Dog days are named after Sirius, the "dog star," and are supposedly the hottest days of the summer. According to the ancient Romans, they're also a time when evil abounds, dogs go mad, wine turns sour and generally all hell breaks loose.
Given the meteorological mess we've had this summer, finding a single dog day is a feat in itself, but one that qualified for me was this past Wednesday. It was hot and sunny and I had dog issues aplenty.
First, about ten minutes into the dogs' morning constitutional, Shaky Jake's retractable leash broke. It was only two weeks old but luckily it came with a one-year guarantee. Unluckily, I'd thrown away the receipt.
On the way back home, Brother Phineas the Pug Thug saw something - a squirrel, a chipmunk, a wood sprite - and gave sudden chase. He didn't catch his prey -- instead he caught my pinkie in his leash, yanking it halfway out of its socket.
As I hopped up and down, half in pain from the yank, half in amazement the finger was still attached, I kept telling myself not to react against the dog (who, having grown bored with his pursuit, was now next to me, sniffing a small wet lump of something brown and disgusting).
I actually kept my cool, which made my heart swell with pridethough not as much as my finger swelled with contusion.
Recycling at its worst
After I dropped them back off at home, I went to town for my office hours at the Blue Moon, and a few hours after that, I returned home, figuring my dog issues were over for the day. Sadly, I figured wrong.
When I got in the house I noticed a carrot chunk on the living room rug. I thought I would've noticed the chunk if it'd been there before I left, but given my lack of housekeeping skills I probably wouldn't have noticed a cadaver there either.
The carrot chunk was a mystery but one that got solved as soon as I got in the kitchen, which was covered with garbage galore, as was the bathroom -- all wastebaskets having been plundered by one, or both, of my canine buddies.
Again, I reminded myself to stay cool, which I did as I swept, vacuumed and mopped till everything returned to what I consider normal. That done, I retired to the living room with a cool root beer, and as I sat there looking at my dogs, both asleep on the couch, I couldn't help but wonder who'd committed the rascality.
I had not a clue till about my third sip of the R.B., when Jake suddenly sat up and glugged. Then he glugged again. And then he proceeded to yack up a huge pile of undigested kibbles, leftover lo mein, dental floss, a Q-Tip or two and sundry other detritus I'll spare you the details of.
After cleaning that mess, I was giving myself a much-deserved break when the phone rang.
As soon as I picked it up, I was met with a voice of operatic power, range and pathos.
It was none other than His Royal Shrillness, the Flower of Houston's Demimonde - Ignatius Lindenhauer III.
"Oh, my nerves!" he shrieked, "Thank God you're home!"
"Iggy, my boy," I said, "what's the matter?"
"You have a minute?"
"Of course," I said, knowing an Iggy minute translates into at least 45 chronometric ones. "What's up?"
"The judges disqualified you from the Marlene Dietrich look-alike contest?"
"Puh-leeze," he said.
"OK," I said, "tell me about it."
And of course he did.
He and his friend Renaldo had been walking in the park when a jogger came hurtling toward them. And I mean straight toward them - apparently, he was running in the middle of the path, totally inconsiderate of anyone else's space.
Iggy and his friend got out of his way, but when the jogger came by he added insult to injury literally, hurling a few expletives at them. At first Iggy didn't know they were insults since they were in Spanish, but he found out post haste when Renaldo translated for him.
Iggy is the very soul of civility, but when treated rudely, he erupts like God of the Old Testament. Knowing that, I asked him how he dealt with being dissed.
"Lemme tell ya, baby, I took right off after that swine. And since he was plugged into his Ipod listening to some lowbrow junk, no doubt - I got right behind him without him knowing it."
"Then what?" I asked.
"Oh, you're gonna love this," he said, pausing for dramatic impact.
"'This' is I blazed by him and then jumped in front of his ugly face and yelled at the top of my lungs."
"What'd he do?"
"What'd he do?" he repeated."He almost had a massive coronary, that's what he did."
After an evil chuckle, he continued.
"And while he was standing there, white as a sheet, gasping, his hand over what passes for his heart, I gave him a going-over he won't soon forget. Went up one side of that little snot and down the other but good!"
"So I guess you had the last laugh, eh?"
"Well, um actually not."
"No?" I asked. "Why not?"
"Because after he took off again and my pulse and blood pressure returned to normal, I realized I had a pain in my foot."
"A pain? What kind of pain?"
"A very sharp, very intense, very painful pain," he said. "Hurt so bad, I couldn't put any pressure on it. Had to lean on Renaldo all the way back to the car, and when we got there, he had to drive."
"So then what'd you do?"
"Hey, baby, I'm a Lindenhauer," he said. "Very loosely translated, our family motto is 'Don't flake, don't fear, don't fail.' I tried to gut it out - stiff upper lip and all that -but it got so bad I couldn't think straight. Had to have Renaldo drive me to the E.R."
"How was that?"
"A Houston hospital emergency room on a Saturday night? How do you think it was?"
"At its best," he said. "Sweet mother of God, with the joint chocked full of victims of shootings, stabbings, bludgeonings, O.D.s, beat-downs and car wrecks, the place looked like a triage for World War III. Sad souls in every manner of disarray and disasterand saddest of all, me and my throbbing footsie stuck in the middle of them. Had all I could do to get any attention."
"But I assume you finally did."
"And 'finally' is the key word. Took me about three hours of suffering among les miserables before I got an X-ray. And then another two hours before I actually saw a doctor."
"So what'd the doctor say?"
"From what I managed to understand - he had an accent you could've cut with a meat cleaver - my foot has a stress fracture."
"How do you treat a stress fracture?" I asked.
"With a Happy Meal at Micky D's, for all the good it'll do," he said. "You don't do anything, except try to stay off it and let it heal. And if you figure out how to do that and get to work at the same time, you're a better boy than I. And even worse, my fabulous salsa dancing career is clearly on hold for a while."
We dished some more, then said our goodbyes. After that I looked at Phineas and Jake, taking well-earned rests after their day's labors, fully at peace, not a care in the world.
I then thought of my day and Iggy's and had an epiphany of sorts: All of us are dogged by fate - some of us figuratively, others of us literally.