By Debbie Baldwin

I have been a pet owner for many years—sometimes successfully; other times, not so much. I have had a towheaded 3-year-old come to me with a goldfish in his hand, and ask with utter sincerity why Gil doesn’t seem to like playing in the yard. I have had a guinea pig give birth not once, not twice, but three times on my watch. We had an albino gecko. Why, you ask? I wonder the same thing every day. I think it may have taken its own life, but the official cause of death is ‘accidental.’ Apparently, it accidentally stopped eating and drinking. I have had a puppy sit on my lap while I scratched her head and rubbed her back as she—unbeknownst to me—devoured a bird. But now, I fear my patience may have run its course. It appears our puppy—our adorable, precious, impossible-not-to-love puppy—has discovered a nest. Or a herd. Or a pack—of voles.

The first time it happened, I was home alone. Oh, it was innocent enough. Everyone was out of town, and I was fastidiously clearing a plate—or pouring myself a glass of wine—I don’t recall, exactly, and there it was: a small, somewhat chewed up creature dead on my dining room floor. I did what any rational-thinking, Ivy League-educated woman would do—gagged, cried and called my husband in Florida, and asked him to fly home and take care of it. He assured me that an entire role of paper towels covering the corpse and a gentle lift would solve the problem. Actually I think his exact words were, Pick it up and throw it out, but potato, po-tah-to. In any event, our sweet, innocent puggle’s small indiscretion was over and done with. Over…done with…

It must have been three or four days later when I heard it: the telltale whimper of a beagle hybrid with a bone…or a ball…or something she needs to either chew or bury…or chew then bury. As she appeared in the kitchen—rodent head out one side of her mouth, tail out the other—I realized why Xanax was invented, and then as l’amuse bouche disappeared down her throat…well, the mind reels.

You can’t punish a dog for catching mice. It’s all very scorpion and toad. My girlfriend tried to comfort me by telling me she had a cat that used to do the same thing, but at least, had the courtesy to leave the animal at the kitchen door, like a gift. My gifts seem to be delivered, shall we say, in a more intimate fashion. That’s a good euphemism for grotesque, right? I guess in the end, dogs are like kids—you have to put up with a lot of disgusting stuff, but you just can’t help but love them.