Monday, March 20, 2006

In which, Hot Dog gets the mange...

When we were kids, my youngest brother was given a shorthaired, rust-colored dachshund that he named "Fire Engine" but that the rest of us -- partly from perversity, but mostly from good, common sense -- called "Hot Dog," also thereby staking our claim on him.

He was the best dog that I've ever had and the only one our grandmother would tolerate in the house.

His closest friend was a large black and white cat named "Rastus," which is probably considered politically incorrect (though we didn't know that) but which derives from Greek εραστος (erastos), meaning "beloved" (though we didn't know that either ... alas, we were so ignorant).

Anyway, even though Hot Dog was allowed indoors, he was not allowed on the furniture ... yet, Rastus was, and literally rubbed it in Hot Dog's nose by lying on the rocking chair near the stove and allowing his tail to hang down directly in front of Hot Dog's snout and flick back and forth, back and forth, back and forth -- until humiliation beyond endurance drove Hot Dog to his feet, barking at Rastus.

"Shut up, Hot Dog!" we'd shout, laughing, and he'd hunker down again in his humiliation.

But Hot Dog found opportunity to lie on the rocking chair, too. We knew because when we'd return home and open the door, we'd hear a thump and little feet pattering away and find the rocking chair moving and touch a warm spot on its cushion.

"Hot Dog!" we'd call ... and he'd slink back in, guilt written all over his body. "Bad dog!" we'd inform him, but he already knew that.

One of the worst things that he did was to take up with a mangy old hussey-hound that showed up on our doorstoop and made herself at home. Since we lived across the creek from a cattle-auction barn, where people would often dump their unwanted dogs and cats, this sort of thing happened rather too frequently.

From Hot Dog's dangerous liaison with that mangey mutt, he also caught the mange and, once again, had the guilt written all over his body.

Grandmother had a solution -- literally a solution, a green viscous liquid that she would apply to Hot Dog's skin. The vile stuff worked, whatever it was, but Hot Dog detested it.

And somehow ... he knew from grandmother's tone, no matter how well-disguised, exactly when the treatment was coming.

"Hot Dog!" she'd call. "Come here." But off he'd slink in the opposite direction ... until a stronger command brought him to heel.

Grandmother would then take a brush and rub that green gunk all over Hot Dog's body, including his 'private parts' -- if those parts can be considered 'private' on dogs, but you know what I mean.

The whole time, Hot Dog would be whimpering, and as soon as grandmother had finished, up he would spring, dash to the back yard, drop to the ground, and rub his belly and privates across the lawn in a motion that made him look like an enormous, reddish-brown caterpillar.

Grandmother would be yelling, "Hot Dog! Stop that!"

But he wouldn't stop regardless of the threat, and he looked so ridiculous that we five little boys would laugh and laugh.

Ah, the cruelty of callow youth. Until our turn came.

No, we didn't catch the mange. We got into a mess of chiggers, which are miniscule bloodsuckers hard to get off because of their microscopic proportions and macroscopic numbers, so grandmother had the innovative idea of applying her solution to our problem. She didn't rub it in with a brush, though; she poured a careful capful into our bathwater.

We were splashing and enjoying our bath, laughing, careless and carefree ... until we felt it. Each one of us, and simultaneously. A throbbing, aching, deep-burning sensation in our nether regions. We looked at one another in alarm, understood what Hot Dog had been whimpering about, and turned the faucet on cold, full blast, as each of us tried to occupy that small, narrow space directly under the gushing water that alone could bring relief...

It got rid of our chiggers ... but grandmother never again put that stuff on Hot Dog.


At 1:56 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Ack, poor dog. I can only imagine a resourceful, pragmatic, and a tough-as-nails grandmother like mine would try to use the same solution for a dog's mange as for kids' chiggers. It speaks highly of her that she never used it again.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jessica, I imagine that we boys felt so strongly about the issue that even grandmother wouldn't have dared try that solution again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:54 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Awww, poor HotDog. What a great story, I got a real chuckle out of it.


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