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VERMIN
by Brian Dear

Originally posted in the WELL's obsess.ind conference, September 1998

So I'm taking the English Bull Terrier out for his morning walk, which lately has been on a paved trail that runs along an interstate so is quite noisy but worse, has bicyclists who whiz by at breakneck speed (my neck, their speed) in true inconsiderate, I am a bicyclist and I will maintain my speed no matter what even through stop signs and red lights so surely I won't slow down for you and your dog fashion. So a dog walker on this path must be on the watch both back and front for bikers who would rather run into you just to make the point that this is a bike path not a pedestrian path the way some car drivers need to point out that they're on a road for cars not a road for bikes.

But anyway. So we're on our walk (which is more of a "pull", where the English Bull Terrier pulls his owner along with great strength and determination), and there are only a few bikes this morning, and I manage to get the English Bull Terrier to perform his business, which lately has been followed by his kicking up dust and dirt and grass and leaves and anything else, for purposes of either a) cleaning his four paws or I suspect more likely b) covering the "product" his business just produced.

Anyways, that out of the way, we turn to go back down the path on our way home. Post-business English Bull Terriers will heel, look up to you lovingly, smile, wag their tail, and be of general good and obedient cheer, which is a pleasant thing, and makes the walk a fun experience. At all-too-brief but cherished times of cooperation like this, it's often fun to play with the English Bull Terrier by making him stop, then say, "on you mark, get set, go!" and take off like you're running the 100-meter dash in the Olympics. The English Bull Terrier enjoys this greatly and lets you have the lead for about 0.4 seconds after which time he passes you with great euphoric dog leaps, where he spends more time in the air than on the ground, and manages to fly out in front of his owner at least to the point where his short leash loses all of its slack, at which point the chain choke collar snaps tight, choking the poor darting English Bull Terrier to a near stop as his owner tries, gasping, to catch up. At which point both dog and owner stop, and then do it all over again for another 25 yards. Great fun is had by all.

Well, usually.

This note is about vermin. Yes, vermin. Something which I had not been obsessed by until today.

See, during one of our running dashes this morning, the English Bull Terrier manages, how I have yet to figure out, to notice, then acquire the target for, an object along the side of the paved path while we are at running at full speed. He sees this object, heads toward it, and in a true Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom moment, he scoops up the object into his mouth and slams on the breaks of his four paws and comes to a stop. Being an English Bull Terrier, whose mission in life is to Be Mischevious and Disobedient As Much Of The Time As Possible, knowing that Forgiveness is much easier than Permission, he knows that this object is a particular kind of object that the owner will a) not like and b) will not want the English Bull Terrier to possess. So, in true English Bull Terrier fashion, the mission is to swallow such illegal objects before a) thinking about the ramifications of such an act and before b) the owner has a chance to remove object from English Bull Terrier's mouth.

Problem is, this object is big, about the size of a shoe. And unfortunately, for the English Bull Terrier, was lying in such an orientation that in the process of scooping the object up into its mouth, the object did not enter mouth lengthwise, which would have been the preferable method for swallowing, but rather, perpendicularly to the dog's muzzle, meaning, the dog bit the center of the long object and since the object was long, a nontrivial portion of object stuck out from the right side of dog's mouth as well as left side of dog's mouth.

During instances such as this, an English Bull Terrier's mind is focused on one objective: swallow the illegal object and deal with the consequences later. But this object is large and the English Bull Terrier realizes that he doesn't have the best of grips in his mouth, so he sort of juggles the object in his mouth for a split second, in order to get a better hold of it with his rear molars, molars which, by the way, could cut and crush diamond and titanium, I swear.

All of this activity -- from running along happily to finding then scooping then biting then juggling object --- has happened in less than one second.

At this point the owner of the English Bull Terrier realizes that the dog has found something and has placed it in its mouth. Just what that something might be will take the owner another few seconds to figure out, but for now it is certain that the owner must secure the dog, bend down, and attempt to remove the object from the dog's mouth before the dog achieves his mission in life.

