An excerpt from You Are a Dog.
You don’t bathe yourself. Others bathe you. When you are bathed, both before and afterwards, you get a dog biscuit. Just before you are bathed, you run away from those who would bathe you. They do not even need to go into the bathroom for you to know you are about to be bathed. They do not even need to get the shampoo out from underneath the sink. You know. And you hide. And when they call you from the bathroom door, you will come, but you will keep your head low, and you will approach them cautiously, as if readying for an ambush.
What on earth is that smell? You don’t want to ever smell that smell again but there is that smell and you are almost positive that it is very nearby, very close to where you are currently standing, now running, trying to escape the smell. Oh. Is it coming from you? It smells like the kitchen smells sometimes when they won’t let you into the kitchen. It smells like the place you hate, though you can’t remember what the place is and you don’t know if you ever smelled this smell in that place, but there is that smell and it seems to be coming from your very own body, from just under your hind legs somewhere. When you seek out the smell and try to lick the smell away, instead you get the flavor of poison. This smell is poison and it is on you. You have to get it off of you. And it is on your tail. And on your back, and it seems to be coming from everywhere on your body and you have to get it off, and you go to the door and you scrape at the door, which is supposed to tell them that you need for them to open it, but they so very rarely open it quickly enough that you’re sure there must be another way, so you turn circles on the linoleum every time they come close, but it seems they somehow don’t notice you there, or don’t know what it means when you scrape at the door and turn circles. “I’m not going to let you out,” they say. “You’ll just go out there and roll in the dirt,” You follow them into the next room and sit near them and chew on your body hoping to get that odor, that taste, that poison off of your body. It must be eating away at your skin. It must be destroying you.
It is nearly forever before they let you out. Nearly forever. And when they let you out you run to the grass and you relieve yourself and then you find a place in the grass and you roll onto your back and you roll onto your back and you roll and you roll as if trying to remove your own fur, your own skin. This is very nearly what you are trying to do if removing your own skin would remove the odor faster. This might be an option.
Then you go to the garden. There are expanses of dirt in the garden that you can roll in and pick up the odor of bird and cat and worm and decay. These odors will kill the poison, you think, and you roll in these odors until the One Who Bathes You puts his head out the back door and screams, “Stop rolling in the damned dirt, would you?” There is anxiety in his voice and he must understand now about the poison. He must fear for your life, so you roll again. He screams again. “Get the hell in here,” he screams. He must have something for you that will save you. He must know some way to kill the poison on your body, so you run into the house. But he doesn’t do anything. He ignores you again. You follow him from room to room. He pours liquid into a cup and picks up a newspaper and sits in his chair. You sit near him and watch. You wait for the antidote. None comes.
You will wait. You will wait until evening. You will go outside again in the evening, if you haven’t died yet from the poison, and you will roll in the garden. This is when the odor of decay is most intense anyway. In the meantime, you will lick your haunches, praying that it will not kill you.
Illustration courtesy Ron and Joe.