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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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I’ll Give You $30 If You Muzzle Her First

For any of you who may care about such things, I’m happy to report that my doofus dog (pictured here en practically flagrante) is doing quite well, thanks. And still being a royal pooch in the ass, at the spritely old age of nine.

(Times seven, plus a couple since she’s got a birthday coming up, and… well, I’m no good at the maths. Let’s just say she’s approaching Abe Vigoda in terms of longevity.

And she’s far, far outstripped him in the crotchety department already. Fast learner, my girl.)

For those who don’t remember — or never knew — the mopey mutt was diagnosed with lymphoma around fifteen months ago. She went through six full months of chemotherapy, takes more doggie pills than a hypochondriac husky, and even had her spleen removed.

(We resisted the urge to retrieve it from the animal hospital and have it bronzed.

Where ‘resisted the urge’ means ‘my wife hid the car keys for three days’.)

And for those who don’t care so much about the pooch, or see why we’d go to all the trouble above for a dog… well, stick around this time. It seems you’re not alone.

“It’s the same reason bees buzz, or Amy Winehouse croons into a microphone. It’s an early warning, giving anyone within earshot a chance to escape unstung.”

I was sitting in the lunchroom at work today, minding my own business and offending as few people as humanly possible with my sandwich slurping. A few coworkers were at the table, having a lively conversation while I mostly listened. And slurped.

(Yes, I have the table manners of a wolf-raised African belching hyena. What, you were expecting G.K. Willington, Esq.? Let’s move on.)

One of the ladies at the table works down the hall, and is one of those ‘loud people’ that you always seem to hear long before you see. Which turns out to be quite useful — the better to go diving into an empty office or mens’ room to prevent an encounter. It’s the same reason bees buzz, or Amy Winehouse croons into a microphone. It’s an early warning, giving anyone within earshot a chance to escape unstung. Mother Nature’s looking out for us here.

So, this loud lady also owns cats, which is a second strike against her. If I ever find out that she smokes or beats old ladies or has ever lifted two coins at once from a ‘Take A Penny’ tray, then that’s the third strike. I think that means I can call our department head and have her taken away and replaced with someone more socially tolerable; I’ll have to check our employee handbook, but I’m pretty sure I saw it in there.

Meanwhile, she remains. Hanging by a thread, as she is.

Today, she was holding high-volume court in the lunchroom, talking about — of course — her cats. One in particular, which had just been to the vet for a health issue. Apparently the little clawed hissing angel wasn’t eating for a couple of days, so our concerned feline steward took it to the cat clinic for a looksee.

I should mention here that I’m very sympathetic to this situation, having experienced something similar myself. I’m not a ‘cat person’, particularly, and I’m certainly not a ‘loud cat lady who’s one granny punch away from the unemployment line person’. But I’ll admit, somewhat grudgingly, that yes, I’m attached to my pet. And apparently, I’m willing to do whatever reasonably needs to be done to keep her safe, healthy, and sleeping on the damned couches every time we walk out the frigging door.

I may want to dip her in Nair and strap her to the hood of the car for our ‘walk’ now and then, but god help me, I love that stupid crotchety dog.

Back to the lunchroom.

After the initial description of kitty’s problems, the woman related how they’d driven to the vet, waited at the vet, and (finally) gotten in to see the vet. One of them — either her or the cat — scratched the vet at one point, and he apparently took a stool sample. From one of them. I wasn’t really paying close attention at that point.

My focus perked up, however, when she neared the end of her little saga:

Yeah, so it turned out to be some digestive thing; Smitty will be fine. He gave us some medicine with an eye dropper, and I have to give it to the cat twice a day. It’s a pain, but at least the medicine doesn’t cost too much. Good thing, too, or — you know, twenty-eight bucks.

I didn’t know what she meant by ‘twenty-eight bucks’. As reluctant as I was to engage her, I was sort of curious.

Also, a little nauseous at the thought that she named her cat ‘Smitty the Kitty’. I nearly upslurped my sandwich.

Luckily, someone with a braver soul and stronger stomach was also curious, and asked what ‘twenty-eight bucks’ was supposed to mean.

Oh, that’s what the shelter costs to put an animal down. Twenty-eight bucks. If the medicine were much more than that — *snap* twenty-eight bucks. That’s it.

Wait. Really? Just like that? I think she sensed an odd look from a few of us at the table. And it doesn’t take much to keep this lady talking.

Well, sure. I mean, it’s just a pet — not like a kid or something. Bzzzzzt. Done. Twenty-eight bucks. We can always get another cat, or a dog, or a pack of gerbils or something. It happens.

Wow. I have to admit, I was a little taken aback, but I didn’t say anything. I’ve definitely wondered myself how far is ‘too far’ to go to keep a beloved pet alive and yapping. And ‘canine chemotherapy’ is pretty solidly on the other side of that line for a large number of perfectly reasonable people.

