Mom & Dad were here visiting and helping me out after my ankle fusion surgery. I wasn’t helpless in many ways but there were just some things I couldn’t do since I was in a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks and stuck in a wheelchair for the duration. Anything having to do with the yard, including the daily poop duty. My poor dad took over that chore for me. It was a gorgeous Spring day and we were out on the deck getting some fresh air and sunshine, watching the birds and the squirrels and watching the dogs watch the birds and squirrels. It was nice having my folks here. We were spending some incredible quality time together. Every day we’d sit out on the deck for a bit, reading, talking, laughing or just taking in the birds and the trees.
One day I mentioned to Dad that I really didn’t know much about his days in the military. He’s really a man of very few words for the most part. I started asking questions and he started talking. I had him take me from the very beginning, in chronological order, his days and years of service, starting with the night before he went into the Navy at age 17 (that would’ve been 1945), the night he ended up out with “the boys” getting tanked up and tattooed. Yeah, my dad has some serious tats. Thirteen of them to be exact. And they look so cool. You know, that old blue ink that has faded with the years. He brings them to life every year with the help of the sun’s rays. Spending most of the days outside, he tans extremely well. Too well, actually. Evident by the little scars reminding us of the melanoma cancer cells he’s had removed over the last few years. He’s all good, he was lucky, but it wasn’t enough to scare him out of the sun. And I know his tattoos by heart, all the years seeing him shirtless and in shorts, revealing his younger wilder days with the drawings of naked women all over his body. He has a naked woman on each thigh, above his knees, a naked woman on one forearm, a cross on the other, a tweety bird above each breast, one that reads “Sweet” and the other “Sour”… and of course the letters L O V E across his knuckles on one hand and his name, misspelled -shortened so that it would fit across the four fingers of his fist, E D D Y. There are others but you get the drift.
So we started with the story of that drunken night and then for the rest of the afternoon, he talked and I typed, chronicling his two year stint in the Navy at the tail end of WWII, when he spent his time on carrier ships, transporting tanks and fighter planes to our troops in Japan. Then he detailed the following four years that he spent in the Army, as an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper –he had an impressive 43 jumps! During the Korean War, he was a Line Repairman (Communications), which, although not the front lines specifically, was a very dangerous job in enemy territory. His final years in the Army were stateside as an MP at Ft. Bragg, NC. Here I am, fifty years old, and up until now I really hadn’t known the story of those years. What a special afternoon that was. I think it was special for him too. He seemed to enjoy reminiscing.
We all went quiet for a bit: me writing, Dad thinking about the old days and and mom taking it all in. All of the sudden, Luca comes tearing out of the house, and runs across the deck in between us, his paws pounding on the wood, sounding like a galloping horse. He took a flying diagonal leap off the deck, jumping like a deer and clearing at least six feet of flower bedding, so graceful on one hand and so clod-hoppy on the other. Then we see this plastic produce bag hanging out of his mouth. He rip-tears around the yard, following the makeshift oval track that the greyhounds have carved out in my yard, the bag rustling against his aerodynamic head. He takes his first turn and then we start seeing apples fly. One after the other. Big red and green variegated balls of Honey Crisp, flying this way and that as Luca ran with this big-ass grin and that stupid bag flapping out of the side of his jaws. Silly boy.
If you’ve ever seen a greyhound run, you know there’s just no stopping them. We simply had to sit back and watch as the apples flew out of the bag, one by one, and wait for him to finally tire of his sudden burst of energy. Note to selves: don’t leave anything on the kitchen table. We should know by now, after all.
A few days earlier I was in the back bedroom with mom and I heard some plastic rustling. I knew somebody was up to no good. I wheel out to the living room and there’s Luca on the couch with his pilferage: a bag he had managed to pull out of the kitchen sink. It was full of veggie scraps and CHICKEN BONES – very dangerous for dogs – and was intended of course for the trash. I wrestled it away from him but I had a feeling he had managed himself another big score. I rolled out into the kitchen to confirm my suspicion: the two hot dog buns that my mom had put out on my dad’s placemat to thaw were gone. Just gone. I wheeled down the hall, heading to tell mom, laughing so hard I could hardly get it out. THAT DOG!
