Batdog on aisle 1

Sometimes, BatDog happens on the way home from work.

It started when I got in the wrong line.  Again.  It’s as predictable as an ice cream headache.  I get in a line and it’s going to be the slowest line.  Usually in the weirdest possible way.

I was in Trader Joes a few nights ago.  It was busy and every checkout line was open.  I got in line behind a guy holding a basket and realized after a few seconds that the guy ahead of him had a cart with 10,000 small packages of frozen food.  It looked like he had meticulously selected one package of every single item in both freezer aisles.  That’s gonna take a while.  I glanced over and saw another line with only 2 women in it.  They had similar builds, identical frizzy henna red hair and were standing less than a foot from each other.  I guessed they were family – sisters, maybe mother/daughter, and they only had one half full cart, that’s got to be quicker than the line I was in.  So I switched.

What was I thinking.

The checkout guy was suuuuper slow.  First day on the job confused and slow.  Oh good, I’m in the new guys lane.  Fine.  It’s not his fault he’s slow and the next time I’m in, I’m sure he’ll be much faster.   I watched as he pulled each item out, checked every side for the bar code, scanned it, then set the item in oddly precise columns on the bench next to him.   Not in a bag mind you, but in columns on the counter.  Meanwhile, I’m hungry, my uncooked dinner is in my basket and my patience is wearing thin.

Ten minutes later, one of the women ahead of me left with her groceries without talking to the second woman.  So the second woman just spent 10 minutes standing disturbingly close to a complete stranger.  That’s not weird or anything.

Ok, maybe they’re family and not on speaking terms.  Two sisters go shopping for groceries together and one of them accidentally mentions in conversation that she’s the one who knocked over the bunsen burner in their freshman science lab igniting a beaker filled with ethanol, causing the antiquated fire sprinklers to go off in every room in the school.  Unfortunately those sprinklers went off while her sister was presenting her paper mache scale replica of ‘The Thinker’ to the selection committee for a summer scholarship to intern at the Louvre. She didn’t get the scholarship because all the committee saw was a gooey grey mass glorping slowly onto the carpet.  So the sisters part without talking at the checkout stand.

Yeah, I don’t think so either – that was a total stranger climbing all the way into someone else’s personal space bubble and hanging out so close they were sharing eyelash dust.

The lady who had no food to buy at the grocery store then proceeded to buy an $80 gift card.  Using one $20 bill, two $5 bills and FIFTY FIVE $1 bills.  Which the new kid had to count, face, then recount.  While I stood there watching everyone else in every single line checkout and left the store.  If you’re wondering why I didn’t change lines, its because something else would have happened in the new line.  Exploding bag of frozen peas, Lithuanian tourist paying with pesos, Confused PETA protester blocking everyone from buying frozen Tofurkey….really, it could be anything, but it would happen in the line I was in.

When the Bunsen burner sister finally left, the poor clerk started carefully examining and scanning my dinner packages before precisely placing each item into columns on his counter. Still not bagging anything.  A woman I think was a manager came over and started bagging my food while he finished scanning.  Briefly, I thought I was moments from leaving the store with the dinner I was beginning to wonder if I could eat raw.

But no.  Instead, BatDog happened.

The manager stopped bagging groceries and looked behind me at the entrance doors.  Her eyes lit up and she shouted 2 feet from my face: “He’s back! Our mascot is Back!”.  Then with extra volume still too close to my ears: “BatDog!”  She gestured behind her to another employee, then left my half bagged groceries and went outside.  To coo over the ugliest dog on the planet.

I paid the bill, finished bagging my own groceries and after a sympathetic thought for the completely flummoxed kid at the check stand, I left.  Or tried to.  The two employees and a passerby were blocking most of the door exclaiming over the dog.  As I shuggled my way between them and the outer wall of the store, I heard her exclaim “We call him BatDog because he looks like someone hit him in the face with a bat and he’s a dog!”  The cooing squeeing sounds faded slowly as I walked through the rain to my car.

My 5 minute errand on the way home turned into another 30 minute show in the theater of the absurd.  I’d worry something is wrong with me that this keeps happening, but I live in Portland and I like to write.  I think its the cosmos giving me what I want in the oddest way possible.  That happens a lot actually….

