I had been fast asleep until I felt a nudge.
“Will you let the dog out?” he asked, in a voice that put the request clearly in the column of “I'll Owe You One” on the imaginary chalkboard of marital tabulations.
I hadn't even heard her barking. (Not that that's unusual. I have a tendency to ignore the obvious).
“What time is it?”
“For the love of Pete, it's time to let YOUR dog out.”
So much for Owing Me One.
It certainly didn't take long for his sense of humor to wear thin. I had barely swung my legs over the bed, let alone found my slippers, before one more plaintive bark caused him to transfer ownership and cancel any late-night goodwill.
How fickle we are.
It's his dog when she's all cuddly and cute on a winter-coming evening before we break down and switch on the furnace. She's my dog when she eats the bath sponge and vomits soap bubbles and blue foam bits under his desk.
In truth, though, she is MY dog.
I was the one who thought she was special. I was the one who saw her face on the shelter's website. I was the one who dragged the family to meet her. I was the one who pushed for her adoption.
It was also me who worked with her (with varying degrees of success) this past year on not peeing in the house; not chasing the cat, not chewing up all of our insoles; not shredding toys, or pillows, or old plastic bags; and not barking at us for no apparent reason whatsoever.
When she walks at a heel I take full credit.
But not on this night.
This night, as I stumbled down the stairs, somewhere between awake and asleep still wondering what time it was, I wished for fish. Quiet, docile fish.
I didn't even realize my mistake when I opened the door and the dog burst out into the backyard, a writhing, snarling, barking blur.
The noise abruptly coming to a halt with a yelp.
It wasn't until I re-opened the door and she streaked inside on a wave of acrid air that I truly woke up.
It was evident she had been skunked, and I couldn't ignore it in the same fashion I ignored her barking in the first place.
But that didn't stop me from trying.
I slipped back into bed. The foul air had followed me up the stairs and into our room, even though the dog had made a B line in another direction: The kids' room.
How could I sleep knowing what I knew?
“I'm not sure,” I lied. “But I think the dog got skunked … and that first rule … the one about not letting a skunked dog back inside the house? Well … yeh … too late.”
That woke him up. In fact, he bolted out of bed and into the hallway searching for the dog, who had abandoned the kids (thankfully) and was in the bathroom trying (unsuccessfully) to remove the rancid smell with her tongue and forepaws, and a basketful of dirty laundry.
She stopped what she was doing and sat upright, a cowering mass of stench and oily fur. It was as if she calculated her mistake and the potential consequences of it, and was using the remnants of her shelter-dog experience to beseech our mercy.
“Please make this stop. … I'll be a good dog now. Don't send me away … I can do laundry. I think.”
He gaged and then relented. I couldn't feel my tongue. “Poor dog.”
We worked silently.
I measured the amounts of peroxide, baking soda and dish soap called for by Dr. Google.
He found a cloth and rubber gloves.
An hour later – and two rounds of warm, soapy water -- the air still tasted bitter. There was nothing left to do, so we tried to sleep.
“Someday you'll laugh about this,” he said as he drifted off.
But it wasn't my sense of humor that worried me. It was chalking the nebulous “Who Owes Whom” tab that would keep me awake.especially since the dog was surely MY dog since she was exuding a choking olfactory sensation all around us.
“As long as we can reclaim our sense of smell,” I told myself. “I'll be happy.”