Call Me Androcles


I am capital-D doped at the moment, in the thrall of codeine cough syrup while convalescing, Victorian-style, with a summer grippe. I am so entirely overcome with illness that, for the past two days, my poor dogs’ morning walkies have consisted of some bleary bumbling between the front and back yards while I try to keep my lungs within the confines of my body.

My identification as a Roman slave has nothing to do with codeine, though. Honest. My fascination with the way the rain drops glint like little rainbow sparklies on the hemlocks outside my window? Yeah, that’s probably the codeine. And my recently-discovered superpower of being able to zero in on fur tufts alight in the window breeze, to the utter exclusion of all other sensory input? Admittedly, that might also be the (MAGICAL!) codeine. But I’m totally, and non-delusionally Androcles because Calvin made me him by being a lion who acts like a dog.

This is all making sense now, right?

While on our sad, drowsy shuffle through the front yard this morning I was busily honking apologies to the pups for the lame walk, while imploring them to please pee quickly because mama’s time on earth is rapidly dwindling, when–miracle of miracles–Cal appeared to heed my pleas. He lifted a leg on the boxwood and just as I coughed out a strangled “good boy!” he yelped and collapsed into a tripod while frantically chewing on his front right paw.

It took me roughly 32 minutes to process what was going on, but then my new super power kicked in and I rapid-focused on a three inch piece of jagger bush attached to my beagle-ish via his paw pad.

This was terribly disturbing for me in my addled state.

It also involved solving complicated problem sets to work out how vegetation could become stuck to a dog, as well as examination of concepts like “puncture,” and an inappropriate sidebar with myself about where a jagger bush branch would even come from because there are none in our yard, or in either of the neighboring yards and—*dog continues gnawing on foot*

Oh right. Situation. Requires solution that does not involve ingestion of thorns by anxious puppy.

On it.

So, Cal is notoriously squeamish about his tootsies. So squeamish that it took an inordinately long time to teach him the requisite “shake,” and even still he will not do it if anything in his environment is out of place. He will not shake with someone he does not know. He will not shake with a trusted individual if said individual is in the presence of an un-trusted individual. He will not shake if he suspects the shake may be preceding an even more unpleasant request of his patience. When he passed the “dog tolerates physical examination” portion of his Canine Good Citizen test, the look on his face as I picked up his paw could have gotten me hanged for animal abuse by 99% of PETA’s membership base.

I have no idea how his groomer manages to trim his nails, but I imagine it involves a double bourbon, a tranq dart, and kevlar gloves.

Suddenly, though, I am Androcles after a week long bacchanalia and I am in the cave with a imperiled lemon spotted lion.

And here’s where I discovered my second opiate-induced superpower: total chillaxness in the face of life-threatening situations. Or at least icky ones, anyway. Because without giving it much additional thought, I honked another quick apology to Cal, told him this might hurt but I’d make it quick, lovingly grabbed his paw, removed the thorn, rubbed the thorn hole, set his violated tootsies on the sidewalk, and kissed his little noggin.

I lost no limbs in the process.

Which is when, even in my semi-stupor, I discovered Cal had developed a superpower of his own: a modicum of trust. Throughout the speedy transaction, he never pulled away, bared teeth, licked lips, growled, or otherwise expressed any fear or displeasure. He just let me help him, even though he was in pain and the assistance required me to touch his paw.

I have always been *reasonably* certain that, if we were pitted against each other in gladiatorial combat, Cal would not eat me. But now I’m almost, like, 100% certain. Say, 95%. A very confident 95%.

I leave a 5% uncertainty margin because presumably other animals would be present, and calmness and self-control in the face of other quadrupeds is a superpower that, uh, well, we need to work on it a little more.

Later, though. After a plague nap.

All joking aside, I feel like this is huge. I realize he needed help and I was the only game in town, but he didn’t *have* to consent as readily as he did. He made the decision, despite a stressor, to let me do something he doesn’t generally like without any significant communication that he didn’t like it. That’s lunar landing-style major.



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