July/August 2013

Purchase

20 Things the Dog Ate

1. ANCIENT SQUASHED DRIED ROUND FLAT SHARD OF BEAVER
Sweet mother of the mewling baby Jesus! You wouldn’t think a creature that likes to watch Peter O’Toole movies would be such an omnivorous gobbling machine, but he has eaten everything from wasps to the back half of a raccoon. And let us not ignore the beaver. Speculation is that beaver was washed up onto road when the overflowing lake blew its dam, was squashed by a truck, and then got flattened ten thousand times more, and then summer dried it out hard and flat as a manhole cover, and the dog somehow pried it up, leaving only beaver oil on the road, and ate it. Sure, he barfed later. Wouldn’t you?

2. YOUNG SPARROW
I kid you not. Sparrow falls from nest in the pine by the fence, flutters down ungainly to unmerciful earth, dog leaps off porch like large hairy mutant arrow, gawps bird, in half an instant. Man on porch roars drop it! Dog emits bird with a choking coughing sound, as if disgusted by a misplaced apostrophe. Bird staggers for a moment and then flutters awkwardly up to fence post. I wouldn’t have believed this if I had not seen it with my own holy eyeballs. Wonder how fledgling bird explained that adventure to mom.

3. CRAYONS
I don’t even want to think about this ever again. Crayola. The big box—sixty-four crayons, all colors. Sure, he barfed later. Sure he did. Wouldn’t you?

4. YELLOW JACKET WASPS
Every summer. Even though he gets stung again and again in the nether reaches of his mouth and throat and jumps up whirling around in such a manner that we laugh so hard we have to pee. He cannot resist snapping them out of the air as if they were bright bits of candy, and then making high plaintive sounds like a country singer on laughing gas. I have to pee.

5. JELLYFISH ON THE SHORE OF THE VAST AND IMPACIFIC PACIFIC
Why would you ever do such a thing? What could possibly look less appetizing than an oozing quivering deceased jellyfish? Yet he does. Sure, he barfs.

6. TO 19. SOME NONORGANIC HIGHLIGHTS
Pencil nubs. Lacrosse balls. The cricket ball a friend sent me from Australia. Pennies. Postcards. Sports sections. Bathrobe belts. Kindling sticks. Kazoos. Most of a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Most of a cell-phone charger. Pen caps. Toothbrushes. One of two tiny sneakers that belonged to a child one month old, although to be fair it wasn’t like the kid was actually using the sneakers.

20. AN ENTIRE RED SQUIRREL, CALLED A CHICKAREE IN THESE PARTS
I think the squirrel was suicidal. If you were a squirrel the size of a banana, and you could evade a dog with the athletic gifts and predatory instinct of Michael Jordan, would you venture down to the grass for any reason whatsoever, knowing that the dog could change you from present to past tense in less than a second? Would you? Me neither. But the squirrel did. The skull appeared magically in the grass two days later. The dog declined to eat the skull a second time, probably for religious reasons, or maybe because he knew he would barf. Wouldn’t you?

What would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments section, below, and read more Enumeration entries at orionmagazine.org/enumeration.

From Doyle’s publisher: Brian Doyle (1956-2017) was the longtime editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He was the author of six collections of essays, two nonfiction books, two collections of “proems,” the short story collection Bin Laden’s Bald Spot, the novella Cat’s Foot, and the novels Mink RiverThe Plover, and Martin Marten. He is also the editor of several anthologies, including Ho`olaule`a, a collection of writing about the Pacific islands. Doyle’s books have seven times been finalists for the Oregon Book Award, and his essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, OrionThe American ScholarThe Sun, The Georgia Review, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York TimesThe Times of London, and The Age (in Australia). His essays have also been reprinted in the annual Best American EssaysBest American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. Among various honors for his work is a Catholic Book Award, three Pushcart Prizes, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, Foreword Reviews’ Novel of the Year award in 2011, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008 (previous recipients include Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, and Mary Oliver).”