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Mommy-Doggy Time

Sitting in bed on Saturday morning, I look down at Mack, our seven-year-old blue heeler/chihuahua mix. He’s twisted into a “c” shape with all four feet in the air, head thrown back, snoring. We call this position “Dog of Pompeii.” I pet his belly, and my hand’s movement showers dog hair onto the sheets, blankets, pajamas. An unpleasant smell of doggy body odor rises with the disturbance.

There’s no avoiding it. It’s Mommy-Doggy Time.

A year after we rescued this little lovebug from the pound, the time for Mack’s first regular vet checkup arrived. Along with the necessary vaccinations, I needed advice about his belly. He’d licked it red and wouldn’t leave it alone. The vet took one look at him and asked when his last bath was.

I couldn’t remember. Our Mack-Mack-Dog-of-Love hates bathing, so I didn’t force him.

Mama LA got the Vet Smackdown!

After a deworming treatment and an antibiotic shot, Dr. Randy sold me a bottle of special shampoo. “Give him a bath with this today and then once every other day until the redness disappears. After that, bathe him once a week with this shampoo to prevent this from happening again.”

He followed up the instructions with an especially stern “You can’t let your dog run your life” look.

My eyes fell in shame, and Mack caught them with his deep brown gaze of utter devotion. Could I betray those eyes?

Yes. If it meant a better life for him, I would do whatever it took.

Even if he hated me for it.

I straightened my shoulders, lifted my head and gave Dr. Randy a quick nod of acquiescence.

Mommy-Doggy Time began that afternoon.

I used to have a mostly white border collie mix named Cappy. On his daily wanderings, he’d sometimes find the delightful feces of a cow, random wild animal, or another dog. Headfirst dives were the preferred method of ecstatic communion. Coming home, eyes wild with joy and body exhausted from his revelry, the smell would hit my nose before I saw the smears down the sides of his neck and body. His doggy grin never drooped as I’d say, “Oh Cappy! Poopy-dookie!”

With this cue, his paws ran directly into the shower. After only a couple sessions of learning this command, Cappy got the idea. Poopy-dookie equaled Mommy-Doggy Time! And Mommy-Doggy Time happened in the shower. A delectable refreshment after the rollicking fun!

With all of the shit sprayed off of him by the handheld shower head, cheap shampoo worked into his thick fur. Little pets convinced him of my love as I scrubbed him clean.

After a final rinse, I’d turn off the shower and command, “Shake it, baby!” His fierce shaking would send the first layer of wetness into a fine spray of mist and dog hair on the walls of the shower. A quick sideways slip out of the enclosure and I grabbed his towel for a final rubbing to wring however much more water I could out of his fur. Once freed, “Mommy-Doggy Time” ended with a mad dash to roll across every piece of carpet in the house.

With this experience and knowing how much Mack loves the love, I was certain that I could get him on board with “Mommy-Doggy Time,” despite the fact that he hates water.

Oh yes. Mack hates water. I’ve never seen a dog who hates water so much. On rainy days, he’ll go to the door, asking to go outside. I open the door. It doesn’t even have to be actively raining! The water pooling on the deck stops him. His next steps propel him back into the house. “Mack!” I’ll say, trying to sound stern. “Go out and do your business.”

“No way,” his eyes flash as he gives me a look over his shoulder. “I don’t have to pee that bad.” And he’s back to his little nest of a bed by the fireplace.

This dog has a bladder of steel!

My only recourse to prevent a bladder infection is to grab the lead and an umbrella. He’ll go if I will go.

“How about a walk?” I say as I hold the lead aloft. He runs to me, forgetting all about the rain. Walks are his second favorite thing, the first being lying between Stephanie and me on the bed and getting luxurious belly rubs.

The lead clips onto his collar and I open the umbrella as we walk out the door together. He follows, but stays close to me to get the benefit of our protection. He knows I need to see him do both kinds of business, but the pooping usually requires a bit of a walk to make happen. On particularly rainy days, he squats before we even leave the yard.

Returning home, at the edge of our lawn, I remove his lead and he zips up the steps to our front door. “Shelter!” He scratches at the door. “Let me in!” And as soon as the door cracks open, he plunges into the dry house, shaking the moisture from his fur. Tossing me a quick doggy grin, he picks a choice resting spot and cuddles in to dry completely.

A year into regular “Mommy-Doggy Time” sessions, and this is how it goes.

First, like a master spy entrapping her prey, I discreetly close all possible avenues of escape. One of our old towels gets placed near the shower.

As he snoozes, I start the water and wait until it’s the warm side of lukewarm. I take off my clothes. He suspects nothing until…

I remove his collar.