Luca is a true master at covert operations. He has an incredible stealth mode: he creeps in so quietly and very gingerly picks up what he’s after, usually my socks, shoes or sneakers. You’ll never hear him. If you get lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of him as he’s slinking away with his prize. He doesn’t chew or destroy them. He just lays with them!
I’m always having to hunt down my shoes…and ALOT of socks! Dad had to hunt his down a few times too. And one morning Mom opened her bedroom door to find her bra laying in the middle of the hallway! Yes, he gets into the laundry basket too.
A few weeks back I came into the living room to discover a familiar yellow plastic wrap, the cheap 89-cent HEB bread wrapper, ripped and shredded, and just two remaining slices of bread left. It was a brand new full loaf! He ate every slice except two. Wonder what stopped him from finishing off those last two slices? Obviously white flour doesn’t agree with him, because, although Luca may have really enjoyed that yeasty indulgence, my poor dad sure didn’t appreciate the resulting diarrhea in the yard.
But that didn’t stop him from further indulgence. That stealthy guy struck again. This time I came rolling out into the living room to see the empty wrapping to the French bread.
I had taken the loaf out of the freezer and only cut off a hunk of heel so I could try out the wonderful cherry & amaretto preserves my friends Cathie & Gary had brought us back from their trip to the Hill Country. No more French bread to enjoy with the yummy San Saba River Company’s preserves.
Even worse, Luca ended up with loose stools (again) so he ended up back on a bland diet of chicken & rice for the next few days.
May 2013: Bad Boy Luca Strikes Again
Oh, my boy Luca. That dog is something! A few weeks later he AGAIN snagged himself two hotdog buns that Mom had put out to thaw on the kitchen table at my dad’s placemat. We had quite a good giggle over that incident.
But the giggles faded and irritation crept in. My parents weren’t used to having to gate off the kitchen and sometimes they’d forget. And honestly, sometimes I would too. Even though we become ever more diligent about gating off the kitchen and sticking everything that was sitting on the counter into the microwave, the oven, or anywhere that Goofball couldn’t get to.
But geez, I had no idea that he could hoist himself up on the counter and reach WAY BACK to the wall. I rolled out into the living room to a sight.
“SON OF A BITCH, LUCA!” Goddammit!”
My mom yells from the bedroom, “What’s wrong now??”
“Come see for yourself.”
This damn dog had reached up all the way to the back of the counter and stole himself a pack of saltine crackers AND a bag of Asiago snack crackers that had been sealed in a Ziplock bag. I find that fool on the couch, crunching away.
“Luca! Seriously?? ARRRGH!”
He just looked up at me with this innocent face, as if he was saying “What?? I’m just enjoying me a little snack.” Enjoying a little snack and leaving a million freaking cracker crumbs all over my new couch…and a throw pillow I might add. There were so many bits and pieces of broken pulverized crackers that it was a job for the vacuum cleaner. Well I knew that my little hand-vac was out in the garage but I didn’t want to have to send my folks out there to hunt for it. Both of them had been feeling bad. Mom had a pinched nerve in her hip and on top of that had developed vertigo. “Mom, go in my bedroom and tucked in the magazine rack is another portable hand vac.” She comes out holding this little red contraption and says, “Is there supposed to be a cord to this?”
“Ahh, I don’t know. It’s battery operated… and yeah, i think there is a cord.”
“Where’s it at?”
“Ahh, I really don’t know off hand.” Now understand, this is a source of frustration for me because I can never find anything in this house, and it’s a source of frustration for my parents because I have always been this way, all my life, unorganized.
“Bring it over here. It might be charged enough that we won’t need the cord.”
Well, of course having not been plugged in, it wasn’t. That sad little thing was so out of juice that all we hear is a sick and dying ‘WHIRrr err errrr” as it sucked up its last breath.
My parents, both disgusted by now, shook their heads and said –-in unison, I might add– “Jesus Christ.” They just turned and walked away and went out on the deck. They had had it. But before she left, my mom gingerly picked up and carried the crumb-laden pillow outside to shake it off. And I rolled over to the laundry room to drag out my trusty Dirt Devil canister vac.
