I like cleanliness.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind cleaning up a mess if it's for a good cause. I like to clean my house, for example. I don't mind getting messed up to get a job done, or get healthy. Working out. Riding in the mud. Running in the rain. Chopping wood. Cleaning windows. Washing a car. Renovating an apartment. Working on a farm. Hell, I've cleaned toilets for a living. But, really, I am n o t into scatological pursuits if they can be avoided.
Which, let's face it, they can be most of the time, can't they? Avoided.
Really. I mean, I'm an idealist, sure, but I know that pretty much apart from my own, and perhaps in the future that of an infirm or aged loved one, human or animal waste is just not a big part of my life. No pets. No children. No ... well ... you know ... no Number Two. At least, not someone else's.
I grew up on farms and in the country, and am no stranger to a pitchfork or dungheap. I have mucked out cows and chickens and horse stalls and even goats. In one job my fellow stooge and I cleaned out forty-eight cattle and horse stalls in two and a half days. But that's another story.
What I'm leading up to, here, as you can probably tell, is an unfortunate tale in which I play the fall guy, in a most literal sense, for my wife and another good lady friend of ours. Both of whom, while loving them dearly, I must say demonstrated less sympathy to me than perhaps I felt I deserved at the time.
On the occasion of this particular event, I was visiting my parents in Alberta, just prior to Christmas. A couple of days spent in the bracing cold of a Kananaskis Yule. With snow on the ground, kitchen counters groaning under the weight of Mum's baking, wine and spirits deftly served by my father's liberal hand. A real tree to decorate. Fragrant little mandarin oranges peeled in front of a roaring fire as Baileys is tippled generously into the hot chocolate. General merriment and Very Good Cheer. You get the picture.
And, an added bonus for me, there at the house is the absolutely beautiful dog Sandy, a sturdy and golden-fleeced Japanese Ainu with spunk to spare, a sparkle in her eye, enough attitude to dominate the said lady-friend-neighbour's enormous Newfoundlands, and large enough not to be one of those despicable little yappy canines that are so easy to hate.
Next to my parent's last wonderful labrador (sadly, no longer with us), Sandy is probably the most favourite dog I've ever known. So when I go to visit, I try to spoil her rotten. I love to walk dogs you see, run with them, throw rocks and sticks, horse about playing tug 'o war, and generally get caught up in the exuberance of all that is the carefree existence of dog.
Now, because we lived in the country when I was growing up, I never had to spend much time dealing with dog waste. The odd pile to clean off the lawn, or an occasional pick-up in the park during a walk, but most times it was au naturel for our pooches, because there was an awful lot of au naturel to absorb it, you see. My wife and I cannot have a dog due to my allergies, and so despite growing up with dogs, I don't get to spend too much time with them these days. Hence, I spend little or no time cleaning up after them. No cats. No pets at all.
And as I said before, no kids. No diapers, no unpleasant surprises in the middle of an otherwise blissful sleep. No searching for a change-table carrying a bawling, stinking bundle of reek through a restaurant. No frantic lane changes across a freeway while junior hoses down the leather 60/40 split rear like a muck-spreader.
In fact I have to say that I enjoy an almost total absence of foreign excrement in my life. Apart from one recent incident in Brockwell Park with my nephew, who left an eight-inch by four-foot smear down the park slide ("Well, he WAS sick", said his Mum) I've avoided as much of the stuff as any man can in this old world.
However my parents have, with their neighbours, taken the high road and now clean up the waste that their pets leave behind in the woodlands that back their property down to the river not far away. So now (sigh) a joyful bounding through the woods with Sandy must end with removal of any deposits she makes. Fair enough but not my idea of a Dickensian stroll through a winter wonderland, if you get my drift. But, them's the breaks, as Mother likes to say.
