Just a few days ago my older dog, Harper, whom I refer to as my first born boy, ruined everything.
Let me back up for a hot minute here and set this thing up for you. So my dogs, Ruger and Harper- both Golden Retrievers, 8 and 9 years old respectively- get to roam freely here on the farm. 99.9% of the time that means that you can find them trying to get in the house, trying to get out of the house, or laying somewhere in front of the house. Sure they can wander away if they so choose to do so, and 99.9% of the time, they don’t chose to do so. Ruger absolutely never chooses to do such a thing. Ruger has a conscious. Ruger is absolutely aware of how he makes his humans feel and he is fully in the know when he has done something wrong, like roll in animal poop as an example (which may or may not be his most repeated offense. I once had to give him four baths in one day because he continued to return to the scene of the crime each time he was released from the confines of the house).
Harper is an entirely different story. Like I said, 99.9% of the time, he does exactly what he’s supposed to do and he stays exactly where he’s supposed to stay. I wish I could say that the few times that he has wandered off- and I mean like he’s lost and we’re driving around trying to find him- he did it because he got excited chasing something or that he didn’t really realize what he was doing. But that’s not true.
Harper knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t give a crap (that Ruger rolled in) whether or not he gets in trouble.
So a few days ago, I arrived home and was greeted at my car door in the driveway by Harper, who had been sunning himself in the front yard. I immediately could tell that he had something on his head and it smelled foul. On occasion, Harper will take to Ruger’s bad habits, but it’s uncommon because Harper knows that it results in a bath and Harper doesn’t like baths. Yes, he is that smart. So it surprised me (and annoyed me) but Tom was on his way out as I was coming in and so I headed in the house to relieve him of the kids so that he could be on his way.
Shortly there after, Harper was at the front door giving it a kick. This is what he does to alert us that a door is standing in the way of where he’d like to walk. He kicks the obstructing door with his front foot until someone comes and removes the obstacle.
So I grabbed some towels and readied the bathtub for a doggie bath. Yes, my dogs are primarily indoor dogs. Yes, they lay on the bed and couches. Yes, I’m that dog mom. So obviously, I had to wash the offensive dog so that he could dry off before bedtime in the house.
I opened the door and attempted to usher him directly into the tub, but he’s no fool. He knew exactly what I was doing and dodged the bathroom entirely and quickly retreated to my bedroom where his bed is so as to lay down and continue his refusal to cooperate. This isn’t uncommon. We usually have to yell a bunch and pass the bathroom door at least three times, as if they don’t know EXACTLY where I’m trying to lead them…
“Oh, did you want me in the living room, Mom? I thought you said the bedroom!”
“The bedroom? Well, okay, you just told me the living room.”
You get the idea. They play dumb.
Well, in this case, Harper dodged the bathroom door and headed for his bed with me in hot pursuit. Lucky for me, I made it through the threshold of my door in time to see (and smell) the most aggressive round of vomiting I’ve ever seen in my life.
Look Readers… dogs puke. It’s not concerning. It’s just a thing they do because they’re idiots and they eat crap they’re not supposed to eat. Harper eats A LOT of crap he’s not supposed to eat- which is why he is nick named ‘Fat Fat’ because, well, he’s fat- but he’s not usually one to vomit. He’s kind of got a rock solid gut. Ruger is the puker. So it was a little unusual that Harper was doing the throwing up, but heres the real unusual part: This puke… was the grossest thing anyone has ever seen and smelled in their life. I’m ready to confidently speak on your behalf on this one, guys. And I’m talking about puke here. Like this was grosser than normal puke! SO much so, I actually had to take a picture of it because I needed Tom to see just how absolutely atrocious this puke was. (Don’t worry, I’ve since deleted the picture and will not be including it here because it’s so egregious I could be reported to internet authorities).
I’m sorry but bare with me as I describe the puke further…
It looked like organs. Animal organs. It was purple and reddish and I’d say there was definitely some mauve in there and if I didn’t know that Harper tended to eat things like the organs of other dead animals he finds out in the woods, I would have thought he had just thrown up his very own organs. Yes, this was that offensive.
But the image that is burned in my head forever, pales in comparison to the smell. Y’all, this puke smelled like the contents of a port-o-potty at a construction sight that had been sitting in the sun and was overdue for a dump (no pun intended). And I don’t mean it smelled like you were near one of those port-o-pottys. I mean it smelled like you had been sitting in one when it got hit by a forklift and knocked aggressively on it’s side.
It immediately overwhelmed me and filled up the room with such a sweet sickly smell that I knew right then and there the only answer was going to be to burn the house to the ground. That was the only way to move forward.
After I hastily ushered Harper back outside, and yelled at the kids to take shelter as far away from the hazardous waste spill as they possibly could, I armed myself with paper towels, a garbage can and an essential oil spray. I knew I had to act fast, and frankly it would have taken too long to burn the house down. The smell would have contaminated the whole earth before the flames would have consumed it. But it did not take me long to realize that I had chosen the wrong weapons for this fight.
The organ-like vomit seemed to melt the paper towels on contact, but I had no choice but to scoop that God forsaken mess up and get it out of my house before we all suffocated. There were two piles. One pile was on my rug, which is great considering 8576% of my house is hard wood and very wipable. The other pile was mostly on hard wood, but the other third of it was down the side of his dog bed. So I’m scrubbing carpet, wiping hard wood and trying desperately to unzip the most complicated, multifaceted dog bed you’ve ever seen in your life in a fashion suited for an Olympic sport try out.
Once I get the physical mess up and in a garbage bag, I spray my very safe, family friendly, chemical free, and absolutely USELESS essential oil spray on the spots to disinfect and try to remove the stains and… let us not forget… the smell.
