It was a typical weeknight at La Casa Del Dopo. Brother Phineas the Pug Thug and I were on the couch - I correcting papers, he licking the Mousie-Tung.
The Mousie-Tung is so named because, like just about everything else today, it was made in China. It's grotesque, with a freaky bright yellow covering of some sort, and a solid interior of some other sort. I'd never buy one, but for some reason, the Amazon Queen is enamored with them and keeps buying them for my cats. Ironically, the cats aren't enamored with them either, and the only one who plays with them is Brother Phineas, an ongoing bone of contention between the AQ and me.
I'd told her repeatedly I was afraid Phineas would swallow the cursed thing, and just as repeatedly, she'd tell me he couldn't, it was harmless, and why was I such a worry wart anyway. It was just one more of the seven or eight thousand irresolvable conflicts between us.
Now a note about correcting papers - it takes total concentration. They can't be skimmed; they can't be skipped. Instead, you've got to go through them, malapropism by malapropism, simultaneously analyzing and commenting on them.
And while taking a break from a spellbinding essay titled, "When I Was Young," I noticed something was different about Phineas. At first, I didn't know what it was, then I realized he was no longer slobbering over Mousie-Tung because M-T was nowhere to be seen. I checked high and low, on the couch, on the floor, between the cushions - you name it. There was only one place I didn't check, and that's because I couldn't, namely in his stomach, where I suddenly realized the M-T was.
In the belly of the beast
What to do?
First, I did what I usually do in such situations - I wigged out. I mean, let's face it, the mouse was a pet toy made in China. I don't mean to slander China, especially since they're now one of our allies du jour, along with Germany, Japan and Russia, but still, they're a country that uses lead paint on children's toys. So what they use on pet toys is anyone's guess. For all I knew the coating was cyanide and the innards were a keen mixture of dioxins and depleted uranium, and none of it would be doing Phineas any good sitting in his stomach anyway.
So when my hyperventilation session ended, I called the vet's emergency number. I didn't want to since it was 8:30 at night, but, hey, that's what they've got emergency numbers for, isn't it?
Dr. Cogar was very patient and decent about it and told me the first step was to try to get Phineas to throw up.
"So how do I do that?" I asked.
"Simple," he said. "You get an ear syringe, fill it with a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, and then squirt it down his throat."
"And that'll make him throw up?" I asked.
"It should," he said. "But if it doesn't, then wait ten minutes and repeat it. And if he still doesn't throw up, wait another 10 minutes and try it again."
"And what if he still doesn't throw up?"
"Well, the next step is to just wait and see if he passes it."
"Oh sweet," I said, the prospect of watching a pug poop a rubber mouse suddenly looming large in my mind.
I thanked him and hung up.
I've got an ear syringe (which I use to clean fountain pens, lest you wonder) but had no idea if I had hydrogen peroxide. To me, it's like rolls of duct tape and cans of WD-40: At any given time, I've got at least five of each, somewhere in the house, but whenever I actually need the stuff it's as far gone as Judge Crater.
So I did the logical thing - I called the AQ, told her about my sorry plight and asked if she had any peroxide. Not only did she have it, but she even knew where it was. She said she'd be over in a jiff, which she was, peroxide in hand.
I drew a tablespoon's worth into the syringe. Then all I had to do was squirt it down the Pug Thug's gullet, which, in case you didn't know, is a whole lot easier said than done.
First I had to lure Phineous out from his hideout under the kitchen table, no small deal since while he may not have known exactly what I was up to, he knew it was something that was going to involve himand not in any pleasant way.
I did the predictable - talked pleasantly to him in a gentle, high-pitched voice, promised him treats, told him what a good guy he was and all that. And it had the predictable result - he stayed under the table, eyeing me with major canine suspicion.
Finally, I quit with the Mr. Nice Guy shtick and hauled him out from his lair. All told, that was the easy part. The difficult part followed immediately.
Essentially, I had to do two things at once. First I had to pry open his mouth, then I had to stick in the syringe and empty it down his throat. I failed on both counts.
Yeah, I got his mouth open - but not very wide. I also stuck the syringe in - but not very far. And why would you expect any different, since it wasn't like he just stood there, jaw fully agape, saying, "Ahhhhhhh" like some kid in a Norman Rockwell painting.
Au contraire -- he was twisting, turning, bucking, kicking, doing everything but calling Amnesty International. Meanwhile I was squirting hydrogen peroxide on the floor, over the table, in my shoes everywhere but where it was intended. And the whole time the AQ kept telling me to put the syringe in farther, or more to the left or something other than what I was doing.
The first syringe empty, we waited to see if there were any results. There were Phineas drooled a whole lot and went under the kitchen table again, giving me the pug equivalent of the evil eye.
and still in the belly
of the beast
We waited 10 minutes, dragged the poor sod out from under the table, and had at it again.
This time I squirted peroxide on the stove and microwave, on my shirt, even in my beard. Some of it may have gone down his gullet, but if so, it had no effect - other than driving him under the table again and driving the AQ to more criticism of my technique, and more in-depth criticism at that.
Another 10 minutes went by and we got ready for the final assault. I don't know what Phineas's nerves were like at that point, but mine were shot. I was covered in sweat, my hands wouldn't stop shaking, and I felt like I was going to burst into tears at any moment.
But being the trouper I am, I took a deep breath, uttered a quick prayer to St. Jude and picked up the syringe. Suddenly, a hand gently took the syringe away.
"Here," said the AQ, her face lit up in a beatific smile, "let me do it."
Was I surprised by her offer? Not at all. I knew ultimately it was just one more of those guy-gal things, as ancient as Eve and her apple, as clear as Amelia Earhart and her round-the-world attempt.
It's all based on a truth known to every woman but rarely admitted by any man - women are more competent than men. No matter what role you name, women can fulfill it better than men sperm donation the sole exception.
With AQ, I freely admit that she's my physical, moral, psychological superior and can do almost everything better than I can. However, let's get real - when it comes to unique skills, like being able to squirt peroxide down a recalcitrant pug's piehole, there's no reason to assume her chances of success are greater than mine. Not that I pointed this out to her as she rolled up her sleeves, spit on her hands and rubbed them together, and then dragged Phineas out for Attempt Number Three.
With one hand clamped under Phineas's jaw, the other holding the syringe aloft, her eyes hazel death rays, she began the onslaught.
Her speed was amazing - it was all over in mere seconds. And that's not the only thing that was all over: The peroxide was all over the kitchen - on the cabinets, the toaster oven, even the ceiling.
As Phineas sprinted under the table for the third and last time, a Great Truth was revealed to me: I had just witnessed a unique historical event - namely, a woman being just as incompetent as a man.
Suffice it to say, however, I kept that revelation to myself.