May 11, 2013: Far from the End of the Story
A few mornings later I was feeding all the dogs. I feed Picasso and Luca in the kitchen and Hannah likes to eat in private in my bedroom so after I set the boys’ dishes down I roll back with Hannah’s food, set her bowl down, roll over to the bedroom window to hang a quick u-turn so I can face out and roll forward instead of having to back the bloody wheelchair out of the room like a big damn truck…Beep Beep Beep…
Literally, within the ten seconds it took me to whirl around, I come out to the living room at the exact same moment that Knucklehead is trotting to his bed with a full fresh loaf of bread in his mouth. He knew he was doing something he wasn’t supposed to because he was really high-tailing it to the dog bed. I could see it in his eyes…an excitement like that of thrill-seekers…with that loaf of bread swinging from his teeth.
“JESUS LUCA! Drop that right now! How many times do I have to tell you: NO COUNTER SURFING!”
Later, I assume Luca to be the likely culprit guilty of hiding a Cutie (those little mandarin oranges) under the bolster-bed pillow. By the time I found it tonight, it was nearly flattened, still whole though, the pulp inside squashed to the middle and forming what looked like a little orange UFO space-ship. That, I thought, or a decent disk good for throwing. Kinda like those little hard green apples me and my cousins used to shove onto the sharp ends of whittled sticks and whip at each other. I can imagine what happened: Luca probably snatched it and rolled it around in his mouth only to decide he really didn’t care for it so he buried it and the traffic of dogs sleeping on that bed had contributed to its unlikely shape. I tossed the orange in the trash and with sweet memories of years gone by with my Pennsylvania cousins, I called it a day and said goodnight.
A few days later I decided that this chapter in my book should just be titled “Goddammit Luca!”… Because it seems like that’s all I’ve been saying lately! Just three days since I detailed his last culinary adventure, he snags another nugget of tasty delight:
I had finished vacuuming the kitchen and was getting the cord wound up and heading to the laundry room with it when I come in to the living room to a sight I will never get out of my mind. There is my boy with SOMETHING yet identified hanging out of his mouth. From across the room it looked like he was vomiting in slow motion, this solid object dangling from his mouth as he continues to chomp and gnaw, but there was no sign of distress or discomfort. I rolled over and reached for whatever was dangling from his sweet lips.
Well, sweet indeed! In my hand I held a very wet, very slimy banana peel. As I’m pulling it from his mouth he’s still savoring this new exotic flavor and seemed to be in a state of elation. Imagine that.
I then searched for the rest of the banana. To my dismay, the rest of the peel, plus a hunk of mashed fruit that had apparently escaped his devour, lay on my new couch…and not the part that was covered with the matching blankets put there to protect the fresh microfiber from all things dog. No, his dessert indulgence took place on the one itty-bitty corner of the cushion that of course was exposed and uncovered.
In a momentary surrender to defeat, the only words I could get out: “Goddammit Luca!”
May 12, 2013, the next day:
Jesus Lord! People just aren’t going to believe this. Or they’re going to think “why in the hell doesn’t she just keep stuff off the counters?!”
I hear ya! But here’s the thing: we have been gating, gating, gating…because we KNOW the tricks of this big rascal of mine. But today Dad was going in and out of the kitchen and he just forgot to put the gate up. We didn’t realize until it was too late.
Let’s see…what had I been doing and where was I coming from? Oh yeah, another dreaded closet clearing session. Mom and I were laboriously going through clothes that I haven’t worn in 20 years. This has been a project from Hell. Today when mom walked in I heard her gasp. I turned around and she said, ” Jesus, do these t-shirts just multiply or something?” She’s right though. It does seem like we are never going to get through to the end of my t-shirt collection.
Anyway, after sorting, hanging, folding and trashing until our butts hurt, we emerged from the room in dire need of some refreshment (read: alcohol) so I roll into the kitchen, headed to the fridge…and…
“No. No. Oh no.” I had a sinking feeling.
“What’s wrong?” Mom asks.
I opened the fridge hoping that I’d find the package of hamburger buns that had been thawing on the counter…
“What is it?” she says as she comes into the kitchen. I can tell she has a sinking feeling too. I’m almost afraid to tell her because I think they are getting good & fed up with Luca’s antics.
I said, “The hamburger buns are gone.”