His eyes widen. Moving quickly, I scoop all twenty-five pounds of him up into my arms. I begin to sing a jolly song (loosely based on the theme song to the Howdy Doody Show).

It’s Mommy-Doggy Time!
Let’s get all clean today!
It’s Mommy-Doggy Time!
We love getting clean together!

Plop! Into the shower, sliding the doors closed behind me to block his final lunge. With all hope of escape behind him, he freezes into position. His head faces the front right corner and he stands, his body rigid with rebellion as he refuses to look at me.

Water sprays from our handheld shower head, soaking his fur.

I am now the Betrayer, the Traitor, Bringer of All That is Evil.

I switch from singing to cooing, desperate for redemption. “What a good boy. Scrub-scrub Mack-Mack.”

The special shampoo pours into my hand and I suds him up. As we wait for the required ten minutes for the shampoo to do its job, I wash myself and make small talk.

“Oh, he’s my good Mack-Mack, good boy. We’re having Mommy-Doggy Time. Isn’t it fun? It’s our special time. What a good Mack boy.”

He stands still, staring out of the glass enclosure. What has happened to the good mommy? The one who takes him for walks and showers him with love instead of water? Who is this hell beast and why does she SING and COO while DROWNING HIM?!

Stephanie comes into the bathroom to pee, and he wills her to open the shower door. His little head droops when she wheels her walker back into the bedroom.

After my own cleansing, I rinse him off and slip out of the shower, closing the door behind me and grabbing his towel. As soon as I re-open the enclosure, he jumps out. The towel immediately drops over his entire body. He submits to drying until I pull the towel off his head. Then he takes off, his shaking progressing from nose to tail before he dives head first into the bedroom carpet. He bounds out of sight to continue his drying process on the hallway runner and finally the den’s large rug. Rolling onto his back, he’s off to the next location as he erases the lingering evidence of the shower.

I hear him singing his version of our shower song as he races around the house.

Fuck that shower time!
Mommy’s a rotten whore!
Oh, fuck that shower time!
I hate it very much!

I don’t know where that shitty little asswipe got that nasty mouth, but he’s so cute. I can’t stay mad. I know I deserve it.

Once his fur dries, I’ll call him. “Mack! Time to put your collar back on.”

I hear the scramble of paws across the floor and he’s there at my feet, wagging his tail as hard as he can in a perfect sit, ears perked, and eyes glancing back and forth between the collar in my hand and my face.

“Oh, my collar! I love my collar! Are you going to put it on me now, Mom?” Wag, wag! Once the collar is back on his neck, he sits up straighter and preens.

The redness on his belly went away entirely in just a few days, and it never returned. Along with the reduction in redness, his shedding decreased by almost 75%. I’m assuming this has something to do with the regular bathing and also that we stopped feeding him chicken in any form after a friend told me her vet said that quite often dogs can be allergic to chicken. Now, along with the monthly baths, he gets homemade wet dog food made from hamburger, rice and sweet potatoes. Stephanie even makes a special gravy.

He loves being our dog. Except for Mommy-Doggy Time.

The Retirement of the Great Huntress

My old cat played games with me during the gas shortage crisis of 2021.

You see, there’s so much rain. So. Much. Rain.

And during the rain, mice enter my home. They zip in through little holes and the main door when we leave it open for the pets.

It used to be that my cat, Dolce, would catch the mice before they even entered the house. The Great Huntress, as she demanded to be called, left little body parts around our property like an untidy serial killer. Sometimes a pile of feathers. The remains of a vole outside the front door. “We need a little mousie chalk outline,” I would yell to Stephanie. She disposed of the bodies.

No mouse dared to sleep in our house.

Now, she’s about to turn 17 and her main activities are sleeping in sunspots, eating, and demanding pets and treats. She pops up onto the couch beside me as I knit and snags my hand with one long claw, pulling it toward her head. “Oh, you want lovings,” I cry, delighted even as she scratches a red line across my knuckle. I plunge my hand into her soft belly fur and ruffle and rub and give her the pets she desires. Then, I return to my knitting, rejoicing that she chose me to snuggle and injure.

The Great Huntress has retired.

I suspected mice were back when I heard strange clunkings and clankings in the kitchen late at night. The whole family curled together in the bedroom. Another thunk alerted Dolce. Ears pointed and eyes narrowing, she stalked out into the kitchen. A small crash and a scurry across the floor told me the hunt was on.

The next morning, a mouse laid dead in our master bathroom. Sprawled at the base of the toilet, it appeared to have died more from fright than anything else. I didn’t study it for tooth marks. Like most retirees, the Great Huntress couldn’t resist a chase, but she’s not up for the down-and-dirty part of the job.