Puppy Shaman

I think the demon that was inhabiting our puppy has changed bodies to our older dog.  Hanu, our older  dog is the least aggressive dog I’ve  ever met.    He’s willful and distressingly smart, but never ever aggressive.  I’ve seen him run full tilt at an angry stranger dog at the dog park and flip mid-air to land throat up directly under the  angry dog.    It’s pretty high on my  ‘The world is very strange’ list and somewhere in the middle of my ‘Holy crap the world can be scary’ list.  Hanu is also smart enough to figure out how doors work – because he loves the air conditioner.  Being outside in the heat is just too uncivilized, he figured out how to open the door so he can come inside and cool off on the AC vent whenever he wants.

Now, enter, stage right, the possessed puppy.  The puppy is now demon free and a happy, wiggly bouncy sausage on legs.  Because she was ill so long, she’s still not completely house trained.  Which means she’s often on leash even in the house.  Clever Hanu has taken to tormenting the puppy in ways that we can’t really punish.  Technically, he’s not doing anything wrong.  The first example was puppy being leashed to my chair while happily playing with Hanu.  At some point, Hanu took her chew toy and moved at a walk just out her range with her following him as far as the leash would let her.  Then he jogged back a couple of steps and bounded through the room landing inches from the other side of her leashed range.  It gave her just enough room to get up to full speed before the leash yanked her to a stop.  Don’t panic, she wears a sturdy harness when she’s leashed, she didn’t get hurt at all.  Just startled.  Really really startled.  That game continued for a couple of days until puppy mostly stopped falling for it.  So Hanu escalated.  He started leading her around a table or chair leg that would effectively shorten her leash range, then do  the leap from one side to the other.  Resulting in a  few more days of leash stops before she stopped falling for it too often.

The next adaptation was clever enough I started to suspect where Puppys demon had migrated to.  He would play and wrestle with her in a small area slowly expanding to use all of her leash radius then lead her around a chair leg and bounce away all at once.  He’d do it for long enough that she’d forget about the leash before he led her astray.  Thats not doggish, thats diabolical.

A few days after I saw that happen, I had puppy leashed at the edge of the dining room while I worked in the kitchen.  I heard a rattling sound and funny gaspy grunts from the puppy.  I peeked around the corner and found that Hanu had gone into the office, opened a drawer, pulled out the only toy he’s not allowed to play with, and brought the toy back to the living room.   Where he lay, an inch from her leash range, shaking the stuffed puppy toy so it rattled.  He was close enough to her I’m sure he could feel her breathing while she strained to get her toy.  And make no mistake, he was not playing with that toy.  He was just moving his head enough to make the rattle sound while he laid on the floor, totally relaxed.

Once I realized I was watching something truly unnatural, I noticed more odd behavior.  Puppies love to run, but this one runs widdershins circles around Hanu at full speed in the yard.  Then there was the parkour incident in the bedroom – None of the surfaces under the puppy’s feet were the floor for 3 circuits around Hanu.  The side of the bed, a pillar, the footboard of the bed, the side of a dresser, the laundry basket, you get the idea.  It looked like magic to me – it was definitely defying gravity.  I have hope for Hanus recovery though.  For every time he torments the puppy, there are a dozen times that he brings her toys or lays quietly while she climbs him like a demented monkey.  A sharp word from either of us to the puppy (“don’t chew that”, “drop the slipper”, “no! don’t pee there!”) is enough for Hanu to spirit his beloved puppy to his cave for protection.  He escorts her to his kennel, then lays across the opening as a guard.  The good dog is still in there and he’s in control most of the time so I  think the demon will be exorcised.  And if ever there was a canine shaman who knows how to remove a demon from a dog, its that puppy.

Possessed Puppy

I think my puppy might need to be exorcised. We were looking for something friendly and mellow. It didn’t matter what breed or mix it was as long as it was healthy. Cute would be a bonus, because it’s harder to hate cute when the inevitable messes happen. We brought home a puppy, cute friendly, bouncy and velvety soft on a Thursday. By Friday, our older dog was happily bounding around the yard with the puppy, totally smitten.

By Saturday, the puppy started excreting a pungent runny leak that I think I could market to the military as a chemical weapon. To start with, this was irritating, but not worrisome. 2.5 seconds after you look away from any puppy, they eat something they shouldn’t. Or pee on something. I think there’s a cosmic coin flip that decides which one you get each time. That should have been my first clue though: isn’t the smell of sulfur a sign of possession? By Saturday night, it was clear the puppy needed to always be close to open windows, running water and the front door.