She turns toward the table and said, “And I bet those biscuits are gone too.” Yep they were, evident from the empty paper plate lying on the floor. I had made fresh biscuits for my dad that morning. He loves them. He ate most of them but there were two left and he fully intended to eat them later. This man just loves to eat, period. My dad eats so much! He has a bottomless pit for a stomach. All of us in our family are always amazed at how much he can eat at one sitting and that his stomach can actually hold that much food. He never gains an ounce! Mom always says that’s because he burns up his calories chewing. Ha! I don’t doubt that.
So I go into the living room to see if it was true. Had Luca really snagged himself more forbidden carbs? There, in between the dog beds, lie a plastic wrapper. As I approach it, I’m not recognizing the plastic as being what the hamburger buns were in. I reach down, inspect it and just started laughing.Again I was laughing so hard I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe. Holy shit, it was the wrapper from yet ANOTHER loaf of French bread! I completely forgot about the French bread on the counter.
Not far from the French bread wrapper lay the hamburger buns. Unbelievable. They were all there! The whole package, not even tore open, just lying there, untouched. Luca probably thought they were safe tucked in between the dog beds and would be available for his next round of indulgence. In hindsight, it’s not hard to see why the hamburger buns were left unharmed. Luca had filled up on buttermilk biscuits and a whole loaf of French bread! What a carboholic my dog is!
I rolled into the kitchen with the rescued hamburger buns and that crumbled empty French bread wrapper. I get to the doorway, held them up to show mom, and I just doubled over laughing, again barely able to breathe. Finally I relented, “I guess I’m just not supposed to have French bread in this house.”
Needless to say, Luca didn’t get any dinner that night. I put him outside while the other dogs ate. God knows he’d had more than enough calories and carbs for the day.
And we look forward to another day. Hopefully with lessons learned: in addition to gating, be absolutely sure there is nothing edible on the friggin’ counters!
Now, later that night, getting close to bedtime, I come out after my shower, in my pajamas, ready to settle down and watch some Sunday night TV. There’s Luca, standing with his back legs on the floor, front legs up on the couch, and he’s licking SOMETHING on the couch.
“Luca! JESUS! What do you have now??”
He scrams and I roll over to see what he’s finding so lick-worthy. I scooch over on the couch, move aside the blanket, and…
I look to the heavens. This really can’t be happening, can it??
There, all over the freaking sofa, is a million crumbs. From his earlier French bread escapade. I had just assumed he’d consumed it on the floor since that’s where I found the wrapper. Well, that just goes to show me: never assume when it comes to this guy…
May 15, 2013: Just when I thought the Luca storm had passed…
The night before my parents head back to North Carolina, I’m in the back of the house, sorting laundry and smiling, thinking about all the things mom and dad have said during their two-month stay, and all the laughs and good times we shared, even given the circumstance, when I hear a Pop! Pop! Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle…
I roll out just in time to see Luca trotting across the living room with a busted bag of Ramen Noodles in his teeth…and dry crunchy noodles trailing behind him. A sea of those dehydrated rock-hard noodles all over the floor. Lord, is NOTHING safe in this house?! Well, at least my Goofball gave Mom & Dad one more chuckle and one more story to tell when they get back home.
And as I’m cleaning up after him, with just a sigh I said under my breath, “Goddammit Luca.”
May 20, 2013:
Luca & Cleo, a numbskull dynamic duo if I’ve ever seen one. Cleo is this sweet little Lab-mix who frequently stays here and she’s crazy as ever!