One mouse means more. Sure enough, mouse poop hid in the cracks and crevices of the counters at the edges of baskets and under towels. Yuck!

Time to pull out the live mouse trap.

A little peanut butter baited the trap. I settled it on the favorite mouse route and turned off the light that evening. The door slapped closed about ten minutes later.


Padding out into the kitchen, I turned on the light. Dolce stood over the green tube, reaching her paw out to knock it into the middle of the kitchen floor. As far as I can tell, slapping the trap across the smooth floor brings her more joy than catching the mice these days. It’s like a labor-saving device. She looks up at me as if to say, “Did you know? It’s miraculous! It catches the mice and then I can play with them for hours!”

Ah, the wonders of technology!

I left her playing for a moment while I retrieved a dishtowel. Dropping it over the top of the trap, I scooped the whole thing up and put it on the dryer in the laundry room.

Wrapping the trap with a towel protects surfaces from the mouse droppings. Plus, the darkness keeps the mouse calm.

Dolce sprawled across my space on the sheets when I returned to bed. So satisfied with herself. Looking at me as if to say, “And that’s how a professional does it. Thanks for cleaning up.”

I know. I’m fooling myself to think she thanked me.

When I woke up the next morning, the mouse and I took a drive while Dolce cuddled with Stephanie. We circled around until I found a sort-of deserted area just over a mile away from our house (the minimum distance required to keep the mouse from finding its way back). Saying a prayer of blessing and encouragement, I tumbled the animal out of the tube into the grass.

They gave me the little mousie finger and sprinted off.

When I live-trap these mice and relocate them, I know that I’m sending them out into the arena for their real-life Hunger Games. However, in my area, finding a field at least a mile away from any other home is a challenge I’ve yet to overcome so they have a good chance of relocating into another house. We humans packed ourselves into these hills, all of us wanting our one-to-three acre plots. My best hope is that the mice get to live their regular little lives, eaten by a fox or some other mouse-eating varmint instead of slinking into a house that uses killing traps.

Especially the sticky traps. Don’t use those! What an awful way to go!

Back home, I washed the mouse trap in water with dish soap and bleach, and soaked it overnight.

The telltale sound of mice thumping into the dog food bowl woke me in the dark. As I tried to go back to sleep, Dolce alerted us to the hunt with a series of peeping meows and the uncertain crackle of a cat trying to sneak through a series of plastic bags and broom bristles.

Losing speed and grace in her old age was what sent the Great Huntress into retirement, so I shouldn’t be surprised at waking up. However…

Trying to stay sleepy, I wrestled her out of the broom closet (more of an alcove. There’s no door) and dumped her back on the bed. She cuddled in, content to allow the mouse to zip back to their hiding place.

Mice show up in pairs, so I knew I had at least two more catch-and-release adventures ahead.

As I caught-and-released, repeating the process over several days as mouse after mouse appeared, the gas crisis showed up. I laughed when Stephanie told me about it. Surely, this wasn’t so dire.

The next morning, I drove my mouse out in a new direction.

I go in new directions so they can’t find each other and share information on how to return.

Along my route, a line of traffic at a gas station trailed into the highway. A group of computer hackers (what do you call a group of hackers? A nerd of hackers? A code of hackers? I should know this!) had broken into the system of the local gas supplier and somehow prevented the gas from arriving at stations. Panic spread across the region. Trucks and cars blocked the opposite lane as I passed them. People filling their tanks and piles of red gas cans packed into the beds of pickup trucks. One video shared online showed a woman filling a plastic bag with gasoline, dragging it back to her car while sloshing gas all over the ground.

I reflexively checked the gauge. A little over half a tank. I work from home and rarely drive, filling my tank once a month instead of once a week. They were predicting the pipeline and subsequent delivery system would be resolved by the middle of the next week.

The mouse scuffled across the rocking floor of the trap, clicking the plastic back and forth. I pulled through a side road and lingered at a lonely stop sign to grab the mouse and tumble him out onto the grass.

That damn cat! I thought. She could catch these mice herself instead of waiting for the trap to contain them, waking me up with the scratching slide of the plastic across the floor. I’m spending all my gas driving these mice into the country!

Now the mouse-release adventure became a saga. Would I run out mice or gas first? I combined trips. Release the mouse on the way to the chiropractor, but not so near the chiropractor he would show up at that house. Release the mouse in the park as I walk to the library to pick up books I had on hold.

When I dropped off the last mouse into the grass next to a highway exit, the gas tank was just under half and the waits at stations reducing from hours to minutes.

I won this round, little mousies.

Now stay away from my house! Don’t you know there’s a retired assassin inside?

I hope she cuddles with me tonight!