Emily was a West Highland terrier. Unlike my previous dog (a Lhasa Apso named Arthur) who loved to snuggle on my lap while I knitted, Emily was standoffish. She didn’t like being held, she didn’t like walking next to me and when we arrived at the studio, she immediately left me to go see other people. I was convinced that the dog didn’t like me. At the time, I was teaching at several studios and Emily traveled in my dance bag as I ran between the schools (with a quick stop in the park for her to do her business). Every morning when I arrived at my second job, I would put my bag and dog in the studio first and then run around the block to get a coffee. Teaching without a coffee in my hand seemed almost inhuman. When I got back to the studio, I would always see Emily standing at the top of the stairs. She would look down at me, snort and then turn around and go find somebody to play with. One day the studio manager stopped me as I was going in to teach class. “You’ve got to do something about your dog.” “What’s the problem?” I asked, “You said that I could bring her if she was well behaved.” “She is normally,” he said, “But every time you leave to go get coffee, she stands at the top of the stairs and howls.” “I’ll take care of it,” I said as I moved towards the classroom. What do you know? The dog did like me but her terrier nature made sure that she didn’t let me know about it. After that, I got a student to play with her while I slipped out for coffee and the howling stopped.
Emily was socially inept. She hated all dogs and loved all cats. While I was aware of her objection to all other dogs, it took a while before I realized that she had a thing for cats. It all started with the cat next door, Madonna. Madonna was a bit of screwball anyway. She was always hanging on a tree upside down or doing some other inane thing. Madonna stalked my dog. She would move close to the ground, silently through the bushes and progressively closer to Emily who was oblivious to the entire situation. Then with a big jump, Madonna would explode out of the bushes, run to Emily, wave her paws in the dog’s face and then take off for her own yard. Emily always gave chase. Madonna would quickly scale a tree where she could calmly look down at the hysterical dog. She looked satisfied with herself. Madonna’s guerilla warfare with Emily continued for weeks. I wasn’t overly worried. Madonna was pretty fast and the chances of Emily catching her were pretty small. One day the tactics changed. It started with the usual paws-in-the-face dog baiting, but as Madonna headed back to her own yard with Emily in hot pursuit, she suddenly turned around and charged the dog. Emily did a quick about-face and ran for home. Within days Madonna and Emily were into a back and forth chase routine which they both obviously enjoyed a lot. It was weird and yet fun to watch. It certainly entertained the neighbors. Soon other cats came to our yard to join in the fun. Is there a cat party network? The word had obviously gotten out among the feline population that for a good time – see Emily.
I had just finished a performance. I was tired and it was late. I took Emily out for her final walk. Madonna was out and Emily looked like she wanted to get into a nice rousing game of chase. “Emily,” I whined, “No Madonna tonight. Please.” Madonna passed by my leg. A nice black Madonna with a white stripe down her back. Oh my god – it wasn’t Madonna – it was a skunk. As I yelled, “Emily – No!” the skunk took off in a run heading into the neighbor’s back yard and right behind it going full speed was my dog. As I ran after them, I heard my dog yelp in distress. She came tearing out of the back yard. She had been hit full force by the skunk. I grabbed the dog and pulled her to my chest which was a big mistake. The dog stunk to high heaven. With tearing eyes and trying to hold the dog away from my body, I managed to get us back into the apartment. “Amanda,” I said as I walked in the door, “Emily just got hit by a skunk.” Amanda grimaced in acknowledgement and said, “She stinks.”
OK – so here’s how things stood: My dog was covered in skunk stink, our entire apartment and most of the apartment building was permeated with eau de skunk, it was after midnight and most of the stores were closed. Both of us had heard that tomato juice diffuses skunk but we didn’t have any tomato juice in the house. We did however have stewed tomatoes. “Good enough,” I said. I dumped Emily into the bathtub and began to slam soft gushy tomato pulp onto the dog’s body. She struggled to get out of the tub. OK – this wasn’t gonna be easy. I stripped off my clothes, climbed into the tub and continued to rub the tomato glop into her hair. It was time to rinse the tomatoes out. I turned on the shower and held the dog up to the spigot. Emily had never been fond of baths before but this was just insult upon insult. She began hacking and gagging in the onslaught of water. I gave up and turned off the water. Emily stood panting in the tub. My formerly beautiful white haired dog was orange – orange with little bits of tomato embedded in her hair. At least she didn’t stink as strong and for the record – tomatoes do not totally kill the smell of skunk. It was late by the time I finally crawled into bed. The smell of skunk was still evident in the house but I was too tired to scrub the place down. Tomorrow, I thought. Emily jumped up onto my bed, walked up to the pillow next to my face and lay down. Emily who had never slept at the head of my bed. I groaned. Wet dog smell and skunk – wonderful. I thought briefly of moving her off of the bed but then relented. She had had a pretty rough night. It looked like she needed some comfort. “Poor baby,” I muttered as I pulled her closer. We went to sleep.