Here is a list of some things that happen in August:
Dashiell and Rodney move in.
There is a massive flea outbreak in our home.
Rodney bites our upstairs neighbor, Candy.
I have surgery.
The flea outbreak is a bit of a mystery. I’d been home to cats Harry and Mancha for almost a year and had never experienced a flea anywhere. Not on me, not on them. I text the teenager who is now their legal guardian and ask her if the cats have fleas. They don’t.
I would almost lay the blame elsewhere, on Rodney perhaps, but all signs point to my apartment: In the weeks leading up to their move-in, I bring Rodney over to get used to his new digs. Every night, when he returns to Dashiell’s, he’s polka-dotted with grisly black fleas. And not only a few of them. A lot.
Once they move in, it goes off the rails. It’s as if a nation of fleas with a distinct preference for dogs have been lying in wait, deep in my floorboards. And once Rodney enters, they all bounce up in jubilant celebration. Every night, when Dashiell comes home from work, the first thing he does is flip Rodney on his back and probe his belly for pests. And there are many. Like, 50-80 each time.
Dashiell’s Virgo nature roars into full swing. He gets a bowl of water and spends twenty minutes each night pulling the bugs from Rodney’s fur. He can barely say Hello or address me at all until this terrible task is mastered. Then, he is completed exhausted. It is mentally and emotionally and even physically depleting to have a flea infestation.
The hippie at the local pet store recommends Diatomaceous Earth, which is a rock or fossil that has been crumbled into what looks like a fine powder but is actually composed of microscopic shards that can stab through the fleas’ exoskeleton and kill them. We begin fluffing great clouds of this dry, tacky stuff into Rodney, who now looks like a walking powder puff. Meanwhile, we unpack in a hurry and try to have the house in a pretty good state for my surgery recovery.
A few things will be happening during my surgery recovery. Our new couch will be delivered from Crate + Barrel. Listen –- if you are shopping for a couch ever in your adult life, do yourself a favor and max out your credit card with a Crate + Barrel couch, OK? You’re going to spend a quarter of each day sprawled upon it eating cookies and watching TV; don’t skimp.
Also, the cable guy will be coming to install cable because I don’t have it already and Dashiell is a TV person. Left to my own devices I am not a TV person. TV is something you indulge in at the gym. There’s something lonely about watchingit all by yourself. Watching TV with your beloved, however, is one of life’s great sweet pleasures. I recall a sad moment during those bleak, pre-Dashiell dating years, when I was totally gripped by the desire to snuggle and watch TV with someone. It seemed the very definition of love, something I was sure I would never have again. I cried.
So, though it is perhaps slightly insane that all of these things will be happening while I am recovering from surgery, I am thrilled that they are happening, and I am thrilled to be living with Dashiell.
And, oh, yeah –- the final thing that will be happening during my recovery from surgery will be a visit from FleaBusters, who claim to kill fleas dead by applying some solution that dehydrates the little fuckers to death all over your home.
In the meantime, I know we could crack open a couple of those foggers, but I’m scared to the point of phobia of them. The thought of just fogging your home, the place you live, and eat and clean and have sex, the place you sleep, to hose it down in toxic pesticides seems like one of the worst things you could do to your place. I’m hoping we can kill the bastards with the powder and the dehydrating solution, and FleaBusters say they’ll come back and kill them again if they don’t die the first time, though they assure you they will, they will die the first time.
Listen, Rodney is a terrier. TERR-ier, as in TERR-itorial. He barks a lot and gets aggro because he thinks it is his job to protect us from a host of dangers so vast, so unending, so insidious, Dashiell and I could never manage it on our own. Thank GOD we have Rodney to bark at every single noise his extra-sensory doggie hearing registers. Otherwise, we would probably have long been murdered by the throngs of Vikings and other marauders he is constantly fending off. This is what life is like for a barky little dog like Rodney. Every noise is a threat, and every bark is a success, because the threat never got us.
One evening, while getting ready to take Rodney for a walk, something terrible happens. Our apartment door cracked open, I was passing the leash to Dashiell when Rodney heard a noise downstairs in the lobby. And like a little danger-seeking bullet, he was off. He was down the stairs before we could even understand what had happened. When we got there we found him menacing a cowering woman in the corner. She wore a long, flowy skirt in pastel rainbow colors, and an amethyst necklace that used to be mine. I’d put it on the free bench a couple of weeks ago and she’d grabbed it.
“Your dog bit me,” she said in this spacy voice, like maybe the incident had freaked her into a serious daze, though it hadn’t. That is just the way she talks.
We stood before her, Dashiell now holding Rodney’s leash, Rodney now looking calm and happy, not like the psychotic beast that had broken the skin on this woman’s thigh, beneath her flowy pastel rainbow skirt, which she lifted to show us.