Still. This woman knows about our pooch. And though we don’t particularly make social concessions for each other — did I mention we’re not close? — it might have been nice if she were a little less cavalier about her pet care plans, should her Smittycat become an inconvenience. Chipped a claw? Twenty-eight bucks! Piddled on the hardwood? Twenty-eight bucks! The price of Meow Mix rose a nickel a bag? Twenty-eight bucks!!

But it’s no ‘third strike’, sadly. It’s her cat, after all. So long as she’s not torturing it, pulling its tail or dunking it in a kiddie pool, the cat’s probably perfectly happy. And it’s up to megaphone mouth to decide when the pile of money in the cat kitty is more of the budget than she can manage. Just seems a little insensitive, is all.

And that, I know how to deal with. The last thing a coworker who complains often and loudly should do is give a smartass like me ammunition. But now that I have it, I’m inclined — nay, obligated — to use it. And I’m getting plenty of opportunity, already; three times since lunchtime, in fact.

At a quarter after two, she was at the copier machine across the hall. As I happened to walk by, she said, ‘Ow!! Ooooh, darn, a papercut.

I told her I had just the thing for that. She took the bait and asked, ‘Really, what?

*snap* Twenty-eight bucks.

Around three thirty, she was taking a coffee break and grousing (loudly) about the poor quality of the last cup in the pot. Knowing her guard would be raised, I didn’t lead with anything. I just moseyed past and shrugged and said:

Well, there’s always… twenty-eight bucks.

Finally, on my way out for the night, I walked through the little food court and shop area across from our office building and caught her standing in line at the convenience store there. Buying lottery tickets.

I didn’t say anything then. Sometimes, it’s just too easy.

Much as I’m enjoying this, though, I’ll probably have to ramp it back down in a few days. Pushing her buttons is fun, but it’s not necessarily worth a talking-to from the boss about ‘maintaining a cordial and professional environment’. Again. We just reached an uneasy accord with the sandwich slurping; probably best not to push the envelope right now.

So soon I’ll be back on the lookout for that third strike. And I really hope I read that clause in the handbook correctly. If all goes well, maybe we can hire her cat to replace her. I bet Smitty would at least keep his big meower shut about the damned coffee.

Permalink  |  7 Comments

7 Responses to “I’ll Give You $30 If You Muzzle Her First”

  1. J.W. says:

    Throw away society.

    28 bucks…snap!

    12 bucks…snap!

    300 bucks…snap!

    After almost $5600 bucks on my beloved boxer, to continue to give him a decent life…when the time came, and he could no longer manage…the vet told me, the termination fee, and disposal remains, were determined on a per pound basis.

    I took my beloved home. Had a very best friend help my pup cross that rainbow bridge. I buried him (my pup, not my friend, *grins*) in my back yard. And now?…the beautiful evergreen grows over him.

    Why do folks throw their children and loving animals away?

    Search me, but I tell ya…I would be soooooo snapping my fingers and saying “28 bucks” everytime I had the chance.

  2. J.W. says:

    Well, I did it…went and got emotional…Hahaha.

    I hope “Mz Betty Page” is doing wonderful and getting better. She is a beautiful dog!

    Did I mention?..I love your blog? *grins*

  3. Kat says:

    LOL! Okay, I HAD to read this post when I read the title… just too curious – kudos on picking a title that is impossible to resist. The post did not disappoint.

    28 bucks? She seems like just a lovely person! I’m with JW – it’d be “28 bucks” every single time we crossed paths ;).

  4. Charlie says:

    J.W.: I hear you — how and why many people can treat their animals and children and each other (and even me, dammit!) like some sort of used Snickers wrapper is beyond me.

    And I’m sure your boxer buddy is happy and cozy hanging out in the back yard. Our persnickety puppy is still going strong so far, but when the time comes, I’d feel better knowing she’s snug in the yard.

    And probably piddling on the daisies. Old habits, don’t you know.

    Kat: I’ll have to try harder on my other titles now! If only I could make them all curiosity piquers! Baby steps, I guess.

    And thank you both for the kind words!

  5. kerry says:

    see, i’ve always looked at it more along the lines of, “how much suffering would i be making my pet go through if i put them through this treatment and what are they’re chances?”

  6. Robert says:

    Great story, read it three times. I had to put my own dog to sleep almost 20 years ago now, and I still think about her to this day. She lived for 17 human years (aka 119 dog years). It was hard. I don’t remember the cost in ’89 dollars.

  7. Charlie says:

    Kerry: I can respect that, though it’s always tough to estimate the odds of survival in most cases.

    Our pup, she’s a fighter. So I had high hopes — and fifteen months and several clean checkups later, I’m glad she’s still around.

    Though I do wish they’d taken out the bit that makes her piddle on the carpet when they were getting her spleen. I mean, they were in there already.

    Robert: Thanks for the note; it’s always tough losing a furry friend. Seventeen years is pretty impressive, though — in her later years, was she complaining about the cost of Alpo and telling the puppies to ‘git offa my lawn!‘?

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