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Any Fertilizer is Good Fertilizer, Right?


Thankfully, Riley survived her weekend with me.

If you were following this blog last fall, you may remember that Riley is a shnoodle that Mark and I sometimes pet-sit for when her owners are out of town. Riley appears in most family pictures. Her food is sliced up for her. She stands in front of you and yips if you keep your attention turned away from her for too long. Right now she has little pink and yellow bows in her fur above her ears. I tell you, this couple loves their dog.

From the pictures you may not be able to tell, but Riley is an old lady, about 87 in dog years, and she’s recently come down with a heart condition that causes her to pass out if she gets too excited. She takes a heart pill every morning with peanut butter. She’s not, under any circumstances, allowed to pull on the leash. That means, when we go for our walk in the evening, either I go where she goes and at the pace she goes, or I pick her up and carry her.

I’m not supposed to let her get excited in any way, either. If the doorbell rings, I’m to ignore the person at the door and immediately pick Riley up and try to calm her down. The person standing outside can wait or come back later.

If Riley passes out, I’m to hold her until she comes to. I was even shown where Riley’s owners have cleared a spot in their drop freezer for me to place her body, should she not revive from a faint while they are away.

Such is the seriousness with which Riley’s heart condition is treated.

Husband went to Minnesota for the weekend, so I was going to be on my own with Riley until late Sunday afternoon. I was looking forward to the weekend with some trepidation.

As I biked over to Riley’s house Friday evening after work, it started to rain. And the wind. Oh, it was windy.  I ate supper with Riley’s unblinking eyes upon me and then settled into the living room. The wind threw the rain against the glass windows with a sound like bullets. Soon I could hear the rumblings of thunder.

Did I mention Riley’s also terrified of storms?

So, I sat in the living room on the couch, Riley’s trembling body pressed against my leg, and I prayed, Please, God, don’t let her pass out.

Around 8:00, there was a break between storms. The wind didn’t die down a bit, but at least the rain had stopped.

I decided that now was the time to take Riley for her walk.

Another thing about Riley is that she always is taken for a walk in the evening. This is partly for the purpose of exercise and partly for the purpose of keeping her systems running smoothly. She must do her ‘big job’ while on the walk, and more specifically, on the church lawn. Any other lawn between Riley’s house and the church is a no-trespassing zone for ‘big jobs.’

Riley lives in a section of town where lawns are manicured meticulously and fertilized fastidiously. If a dandelion dares to rear its ugly head amid the identical green blades of grass, its life is quickly and coldly snuffed out.  I share this so you will understand that if a dog dared to leave a parting gift in their lawns, they would know.

I could tell from the beginning that the walk was destined for failure. I carried Riley for the first block because she kept trying to pull me back to the house, and doggone it, we were going to go on a walk and she was going to do the big job that she’s supposed to do every night. I was not going to be held responsible for a constipated dog.

Anyway, I could tell the walk would fail because as we exited the house, Riley began trembling all over again. I thought to myself, in willful ignorance, Maybe she’s just excited to be outside. But when we arrived at the church lawn and I set Riley down, she immediately started pulling back to the house. I grudgingly acknowledged to myself that the gale-force wind and dark clouds scuttling across the sky might have put a damper on Riley’s enthusiasm for an evening walk.

I acquiesced. We would go home. Hopefully she could hold her big job in until morning.

We crossed the street, and Riley jumped up onto the grass of the first lawn we came to. Almost immediately she squatted down. “No, Riley!” I said weakly, glancing at the windows of the house whose lawn Riley was now desecrating. I felt very obvious standing there, watching Riley, but I was thankful that I had had the foresight to bring a bag along with me. These people would never know that their holy lawn had been tainted.

As I pulled the bag out of my pocket, I hoped the people sitting in the car at the stop sign were watching this display of conscious and responsible dog-care. I held the bag aloft in one hand, and the wind caught it. And carried it away, to plaster itself against that same car at the stop sign.

I turned away quickly, now praying fervently that the people in the car were not watching my display of pet-care. I watched helplessly as Riley finished her big job. I couldn’t run after the bag with a dog who wasn’t supposed to get excited. I couldn’t leave Riley in someone’s lawn. And I didn’t want to ask the people in the car to stop so I could peel my bag off of their car door. There was only one solution: the poop would have to stay where it was planted.

The car moved on, away from the stop sign, and Riley and I crossed the street and into the next yard.

Riley proceeded to leave one small gift in each of the next three yards we came to. If anyone has ever tried to stop a dog from pooping, they know that it’s not possible, nor is it really fair to the poor dog. So, I alternated impatient glances at Riley and mortified glances at the windows of the houses we paused by.

When we arrived back at Riley’s house, I gave the shuddering dog her treat for doing her big job and called my mom to bemoan the doomed walk. My mom asked if I was going to go back with a bag and pick up the piles of poo.

I said no. No way, after all of that, did I want to be discovered as a creepy person lurking in someone’s front yard in the twilight. Or, even worse, after visiting a few yards, be discovered as a creepy person lurking in someone’s front yard with a bag of poop.

No, I would just be thankful that I didn’t overexcite Riley into a state of unconsciousness and pray that rain melts the poo away.

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