Old Dullard

Used to be, my pool cleaning business operated by homeowner contract. They would whoop and holler and cavort in their pool until it got too many leaves, or until the kids were seen playing fetch with Dullard the retriever or whatever they called their mutt. They would call me and put old Dullard in the house and I’d do my vacuum and net thing. Most of the time, they’d leave cash on the front step under a rock or something so they wouldn’t have to talk to the hick-accented Kentucky boy with the imperfect smile.

Pink cat tableauNow I get these jobs. The rich folks have flown the coop, going to estates in the Rockies or Atlanta, a bunch sending prices sky-high in Atlanta. Denver was already sky high, ha! Anyway, they gone and the majestic Pacific is lapping that old front step come winter storms like the one just last week. Wouldn’t know it was winter here in San Clemente except for the calendar as it goes from hot to danged hot year to year.

The call today was from the City and they wanted certification for each property on the list for the pools being empty and not harboring creatures and not creating a fire hazard and on and on for insurance purposes. I know all the forms and make them happy with honest work and pictures to prove it. I used to let my helper Elsie who is also my daughter do up all the forms. I would take her the pictures; she stayed back to the office which is my garage. SheLaptop with Ale did real good, professional like. Now she’s off and married; no time for old Dad anymore. I do okay for a codger.

The first three properties was easy, raking the debris up from around the drains. I leave one and lock the gate up tight, leave the bagged debris on the curb and move on to the next one.

I cannot believe what I see, a live dog, a big one, German Shepherd lookin’, standing down there in a foot of water. “Hey, Dullard! How come you so stupid to get down in that pool? Chasin’ birds?” I quit laughin’ when I consider that dog is probably mighty hungry and could bite my arm plum off when I go in to rake off that drain. He does look ragged. Now typically at this point, I would expect that dog to be barkin’ his head off. Is he that weak or what? Now is the appropriate time to call the Animal Control folks who will arrive accoutered with radios and rifles and such. Poor old Dullard.

knifeWhen I get back with the little sack of dog food, that old dog had walked up closer to my end, the shallower and dry end, and was on his haunches staring up at me. It was like he read my mind and knowed I was coming back. I split the bag down the middle with my Puma pocket knife, better than any other brand, any day. I lean over saying, “Hey, Dullard! Looky here! Here boy, come and get it!”

I must confess, I’m grinning like no tomorrow. When I dropped that bag he went after it, tail a-wagging away. I hustle on around to the ladder with my rake to get the job done. When my boot lands on the floor of the pool, the reek nearly swoons me. The dog trots over and goes to a pile of rags. Sure, it turns out to be a dead old guy, fly covered and bloated. Holy cow, you’d think the fence and gate and cameras and patrols would keep these guys out! I wade around him, yep, dead as a doornail.

I climb back up that ladder and see the busted cameras on the ground by a backpack, solvin’ that mystery. I skip back down the driveway to dig around in the truck ‘til I find the rope and a wide strap with hooks on either side. Back down I go and I get that strap under the dog, right behind his front legs. Um, her legs, turns out Dullard is a female and not very old, maybe three or four years, if that. I’d thought he was a ball-less boy, you know how they do. I hug her neck saying “You be still now” right in her ticky ear.

I climb back up again, sure getting my exercise, toting that dog food sack tight under my arm to keep it from dribbling. I pretty quick lift that dog out of there and put her in the back of my panel truck with the sack. I say, “Lay down and hush” and she does. “Good dog. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

Once I rake the drain and all Dullard’s paw prints is swept, I call 911 and say I found a body while Woods 021draining the pool. They easily believe I was too idiot to know there was a dead guy until I had the pool drained and swept up – all I have to do was talk down home way and raise my eyebrows like Gomer Pyle.

I figure I’ll do the rest of the houses on the morrow and tell the cops that. After an hour or so, they let me go on home and I say a prayer for the old guy as I pass them heaving his carcass into the ambulance. When I get to the truck, Angel is sitting in the front passenger seat, neat as could be. Angel you say? She looks at me with them big melty-chocolate brown angel eyes. No Dullard she.

Krink Clawbert Pestercat, A Survivor

Butterfly road 2Driving home from the chicken plant one evening (always too much overtime), I kept a sharp eye out for deer and other wildlife. I’d seen the aftermath of collisions with deer including the damage to all parties – no thanks. I don’t like hitting any other creature, either, I even slow down for butterflies. In the dusky haze, I spotted two lumps smack in the middle of the road.

Kittens, a tiny boy and girl, eyes not even open yet, thrown away like the trash idiots litter along the roadside. They fit in the palm of one hand, covered with ticks (even on their eyelids) and had pale worms crawling out of them. Fleas! They were so weak they made no sounds and barely moved. The girl had the tip of an ear folded backwards, a grayish-brownish tiger stripe. The boy was white with (relatively) big  black spots. Safely cradling the castoffs in an old towel I kept in back, I talked to them to let them know I would care for them as we drove on home. Pictures of them would be awful, so I’ll wait until the story brightens.

Nestled in a cozy old-sock bed, they received eyedropper super-milk and frequent gentle rubbing to mimic mama’s cleaning. They were coddled each morning before I left for work and as soon as I returned. De-ticking and deworming were critical and I did those risky tasks as soon as I though they might stand the strain, carefully as possible. They opened their little blue eyes and started looking around at their world. They outgrew the sock bed and their patchy fur filled in.

Krink and Spot seemed to be recovered from their horrid ordeal, but I came home to find Spot still and cold a couple weeks later. Krink looked up at me a mewed for her milk. From then on, I kept her on my belly whenever I was home so she could feel my warmth, feel me breathing. Her poor bent back ear never straightened. She remains my undersized sweetheart, always begging for me to hold and pet her. She’s old now, many years have passed, but she does not tire of running ahead to look up with unspoken pleading for me to cuddle her close and whisper into her crinkled ear.

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