“When I see a dog,” the woman continued, “I think of love, and happiness. I don’t think of being bitten.”
I remained quiet and let Dashiell deal with it, because Dashiell has a contrite politeness last seen in the 1950s. Her face is a portrait of benevolent sincerity. “I am so sorry. I am so sorry my dog did this. We just moved in and he’s not used to his new surroundings. He has all of his shots, so you’re fine in that way, but I am so sorry.”
The woman continued to look around, outraged in a dazed and bewildered way.
“There are many dogs in this building, and they are my friend. They have never bitten me.”
“Really, I am just so sorry,” Dashiell continued. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
The woman said no, but kept us there with her dazed commentary until she felt well enough to go upstairs. Dashiell, Rodney and I left the house, deeply shaken. This was Dashiell’s biggest fear about moving in with me –- that the hustle-bustle of the apartment would be too much for territorial Rodney, and he’d bully the other tenants and bark so much we’d be thrown out or -– ultimate worst-case scenario -– bite someone. Which he did. And not for nothing, but he seemed to pick the worst person in the building to bite. Something about Candy seemed a little off.
I thought about what I would have done if a strange 16-pound dog charged me. I would have for sure kicked him. Then I would have screamed. And when the person showed up, I would have shouted, "What the fuck is wrong with your fucking dog?!"
Then I would calm down as Dashiell apologized. Then I would have realized how devastatingly handsome Dashiell is, and how stupidly cute the dog is when not trying to maul me. And I would think, shit happens. It’s not like Rodney is a German Shepard or a Doberman. He’s a Maltese/Westie. And he is a little motherfucker. We walked through the streets severely stressed out.
“We have to get her a card. And a gift or something. A bottle of wine? Flowers?” We tried to figure out the well-mannered way to handle your dog attacking someone. Back at home, Dashiell pulled a very nice bottle of wine from the fridge, a bottle he’s been waiting for the perfect occasion to drink.
“Will you write the card?” she asked. I practiced in a notebook. Dear Candy, What is your fucking problem? We think you should get over it. Maybe this bottle of wine will help. I show it to Dashiell.
“No!” Dashiell says, laughing. “Do it for real.” I start again while Dashiell, at my urging, fixes herself a whiskey cocktail. Dashiell isn’t much of a drinker, but I have a bottle left over from a party, and this feels like a perfect moment to have a shot of something. If I wasn’t an alcoholic, I’d be drunk right now. Though that is generally true.
Then there is a knock at the door, and Dashiell goes to answer it, reeking of booze. It’s Candy and her man-friend. She just wants to make absolutely sure that Rodney has had his shots and she doesn’t have to go to the hospital. Because she called some friends and they all think she should go.
“You should do whatever makes you feel best,” Dashiell says, "But Rodney has had all of his shots, so you really don’t need to worry about anything.”
“I’m not going to press charges,” Candy says, “But a lot of people would. You should know that. Your dog could be put down for this.”
“That would be my worst nightmare,” Dashiell said plaintively. “My dog is my life.”
“Well, someone else would press charges,” Candy repeated. Dashiell continued to grovel until she left, and then Dashiell came back inside, paranoid now about stinking like whiskey. We decide to not give Candy booze but instead Dashiell will buy her flowers and we will leave them at her door tomorrow. Dashiell takes her cocktail into the shower and I get online and sign Rodney up for Bad Dog School.
A place called Pawsitive Tails, where Tali takes her bad dog, has a class called Drama Queens and Divas, for extra-jerky canines. I register him without telling Dashiell, who has been a bit reluctant to put Rodney in school, believing he is perhaps beyond help. When he comes out of the shower he looks at me strangely, and I burst:
“I signed Rodney up for bad dog school! I’m sorry I didn’t ask but I think he really needs it and if you don’t like it you don’t have to come I can take him okay? Don’t be mad."
Dashiell is smiling. She waves her phone at me. “I know you did, I got the email when I got out of the shower. And it’s okay. It’s the right thing, I’m glad you did it. Thank you for being proactive about it. We’ll all go together.” She gives me a damp, post-shower hug.
The next day Dashiell unpacks a ridiculous, totally hideous muzzle that Rodney will now have to wear whenever he leaves the building. It is bright red with big blue flowers on it and looks like an especially festive Dixie Cup has been stuck onto his snout. It is totally humiliating, but that’s what he gets. Should have thought of that before he went and chomped kooky Candy.
Dashiell returns from work with a bouquet of flowers we arrange in a mason jar and leave outside her door with a card. An hour or so later a handwritten note is slid under our own door: Thank you for the flowers, but you should know that I will be informing both the building manager and the landlord about what happened.