I took the first night on the couch by the front door while puppy stayed in a kennel right next to me. Puppies with unpredictable leaks stay in comfy kennels that can be hosed down if necessary. That’s when the second sign of possession appeared: our adorable new puppy transformed into a high volume cross between a Star Wars Tauntaun and Dark Crystal Fizgig. Ever seen a sick kid demand a popsicle and deliberately choose to cry when they don’t get their 3rd popsicle? With a terrifying and far too intelligent gleam in her eyes, the new puppy figured out that human trick. It might have been funny if she hadn’t figured it out at 2 am while I figured it out at 4 arm. For the next 2 days, the puppy was taken outside every 2 or 3 hours around the clock. We ran through towels so fast I bought a giant bag of them from goodwill and dubbed them puppy towels. A gallon of Natures Miracle was used up in days. In spite of those efforts, we still had a couple of 3am dog baths. And through all of it (except the baths), the puppy was eating good food, drinking plenty of water and bouncing around playing happily at every opportunity.

Only then did I begin to suspect she was possessed by a demon sent to taunt us and drive us mad with toxic gases and sleep deprivation. We finally got her in to see the vet and since they were overbooked she had to stay over night before they could see her. Which (Hurray!) meant we’d get to sleep an entire night through. This is when I knew we were being toyed with by something unnatural. At 2 am, Kris’ phone rang. 2am phone calls mean panic inducing bad news, so there was adrenaline before the ring tone faded. The call told us our phone and internet access had been blocked and that we needed to contact them immediately. I spent the next 30 minutes confirming that it was in fact a phishing call at 2 am. Whatever possessed the puppy clearly had access to the internet and phone lines.

Puppy came home the next day with medicine and instructions that it would be 5 days before she no longer leaked uncontrollably. She would still need to go out every 3 hours around the clock. For 3 days, the toxic smell and chemical weapon production slowed down. I thought we might have forced the horned entity from our cute puppy with medications. But no. It all started getting worse again. So back we went to the vet who I was hoping had a secret identity as a Voodoun priest. This time, they kept the puppy for a night and we got delicious decadent sleep without nightmares of toxic green ooze flowing through the house. The day the puppy was due to come home, I had to be at work 3 hours early at 5 am for a production release. But, I’d get off work a few hours early, pick up the puppy then go home and nap. At 3pm, I picked up the puppy from the vet and was told they couldn’t find anything wrong with her in the 24 hours they’d had her. At 3:06pm on I-205 she violated her kennel and my car with a torrent of something unspeakable. The rest of the drive home was unpleasant as I wondered if there was a puppy in the back or a shape shifting demon who’d been angrily waiting for me at the vet for 2 days. When I got home and looked in the kennel, I saw a puppy, but smelled a demon. I cleaned puppy then set her on the porch next to me while I cleaned the kennel. 2 minutes later, she’d done it again. 4 minutes later, she did it a third time and broke a law of physics. Unless there was a dimensional wormhole in her intestine, there’s no way that much volume could be held by a body that small. So back to the vet we went because that is not a puppy, that’s a supernatural incursion.

The next day, I got a call from the vet. He told me there was nothing wrong with the puppy. I started asking questions because clearly his mind had been wiped by the TonTon incantations of the false puppy. That’s when I discovered that the vet was a wise and kind man, but his staff had been replaced by brainless zombie replicants incapable of conveying information. The vet was in fact a medicine man of many talents and with all of the information he needed would keep her another night and perform the correct medicinal ceremony to start the puppys withdrawal from the dark side.

The next morning I received a call at 8am from the vets office berating me for not having the puppy enrolled in puppy classes. Now that I knew the staff were mindless replicants, I was patient as I explained that the puppy was about 8 feet from the desk she was calling me from and was only fit for puppy classes if they were going to provide respirators and silver crosses to all the humans.

Later that same day, the vet finished blessing puppy and sent her home with an involved series of ceremonies that needed to be repeated 6 times a day for a week. We finished all the unguents and medicines yesterday and now we’re waiting. And watching. Is the demon exorcised for good, or is it hiding quietly under floppy puppy ears? If you don’t hear from us for a couple of days, make sure you have your crucifix when you come looking.