She and Luca. OMG, two peas in a damn pod, these two. Every time they come in from outside they’re just a huffin’ and puffin’ and panting like they’ve run a marathon. I practically have to give them a bath after they’ve played each other out because they come in just covered with spit from grabbing each other’s heads and ears and necks…
Anyway, this little angel of a dog –that I occasionally call ‘Devil-Dog, by the way– she always curls up next to me in bed, up by my shoulders, cradled in my arm. I lay there and tell her what a perfect dog she is. I play with her mouth and outline her lips with my finger and tell her what a perfect little mouth she has. I lift her lips and tell her what perfect white teeth she has. I grab hold of her paw and tell her what perfect little paws she has. And she just lays there on her back and looks up at me with those beautiful bright brown eyes that look like sparkling copper. And then I tell her what perfect eyes she has. Literally: she’s just picture perfect! And I tell her, “You’re just the most perfect dog ever. Until…”
As in “Until you blow through my screen again.” Yeah, one day I happened to spot a black dog outside. Wait! All the dogs are in. Who’s in the backyard? Well, Miss Cleo, who goes nuts over squirrels, had crashed through my bedroom window screen, almost assuredly to chase a squirrel in the yard. I found the mangled screen lying on the deck and Cleo, just happy as a lark, milling around in the yard. Yeah, you’re the most perfect dog ever, until…
Anyway, she’s a sweet silly crazy little girl. And hilarious on most days. She used to flip out over the vacuum cleaner. I mean majorly flip out. She would bark bark bark so loud it would hurt your ears. And she’d jump at the nozzle and try to bite at it, in between her screaming barks. Well, she doesn’t flip out and bark like crazy at the vacuum cleaner anymore. Which was a good thing, especially that day. I had vacuumed the whole house and finished up the job in the master bedroom. I got the vacuum all put up and said, Eh, let me just lay here under the fan for a few minutes. Well that turned into an hour. The dogs all ended up in the bed with me, and again, me & Cleo do our “You’re just the most perfect dog ever” routine, which she loves because she gets lots of tummy rubs. After I finished watching an hour of one of my guilty pleasures shows (The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Shh, don’t tell anyone), I came rolling out into the living room and couldn’t believe what I saw. It looked like someone had taken cornbread and just crumbled it all over the living room floor. And the dog beds were covered with this stuff. As I’m trying to figure out what it was, I kept rolling closer. “What the hell?” And then I see it. My pillow!
“No. No. No-no-no no no NO!” My vintage pillow! The one that matched the incredible find I made while in a museum gift shop: a glass plate that was an exact match to the ‘60s pattern of the pillow. It was a most bewildering moment staring at my tattered pillow.
Now I just know this was a concerted effort between Luca & Cleo, the two knucklehead partners in crime. I picked up my vintage pillow, my very favorite, now just shred to shit and its 1960s stuffing strewn about the place.
“C’mon you guys! I JUST fucking vacuumed!!” Exactly one hour since I wrapped up the damn cord and put it away. “EVERYBODY OUT! Out-out-out!” And I roll over to get the stupid vacuum out again. I’m sucking up stuffing here, and sucking up stuffing there. I even had to vacuum the damn dog toys! And I’m talking to myself. “Ya know, there’s only a dozen frickin’ pillows out here. They could’ve at least picked one from THIS decade!”
I brought the dogs back in and told them, “I have a mind to send you both to bed without your dinners!” Which would actually be a good thing for Luca. He has become quite the chunky-monkey. I’ve reduced his daily kibble intake and have now switched him to a weight-management food.
UPDATE: October 30, 2013:
It’s been a few months with no Luca antics to spice things up. Until today. The dogs typically get one treat each night and it’s usually a Busy Bone, a product that’s supposed to be good for their teeth. I buy the Busy Bones through Amazon’s ‘Subscribe and Save’ program. They ship me four boxes a month. Each box contains eight little boxed packages, each package containing two Busy Bones. Since I recycle, I took all the Busy Bones out of their boxed packages and took the boxes out to the recycle bin. Apparently when I took the Busy Bones out of their boxes I forgot to put them all away in the treat bin and they were sitting out all night on the kitchen table..
“Aw, Man! WHAT NOW???”
I come out into the living room the next morning to find the plastic wrappers from SEVEN Busy Bones on the couch. SEVEN!!! I called the Purina company to find out the calorie count: 277 calories EACH!! He ate almost 2000 calories in Busy Bones! That’s like an entire Thanksgiving dinner, no? Or a box of donuts, for God’s sake! Talk about a snack-attack.
November 6, 2013:
Here’s my Facebook post from today: “Well, my boy Luca has a refined palate for a dog. I WAS having pita chips and Mediterranean olive hummus for lunch. I say WAS because my doorbell rang and when I came back Luca had devoured the whole container of hummus. This dog!!! No wonder I’m writing a story about him. He gives me plenty of fodder for it!”
With a sigh of resignation, I mutter that all too familiar phrase, “Goddammit Luca.”
And so it goes…