Rollup would be an even trade?
I am still shuddering at the sight of that thing in my mind's eye. Bubba didn't even want to hear the story, he's so squeamish, and he was thanking his lucky stars that he missed the entire thing. As for Lola, she was disappointed she wasn't there and asked me to draw her a picture of the foot/leg after dinner. I gladly did. I can still see it perfectly.