Sunday, October 14, 2012

Muddy Outcomes

Sometimes it feels like every action we take comes with unintended consequences, whether positive or negative.  In foreign policy circles, this is called blowback, though I guess that term usually has negative connotations.  You probably wouldn’t hear a news anchor say something like, “Middle East peace was achieved today as a result of blowback from the Secretary of State’s most recent round of shuttle diplomacy.” 

But unintended consequences can be good.  Just a moment ago, in fact, as an unintended consequence of finally getting around to downloading IOS 6 for my iPhone, I discovered one of the coolest apps I’ve ever seen.  I’m keeping it a secret so it won’t get over-used.  Although, given that it’s one of the featured Passbook apps, that’s probably a lost cause.

John and I have been dealing with the unintended consequences of installing a dog door for Cleo.   Before we bought it, we carefully considered the dangers of unwelcome intruders (whether self-propelled or puppy-propelled).  A friend’s graphic story about a student of hers who woke up one hot night to discover a rabid skunk standing on his chest definitely gave us pause.  So far (knock on wood) we’ve been spared the entrance of anything untoward.  Last night, we might have been the closest ever to entertaining an unwelcome guest.  Cleo caught her first rat.  I wasn’t sure whether to be congratulatory or grossed out.  One thing’s for sure: She won’t be licking my face when she comes in from the backyard anymore.  Frankly, it was just a baby, about four inches long, but hey, when it’s in your backyard, a rat is a rat.  When I discovered her, she was a little confused about the whole thing.  I think she was as surprised as I was (let alone the rat) that she had actually succeeded in getting it, and she was trying to figure out what to do with it now.  I can just imagine her deciding that a good, safe place for it would be between the cushions on the chaise in the living room.  I could almost hear the characteristic, sneaky tick-tick-tick of her nails as she tried to tiptoe past me with her contraband.  I brought her in and locked the flap prestissimo.

What hadn’t dawned on us was that things besides the puppy might go out.  Or maybe I should say “in addition to” rather than “besides,” given that they are going out with Cleo.  I first became suspicious when I discovered an unusually dirty pair of John’s socks lying next to the refrigerator.  When I picked them up, I discovered they were damp and curiously earthy smelling.  Now, John would rather be barefoot than shod any day of the week, and even if he were wearing socks, he wouldn’t go tromping around in the mud with them.  Not long after this, his leather gloves (a perennial favorite of Cleo’s) disappeared from the coffee table.  We looked in her usual hiding places, but found nothing.  A quick scan of the backyard likewise turned up zilch, but later that afternoon, I heard Cleo rustling around in the narrow passage between our shed and fence.  Not long after that, she came through the dog door with a single glove in her mouth and a guilty expression on her face.  So I know where her hiding place is, but let me tell you, I am not planning to explore it!  Here there be spiders!  Besides, she usually returns whatever she’s stolen.  Maybe it’s guilt or maybe she’s bragging, I don’t know.  The second glove showed up a couple days later, wet and muddy. 

Sometimes we don’t even realize that something is missing until she brings it back.  It’s always been her penchant to steal socks in pairs; when there isn’t a lone survivor to call attention to its solitude, it’s pretty easy to overlook missing socks.  Luckily, she almost always returns them in pairs, too.  I was a little resentful when she spat my favorite underpants at my feet last week.  At least this time we were home alone rather than having dinner with friends.  Nothing says “Welcome!” like your dog bearing your unmentionables to the dining table.

At the moment, we’re waiting for the return of our bathroom doorstop.  As we brush our teeth at night, the door swings quietly closed, always stopping at just the right angle so that I bang an elbow into it as I reach for the floss.  “Where’s the damn doorstop?” I ask Cleo, who snoozes happily on, stretched out on our bed. 

And really, what’s a little blowback compared to a contented puppy dog?

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