I felt like I had an out of body experience holding that pure, homemade, lightly fragranced spray bottle in my hand. It was as if I was standing outside of myself laughing at myself for bringing a butter knife to the front line of attack in Afghanistan. My husband would later ask me if I used bleach.
No. I did not grab bleach.
After all of the port-o-potty puke had been removed, I sprayed and scrubbed with every cleaning agent I could find under my sink (yes, even bleach at that point), I opened the window to my bedroom (it was in the thirties outside but who is even taking that into consideration at a time like this?), I turned on my fan, I lit the most potent (and expensive, let me add) candle I own and I closed the door to the room half hoping the fan would blow the curtain into the flame and insurance would take care of the rest.
A few hours later and the smell of my favorite candle is now ruined forever, because it’s associated with that time I attempted- UNSUCCESSFULLY- to cover up the smell of that puke.
To be honest with you, it’s been like five days since that first assault and I can’t even be sure that my bedroom doesn’t still smell like that puke. I’m afraid that at night, while I sleep in there, the smelling mechanics in my nose are just slowly being eaten away by the odor.
If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that I just said first assault. And if you’re a happy owner of an overly intelligent male dog, you know that there is absolutely more where that came from.
So after a few hours outside, I allowed Harper back into the house and gave him the baths of all baths. I had to scrub his face and snout pretty harshly, because given that he had literally been inside a dead animal eating it’s insides like a freaking zombie (I’m so sorry, but hey… if you’re still with me in this story, you can handle it) you can image that his face and head had been affected the most. And now there was a smell association that I just couldn’t handle.
So now he’s bathed. The house is clean. Tom’s home and informed- he’s been made privy to my cruel photos- and suddenly I realize Harper didn’t come in when Tom came in. Where is he? WHERE is he????
After a lot of yelling, he reappears. Oh good! He’s not gone! Great! Come on in, Harper! I love you Harper! I’m so glad you’re not missing, Harper!
Would you believe me if I told you that he came right in, walked right into my bedroom and assaulted my rug for the second time?
Readers, this is why I write about perspective. It’s really never in those excellent moments when you’re laying on a beach peacefully somewhere that you recognize that you really just need to stop and gain some perspective on your life. You know what I’m saying? It’s just not in those moments that you need to do that. And frankly, it might not be in that second attack on your rug that you really realize you need to stop and gain perspective either. If I’m being really honest, it might not be during that fifteen minute half-bathing/half-waterboarding episode in the shower right after attack two either! It might not even be the next day when, after a lengthy search with emotional kids who think their dog has really just run away this time, only to discover that he’s still eating God knows what out in the woods and coming home to throw up on the back porch that you really need to stop and gain perspective either. It might not be any of those times.
But I’ll tell you when it is time. It’s time when, on day three, after three baths, when you’re finally wondering if the smell will ever not be a part of your life, that you watch that first born boy of yours regurgitate this all too familiar sight right inside your front door that you really recognize it’s time to stop for a moment and take stock of what you’re really grateful for in your life. You’ll know it’s time when you see red, call your husband (who just so happens to manage to avoid cleaning even so much as an ounce of this horrendous stuff up any of the times it appears) to inform him of how much you HATE THIS DAMN FARM!!!!!! AND TENNESSEE!!!!!! AND EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!
That’s when it’s time, guys. That’s when it’s time to stop, take a breath (well, take it easy on the breathing in of that stuff) and re-evaluate the current perspective you’re holding in your minds eye. That’s when you pause and reflect on how this is actually sad- your dog is sick (and an idiot). You, actually, keep letting him out to roam free without watching him, and continue to subject yourself to this fast establishing pattern. It’s in these moments that you want to sit on your porch and look at the sunset and think about world hunger and how good you’ve got it. It’s in the midst of these challenges that you want to intentionally bring to mind the joy on your children’s faces as they prance around this beautiful, green farm land that they love and learn from so very much. These are the times, Friends, when you need to remember why you’re here and how much you love dogs, kids, farms and life.
Oh, if only you and I could do that at such a time.
But alas, on this particular occasion, I instead obsessively cleaned and thought of absolutely everything I hate about farm life, this house I live in, the things that are broken, the barn that is such a mess, the dreams that will NEVER EVER EVER be fulfilled in my life!!!! I gained as much perspective in that emotional break down as my husband cleaned up ounces of puke.
It wasn’t my best moment. Luckily, I was alone. Unfortunately for my husband, I had a phone and could still use text messaging as a means of frustration release. But because God is good, and bleach exists, and my dog is still one of the greatest loves of my life (have you actually tried to be mad at a Golden Retriever in real life?), I started to come back down to planet earth. I started to remember that I actually love that my dogs get to lay in the sun in their front yard without the confinement of a small yard like we had at our last house. I stood at the sink in the kitchen and looked out the window I’ve absolutely adored staring out of for nearly three years. And finally, I heard the sound of the car in the driveway and my kids and Tom returning home from wherever they had been. I watched them race around the yard, free as birds and as filled with joy as ever, because they live in the country on a farm.
My heart started to soften. Perspective started to grab ahold.
I’m not perfect. I break often. I lose sight of what’s important. I get overwhelmed. Puke happens. But I believe in what I write. I believe that perspective can ALWAYS be gained. I believe that we can always make the shift. I know that we don’t have to stay victims. We don’t have to live in overwhelm and break down. And I have come to understand that emotions can be a really poor compass, and a terrible advisor.
I hope you had a good laugh with me today, and I hope that the next time you find yourself in the middle of the puke of life, you can take a moment and realize that what you’re feeling isn’t the truth. It’s not real. It’s temporary.
And for God’s sake, grab bleach.