It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. I’m down on all fours in my backyard, singing a B.J. Thomas tune, one hand between my dog’s legs, the other scratching her back. Not the way to kick off a weekend.
How did I get here? Well, if you must know….
(30 minutes earlier:)“Animal hospital. May I help you?"
“Hi. I’m calling on behalf of Lucy Hamilton, cutest cocker spaniel in the world? I’m pretty sure she’s got a urinary tract infection.
“Aww,” sighs the woman on the other side of the line. (I love her already.) “What’s going on with Lucy?”
“I’ll take her out to — you know — go, and she’ll squat for a really long time — a minute, maybe two. Then, she’ll sniff around and squat again, even longer. This goes on for three or four more squats, which is weird. She’s usually a one-and-done kind of gal.”
“Poor baby,” says the woman, who obviously chose the perfect career. “Have you noticed any blood in her urine?”
“Um, no,” I say, suddenly feeling like the world’s worst pet owner. “But, I haven’t exactly gotten up close and personal when she, you know, goes.”
“We’ve got one more appointment tomorrow morning at 10:40. If you can bring in a urine sample, that would be great.” Wait a minute. This does not compute.
“And … how does one accomplish something like that with, you know, a dog?” I feel like a complete nincompoop. (And, speaking of poop, why couldn’t that be the required specimen? Poop’s a piece of cake.)
The woman chuckles. Clearly, she’s had this conversation before.
“Get a glass bowl, follow her around and be patient,” she says. “If you can’t do it, don’t worry. We can probably get it tomorrow. But, don’t let her stop in the yard on the way into the office. Carry her, if you can.”
Hmm. Either way, this is going to be traumatic. But, better to make it my trauma than hers. I decide to give it a try.I rummage through my kitchen drawers and pull out a 9-inch by 13-inch glass lasagna dish.“What are you doing?” my husband asks, coming out after his shower.
“Collecting a urine sample,” I reply, matter-of-factly.
“From an elephant?” he says, looking at the pan.
“I prefer not to get it on me.”
“That’ll never fit between her legs. The neighbors will think you’re making cocker spaniel cannelloni.”
“Oh, all right,” I sniff, and pull out my least favorite cereal bowl. “Let’s go, girl.”
For the next 10 minutes, I track that hound like a stealth bomber, stick to her like white on rice. When she finally stops to squat, I fall to my knees and slide the bowl between her hind legs. She whips around, rears back and stares at me, as if to say, “What fresh Hell is this? Isn’t there a cocktail with your name on it back in the house?”
I’m relentless, getting more creative with each failed attempt. As she wanders around the yard, alternately sniffing the ground and checking me out over her shoulder, I act nonchalant. I pick weeds, look at the sky, whistle and sing songs about rain. (Because Mom always said that helps you put you in a liquid state of mind.) I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain….rainy days and Mondays always get me down… I want to know, have you ever seen the rain…. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….
The pooch is nonplussed, and frustratingly nonproductive. Finally — as I run desperately low on liquid lyrics — she squats. And stays! I assume the position, slide the bowl into place, close my eyes and whisper…Raindrops keep falling on my head, but that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red … cryin’s not for me…Halfway into the second chorus, Lucy straightens up and walks away. There, in the soon-to-be-trashed bowl, is a specimen, approximately two teaspoons in volume. And not a drop on me, to boot!
“Good girl!!” I cry, meaning me, not her. This is easily the biggest accomplishment of my day.“Let the weekend begin!” I proclaim, as I carry the bowl gingerly into the house, transfer the contents to a glass jar and store it in the fridge. “What do you wanna do?” my husband asks.“I don’t know,” I say, scrubbing my hands like Lady Macbeth. “But, somewhere in this house, there’s a cocktail with my name on it.”