My wife had to leave for 3 weeks specialized training and it gave me a taste of what life will be like during her deployment. Maybe a “taste” wasn’t the best choice of words. One of the more difficult aspects of her leaving will be the care of our dogs Rudy (4 year old Border Collie), Marty (1.5 year old yellow lab) and our cat, Nick the Knife. I know we all have our pet stories and maybe mine are no different than anyone else’s, but like no two deployment situations are exactly alike, neither are my pet issues. Like clockwork Nick gets an abscess the day before Katie left and that meant I would have to take him to the vet and pick him up. Additionally, he needs 10 days of antibiotics and has to wear one of those plastic bell shaped collars. For those of you who have never pilled a cat before let me enlighten you. You need to hold down all four paws while holding the head and with the other hand, pry open their little mouth and push the pill down their throat. Sounds easy enough, but let’s take a closer look. Cats are strong and flexible. They can easily extract any of their four legs, each of which has five very sharp claws. When you add up the potential risk, you’ve got 20 potential weapons, and that’s not counting the mouthful of sharp little teeth. Yes, yes you can minimize the risk by wrapping a towel around them and catching them right after they woke up so their reflexes are slower but that really doesn’t make that much difference. In my case, the vet called for a pill and a half so I had to do it twice. Believe me, if Nick was slow on the scratch for the first pill, he was ready and angry for the second half pill. He got me almost every time. There’s a reason we named him Nick the Knife.
If that wasn’t enough, last Tuesday night at about 10:30 PM I heard barking outside. At our house, Rudy likes to hang outside and Marty likes to lay on the couch so I when I heard the barking I thought I needed to go bring him in and not be a bad neighbor. At about the same time a strong smell came into the house. Skunk. I ran out the back door and found Rudy laying on the ground rubbing his face in the dirt and he was having trouble breathing. I remembered when this happened to a poodle we had and immediately headed into the house for tomato juice. When I reached the kitchen, Rudy had followed me in and was rubbing his face on the carpet, furniture and walls. I looked but found no juice. I went through every cupboard in the kitchen and finally found a small can of tomato paste. Rudy continued to rub his face on every surface he could find. I pulled out a big bowl, filled it with water and poured the tomato paste into it. Now I have tomato juice! I put the bowl on the floor and went to find Rudy. By the time I caught him and led him into the kitchen, I found Marty finishing the last of the juice. The bowl looked like it just came out of the dishwasher. So what do I do now? The way I saw it I had three choices, switch to V-8, go out to the store or blend whole tomatoes. Just then by a miracle Katie called me and told me that she had actually bought real tomato juice (which she has hardly ever did in our 20 years together) and that it was wrapped in foil in the refrigerator! If anyone wonders whether tomato juice works on skunk spray let me assure you it works like a charm. I emptied the can onto Rudy’s head and rubbed it into his fur. It worked immediately.
What happened next I should have predicted. He ran into the living room and did what all dogs do when their wet, he shook his entire body, spraying the walls, ceiling and furniture with tomato juice. So the rest of the night was taken up with giving Rudy a bath, washing the walls, shampooing the rugs..you get the picture.
What I learned from all this was that the way I take care of Katie while she’s deployed is to take care of the things she loves. She needs to know that the boys are well cared for. So she doesn’t have to worry about the home front while she’s off doing the really hard stuff. The other lesson is that if you have pets and your spouse gets deployed, keep a big can of tomato juice on hand.