It was the spring of 2004. Neve was about to turn one and I hadn’t gone back to work yet. We were living at our old house at the Lake and we had gotten Zelda about 4 months earlier. Zelda was a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix that we had rescued from the pound, and she had come with a host of “issues”. Some of these were the normal annoyances you expect from a young dog (she was approximately 6 months old when we adopted her). She liked to chew on the wooden coffee table, so that even when you thought she was being good and laying at your feet nicely she was actually very covertly chewing off the table legs. She was hell on a leash, and no matter how much you ran that dog she never seemed to get worn out. She ate anything she could get her snout into, including a brand new bag full of Gymboree 4th of July clothes for the girls which I hung on the door knob when I got home from the mall. She made short work of those while I was out grabbing the groceries. She could also, from a complete stand still, jump clear over our neighbor’s fence when she felt like it. But my biggest problem with Zelda (aside from the aggression problems for which we eventually sent her to live on that farm) was that she could not be house trained. I swear. I kept a rigorous schedule of feedings and potty times and I knew every bit of what went into and came out of that dog. And yet she always managed to surprise me. Her output seemed to be at least triple her intake. She got the vet recommended 2 cups of dry doggie food per day (1 cup in the morning, 1 in the evening). This wasn’t the cheapo Purina crap, either. It was the expensive holistic stuff that promised no fillers or anything artificial, to help reduce output. Didn’t matter. She’d poop after each meal, plus anytime you took her on a walk, plus a few times during the night her whole life.
Anyway during the spring of ’04 we kept her crated next to our bed at night. Neve’s crib was perpendicular to the crate, and back then she actually slept in it a few hours a night! We were in the habit of walking in the evenings (when Paul was home) with the girls and the dog. We walked a pretty ambitious route, considering how young the girls were, but we wanted to get Zelda as much exercise as we could. She’d always poop at least once along the walk, and we made sure to taker her out again before bedtime as a preventative measure. The particular night in question started out rather normal. Emily was in bed on time and Neve had fallen asleep on the couch in my lap. Paul took Zelda out and then put her in her crate. Neve went into her crib and I decided to stay up alone to work on some knitting for awhile.
It was about midnight when I could no longer keep my eyes open and my fingers didn’t want to work the needles anymore. I put away my project and climbed into bed. As I was closing my eyes, Zelda whined. Just a bit, and softly, so that I thought she was perhaps just expressing her usual dissatisfaction in her crate. I was so, so wrong. At 2 I woke again to more whining. This time it was louder, more persistent. “Well if she has to pee”, I thought, “she’ll have to wait ’til morning.” Half an hour later the whining began to be accompanied by a gurgling sound. I started getting a little nervous. Not wanting to have a stinky mess to clean in the morning, I decided I’d better get my butt out of bed and take her outside. This was monumental effort on my part, I’ll have you know. I was dead tired, and I was somewhat afraid of going out at night. Our neighborhood was pretty dark and there were all manner of animals out there, like skunks!
But, I sucked it up and took her out. I couldn’t see very well what she did, but I was pretty sure she pooped. She whined a bit as she went, and it took her longer than usual, but I was pretty satisfied that I’d taken care of a potential disaster. I went back to sleep feeling worn out but relieved.
At 3 am I wake up to loud gurgling, an indescribable “wet” noise like a garden hose under pressure, and a stench the likes of which I had never before encountered. I didn’t quite know what to do at first, but a second blast of the “wet” hose noise and another wave of stench caused me to bolt out of bed and switch on the light.
I do not know how I can possibly explain just what I discovered at that moment, or the mixture of emotions that welled inside me. Horror, fear, disgust, revulsion, anger. All plus some previously undiscovered ones, I think.
The short of it is that Zelda had placed her butt against the back of her crate and literally “blasted” awful liquid diarrhea out of it. There was evil, foul brown all over the white carpeting, the bed skirt and side of my bed, the night table, the wall, the bottom bar of the crib, and of course, all over the crate and the dog. It was a miracle she hadn’t gotten it into the crib and onto Neve. Paul, the heaviest of sleepers, woke when I began gagging and retching. I didn’t know where to begin or what to do, and as immobilized as I was by the task at hand, I kept having to run to the toilet to avoid vomiting all over my bedroom and adding to the mess. Pretty soon Neve was awake as well, as Paul and I opened all the windows and turned on the fan and tried to formulate a plan while violently gagging. Thankfully Paul had recently purchased a wet/dry shop vac, and we made good use of it that night. We also went though a good can or two of Lysol spray. The crate had to be hauled outside for cleaning in daylight (it needed a high pressure water hose on it – by the time we got to it the sun had come up and cooked the foul mess onto the teeny tiny bars). It was about 2 hours of work before we could go back to bed (fortunately Paul called in sick in the morning to help out) – but we got the carpet and other surfaces cleaned, and I changed the sheets on the beds for good measure, even though Zelda had not gotten the sheets with her “butt hose”. As for Zelda herself, she left a few more puddles outside and so we left her tied on the porch for the rest of the night (such as it was).
In the morning there were some more smears of liquid poo on the porch to deal with, and I made a vet appointment. Paul took a heavy duty tarp and lined the back of the Saab with it so I could get her there without destroying the car. It turned out she had gotten Giardia, a nasty protozoan that causes explosive havoc on a dog’s digestive tract such as we have experienced. I got a nice bottle of meds and made it home without incident. While I was gone Paul had managed to clean up the porch and line it with another tarp. The crate, which he had cleaned with the aforementioned water hose, was placed on top of said tarp, and wrapped in a second tarp to keep any new sprays from getting on the porch or windows. There Zelda spent a week while recovering from her “episode”, and thus ends yet another chapter of my life I probably should not have revisited.