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  • This time it's fleas. There, I gave the punch line away. And for the second time in my life I didn’t think I would be writing a story about my dogs.

    I had my first suspicions as I was walking one of my dogs down our street. He made a sharp u-turn to his hindquarters and gave himself a swift bite. I inspected but didn’t see any offensive black squiggles or a flea.

    Denial got the better of me, and I pushed the matter totally on the back burner because everything on my front burners was burning and setting off the fire alarm.

    I don’t know how they contracted this vile insect, but I feel ashamed, as their owner, that it did happen. So ashamed, I couldn’t even make eye contact with the other good customers on the dog shampoo aisle at Petsmart. The other, more attentive dog owners were perusing oatmeal or lavender scented shampoos and pet wipes while I was on the bad end of the aisle reading labels with contact precautions and what to do in if said product becomes unfortunately ingested or inhaled.

    It has only been 5 ½ years since my family rescued these dogs. Oreo, our black and white dog was obtained through legitimate means at the Humane Society. But I, acting under my own volition, picked up Choo-Choo one night at in a flurry of codependency at the very same Petsmart.

    On that night, a young girl was there, with a litter of pit-bull/boxer pups in her cart. I was curious as to the abundance in her cart and stopped to chat for a moment with her. First mistake. She was giving these dogs away for free. She said she had rescued them from a man she believed to be raising them for dog fighting. She had taken them to her vet, given them their very first round of shots, even showed me the up-to-date paperwork. But there was one catch, actually two catches, the dogs had worms and red mange.

    I don’t know who I felt more sorry for, the girl that had rescued the litter of pups or the dogs themselves. I've always been a little like Charlie in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Charlie Brown" when he picks out the spindliest looking Christmas tree. I looked into the runt of the litter's eyes, the dog that would be mine that night, and knew we would be friends for a long time. Choo-choo has since become the most expensive free dog I have ever had the pleasure of having.

    What can I say, there’s a sucker born every minute. And it's usually me.

    I’d like to say that I have taken the best of care of them, but I haven’t. As my divorce unfolded, and between our moves, they have not been a top priority, but a true burden. There have been times I have wished I never brought those dogs into my life. Like when they got sprayed by a skunk. Or when it’s raining, and I don’t want to walk them. Or when they vomit after drinking water too quickly. Or the time … I really could go on and on, exploring the entire spectrum of bodily refuse and its impact on my upholstering and carpeting.

    But there has always been a very sweet voice that has whispered to me “Embrace Your Burdens”. Sometimes I’ve misunderstood this voice to say “Embrace Their Burdens”, which is to say, I have begun carrying a very heavy burden of my child and their choices, or my boss and her issues with ADD, or a friend’s financial drama… I could go on.

    But the dogs are mine to care for. I willingly signed up for it, and will play the ball through to the end.

    There is a funny thing that happens when I connect with them, embrace them, like today when I was giving them a bubble bath with the newly purchased deodorizing flea and tick shampoo. I become very happy. I notice things about them that I had forgotten, like Choo-choo's one white fingernail, or the way Oreo always looks like he's doing algebraic equations by the way he sets his ears back on his head. I look into their eyes and they seem happy too. Maybe that sweet voice that whispers for me to embrace my burdens knows the outcome, knows the joy you give boomerangs back to you someway, somehow.
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