My dog is a murderer. According to the veterinarian, he is still a puppy and his traits are just beginning to show through; I am worried for the future of our biosphere.
Tiller is a beagle mix of indeterminate breeding. He swims, howls, digs, tracks and retrieves. He jumps into swimming pools, Koi ponds, drainage ditches and sewer pipes. He digs like a Dachshund and tracks like a Foxhound. Physically, he is ridiculous. His chest is overbroad, his legs are long, toes webbed. He has a tail like a kangaroo... long and thick. His head is much too small and is dwarfed by droopy ears. When the wind blows, his ears levitate at odd angles; from the back, he looks like the Flying Nun. His neck is his most perplexing feature: it is double thick, overly fleshy and rolls into visible bulges when he turns his head. He is the Mr. Potato Head of dogs.
Until recently, we had no horrifying issues. And then, he brought me a gift: A small rodent shaped like a croissant. I thought it was a baby possum, playing dead. The body hung from a long ribbon of tail, dangling like a party favor from the dog's muzzle.
"What is that?" I shrieked.
The sound of my voice excited Tiller who bent his front legs down in play. He dropped the animal between his paws. I took a step forward -- although I had no intention of touching it -- and the dog lurched forward, snatching the animal in his jaws and dashing behind the kitchen chair. I heard a squeak. It was still alive!
"Drop!" I commanded in my most serious voice.
Instead, he tossed the tiny body into the air like a squeeze toy. It hit the floor with a thud. I stepped toward him and he claimed the little body under a clumsy paw. I turned my back, feigning disinterest. After a time, the dog got bored and collapsed as puppies do for a snooze. I approached the animal. It was thoroughly dead now, its little front legs folded tightly as in prayer. I saw the tiny buck teeth, the pink feet. I picked up the phone.
"Come home at once," I whispered as if complicit in a crime. "Your dog has just killed Alvin."
"Good for him!" My husband bellowed. "Those chipmunks have been unearthing my garden all season. It got what it deserved."
"You have to come home and scoop it up!" I wailed. "I can't do it!"
"I believe this comes under your purview," he said, only partially joking. We have a very distinct delineation of jobs in our marriage. He is in charge of everything outside of our house, while I am in charge of everything inside. Sounds unromantic, I know. But it works. When you're married to a lawyer, you get used to these kinds of verbal contracts. Written ones, too.
"I don't do vermin," I said, knowing I'd lost.
He said, "You do now," and hung up. I considered my options. I could pick it up with a paper towel but I had no interest in a tactile experience with the dead. I searched for something handy, and settled on an opened cereal box. Using a used Brillo pad as a hoe, I prodded the body, now in an advanced stage of rigor, into the box. Soon as the mangy midsection rolled across the lip, I tipped the box upright and jumped back. Two pink feet protruded from the box top.
"Agh!" My scream awoke the dog. I needed to act fast. Using a pair of grill tongs, I plucked the box from the floor, gripping it delicately between the metal paddles, and sidestepped to the garage with great caution, as if offloading nuclear waste. Afterwards, I washed my hands with Lava soap until the skin burned, changed my shirt and poured some wine into a paper cup. Then I prayed. I prayed that the death was accidental, that killing was an anomaly of my dog's behavior. Perhaps he had discovered the nearly dead animal in the yard and brought it up to the deck as a gesture of... what? Decency? The next day, I saw Tiller prance by the window with a wing protruding from his mouth.
So far, I've disposed of two birds, two chipmunks, a baby rabbit and half a snake.
Today, a tiny lark hopped onto the deck, happy to play among the fallen wisteria flowerettes. Within seconds, I heard the excited scrambling of puppy paws and I had no doubt what was going on out there. Murder. Carnage. I did not get up. Instead, I sat in my chair and kept working, knowing that my beloved dog was mauling another innocent animal in the name of play. After a while, I donned my husband's gardening gloves and collected the remains of the morbidly ineffectual playmate in the plastic container kept under the sink. I also store rubber gloves, Clorox, paper towels and industrial disinfectant in there. I'm like the fixer in a mobster movie who makes the murdered bodies disappear, only with cleaner hands.