So on this particular walk, I was carrying not only dog treats in my pocket, but also a plastic bag with which to scoop up Sandy's recycled treats, accompanied by two otherwise delightful companions, my wife S and our parent's neighbour and good friend, N. Now N has a veritable pack of Newfoundlands as I hinted earlier. On this walk she brought her friendliest pooch, a 100-pound puppy, who gets along famously with Sandy, and, well, with most everyone really. Just like her owner, N. So off we set through the snow to the frozen river, dogs bounding ahead and humans chatting happily in their wake. The sun was shining off the blindingly white snow, and our breath rose in vapours to vanish in the tree branches above. An exquisite winter's day.
After a while tossing rocks and watching the dogs crackle dangerously along the river ice, it was time to return home. Now, well-trained as she is, Sandy has become quite regular in her pattern. As we were walking back to the house, she stepped daintily off to the side of the path to do her business. I groaned and moaned and took a little light ribbing from N and S, but prepared to do my duty.
Sandy is also apparently known for another habit, in that she will appear to be finished her task and begin to walk away from her pile, but then will suddenly squat and leave one more small deposit, almost as an afterthought. And true to form on this day, she stepped away from Point A and then stopped and began her encore at Point B. But this time something happened.
Whether it was the bitter cold, or just a change in her diet due to the scrumptious treats available at this time of year, her encore performance was, well, paused mid-execution. In fact while fully formed, it was trapped, dangling from her nether regions and swaying dangerously to and fro.
Like any good mammal, Sandy wanted no part of this errant hanger-on and the ladies cried out in sympathy for the little dog, as she began to waddle crazily across the path, still squatting and furiously wiggling her little bot, trying to loosen the load.
"Help her, Hoto!" cried the ladies. "You've got to get it off her." And almost as if she understood every word, Sandy began to scoot backwards toward me, looking over her shoulder at me beseechingly and presenting her unladylike posterior to me, offending article swaying madly. By now the ladies, human that is, had not only reached some degree of alarm at the little pooch's plight, but also the stirrings of unsympathetic mirth at the fact that it would have to be me, weak-stomached and scat-averse me, to have to wield the plastic bag and pluck the dangling doo doo from the damsel in distress, as it were. So silenced by rising gorge and gagging throat, and surrounded by shouted advice and unbridled glee at my discomfort, I approached poor Sandy to unburden her. But from behind, unbeknownst to me, the Newf decided she wanted to get past all this cafuffle on the path, and frankly, I was in her way.
Now, many of you may be familiar with Newfoundland dogs, but if not, let me paint a picture. As a relative pup, this specimen can put nine feet of turf between paw prints at a gentle trot. With a head the size and consistency of an anvil, and all the poise and grace of a woolly mammoth, she pretty much goes where she wants to go, and it takes large and sturdy fences to curb her wanderings. So a skinny-legged city boy presents little to no obstacle.
Suddenly, as I bent to the task at hand, my legs were taken out from underneath me, and after a brief but memorable soar through the air, I landed hard on my unpadded rear-end in the snow.
Thankfully I had not yet grasped the turd from Sandy's butt, or it too would have been soaring through the air, and indubitably would have landed on my head. As I staggered to my feet, barely realizing what had happened, I turned back to poor Sandy, still whimpering and waggling her nether regions at me, and realized that my human companions had completely abandoned all sympathy for the little dog in favour of staggering around in helpless laughter, tears streaming from their eyes. Impervious to their heartless cackling, I freed Sandy from her unwilling poop, and, gagging manfully, with my last shred of dignity disappearing like a vapour into the tree branches above, went and picked up the rest of the mess.
Walking back to the house, Sandy happily bounded along with the unrepentant Newfoundland, and I was regaled with multiple replays of my unfortunate spill by my unfeeling and outrageously exaggerative companions.
N insisted that I pose with Sandy and the bag of goodies on my parent's deck, prior to slinking away in shame.
I mustered a brave smile for the camera, then went inside and had more Baileys while N and S ensured my parents heard every sordid detail.
(sent wirelessly from my phone)