Things the Puppy Eats

November 30, 2023
A photograph of a dog chewing on a toy while laying on a large dog bed
Photo courtesy of the author

We each safeguard our possessions. Michael buries his pens inside a drawer. Rachel hides her purse. On tiptoes, I lay my watch on the highest shelf. Things the puppy eats:

Sanitary pads toilet paper hairbrushes hair combs soap scum shower caps
Chair legs sofa skirts cabinet pulls
New books perused books
Pencils newspapers New Yorkers
Throw pillows! Yum!
A ham sandwich snatched from a plate.

He’s not our first puppy. Along with Raisinets and mothballs, we tuck our memories away as well. Late-night visits to emergency vets. $1,000 bills. The saddest of goodbyes. One misstep is all it takes.

Tennis balls cotton balls dirty socks smelly sneakers
Michael’s brand-new loafers still inside the shoebox.

I have no idea how you have survived this far. It’s a miracle, really.

Iguana poop bird poop peacock poop cat poop dog poop
Bird eggs
Owl feathers
Mice bones regurgitated by said owl
More bugs.

Last week you snagged a hermit crab. It grabbed your tongue and settled in while you yelped circled screamed like a banshee the crab half in half out its legs spinning your tail gyrating you pleading for intervention while I stood back horrified.

Lizards with half tails
Lizards with no tails
Lizards tartare and lizards half-baked
Lizards clamped on doorways
Lizards stamped to roadways
Lizards under the bush
Lizards caught underfoot
Goddamn lizards everywhere
Eleven lizards leaping twelve drummers drumming and a partly eaten lizard in my pantry.

It’s not that you’re hungry. You just explore the world with your mouth.

It’s not that you’re hungry. You just explore the world with your mouth.

The grape that rolls
The pill that slides
The string of spaghetti
The sleeve of paper that curls from my straw and crawls like a worm on the floor.

Your favorite things move:

Dead leaves crispy leaves green leaves brown leaves
Leaves that hop skip and jump
While you hop skip and jump with them.

So far, your stomach seems ironclad. Don’t look to me for home-cooked meals, young man! I’ll never be one of those foo-foo pet owners who cater to their dogs. P.S. The stroller in my car doesn’t count.

Grass in grass out
Grass lining your intestinal tract
A carpet of grass greening your belly.

Keep him occupied, said trainer number one. Make his crate like Disneyworld, said trainer number two. Things one finds in a pet store:

Bull penises elk hooves deer antlers
Duck heads pig snouts the tendons of a water buffalo.
Your favorite by a landslide: cows’ ears.

When you jumped on the easel and grabbed the tubes of paint, we thought you were a goner. Mercury. Cadmium. Lead. Not exactly health food. Then you walked away from dinner with your bowl untouched. Rachel cried, Oh no! Michael growled, Dumb dog. We called the poison hotline as you headed toward the door. Your poop was all the colors of the rainbow. Then you kicked like a bronco, grabbed another lizard, yanked on your leash, and steered us back home.

Miami, Florida

Marlene Olin’s short stories and essays have been published in journals such as the Massachusetts Review, Catapult, PANK, and the Baltimore Review. She is the recipient of both the 2015 Rick Demarinis Fiction Award and the 2018 So to Speak Fiction Prize. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and for inclusion in Best American Short Stories.