So owner bends down and grabs dog's head and grabs dog's muzzle and grabs dog's top row of teeth and with other hand grabs dog's lower jaw and attempts to force open mouth to release object, which, to the owner's horror, is now seen to be one large, very dead, very stiff, very, very, hard, thankfully aroma-free, but no-doubt germ-laden, DEAD RAT.

We are talking about a large DEAD RAT, the king of all vermin, verily. In the mouth of my English Bull Terrier. This RAT is as long as a shoe, and sticking out of the left side of my dog's mouth is a STIFF TAIL of a DEAD RAT, along with STIFF FEET OF REAR LEGS of a DEAD RAT. Owner of dog now tries to remove the DEAD RAT from the dog's mouth and the dog knows he is bad and that he has put into his mouth an object which is Bad, but he must, he must swallow the object --- it is his mission. So as the owner attempts to remove the DEAD RAT from the dog's mouth, the dog instinctively? deliberately? bears his jaw down on the object within his mouth, quite swiftly and efficiently BREAKING THE DEAD RAT IN TWO, right down the middle, so that now there are two pieces of DEAD RAT to deal with.

Fortunately, for owner, and unfortunately, for dog, this turns out to be advantageous, because now the owner has the dog's jaw open and the two halves of the DEAD RAT are loose within his mouth, making it easier for the owner to quickly grab the tail half of the DEAD RAT and pull it out and to the left, and then grab the head end (quite squished -- obviously this RAT had been HIT by a MOVING VEHICLE at a HIGH rate of speed causing a SEVERE SQUISHING CONDITION to occur) and rapidly toss it over to the right.

Fortunately, too, for owner (and dog, though he would not agree), the hardness and stiffness of this DEAD RAT made it such that a) there were no oozing liquids, b) no blood, c) no guts, d) no creeping, crawling maggots or other parasitical creatures to deal with. This was one dry, hard, DEAD RAT, which meant that when English Bull Terrier broke DEAD RAT in half in its mouth, DEAD RAT broke into two nice solid pieces, which meant that there wasn't any gooey third piece still swirling around in the mouth or on the tongue or between the teeth of English Bull Terrier. Nor did it mean that owner of English Bull Terrier had any gooey, greasy, sticky, oozy, germ-infested, disease-ridden, plague-carrier gunk on his hands or fingers to deal with.

So now, tail half of DEAD RAT sits right smack dab in the middle of the paved path, waiting for some biker to come along and ride over it, and hopefully, in the process, kick it up into the gears or spokes of the wheel, where it gets stuck, shatters into a million pieces, all flying up and into the little black goretex biker shorts that every loser biker wears so that the biker will catch the plague and die, or at least, have to slow down, perhaps even stop, to remove, in a panic, said million splintering pieces of tail half of DEAD RAT.

Head half of DEAD RAT sits along side the path, where it will no doubt remain until some other dog comes along and scoops it up and swallows before the dog's owner knows what evil deed has just been done.

So now, owner and English Bull Terrier walk back to car, owner now deeply and obsessively conscious of all surfaces that must be touched in order to enter locked car, put English Bull Terrier in locked car, and then drive home: leash, pants pocket, car keys, door handles, car seats, steering wheel, emergency brake release, trasnsmission lever, seats, steering wheel, emergency brake release, trasnsmission lever, and on and on. So many surfaces to be cleaned, rinsed, fumigated, detoxified, deorganicized, sterilized.

Owner gets home, has to touch more surfaces (lock of door of house, door handle of door, light switch, and on and on) before locking dog up in crate and dashing for sink, to dispense large amounts of soap, and proceed to wash hands for several hours before going to work.

The question is --- does soap and hot water really do the job?

What about my keyboard? Are there microscopic DEAD RAT BITS now on my keyboard?

Will I ever be free of that DEAD RAT? Such is today's obsession.

Meanwhile, English Bull Terrier sleeps gently back home in his crate, no doubt thinking about how for one brief shining moment he had the Mother of All No-No's in his mouth.

 

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