Miss Shelly

I used to babysit for a dog named Shelly. Shelly was half Border Collie and half tumor, and she was terribly old. Her owners would go off on one-month excursions in the summers, leaving me to take care of Shelly and their plants. Many plants died under my watchful care, but luckily, Shelly never died … until once. But that comes later in the tale.

The first time I babysat Shelly, her owners went to Australia. Within three days of my arrival, she developed a hot spot on her cheek that she kept scratching and scratching. She would scratch for hours. I finally took her to the vet, and he gave her some ointments for her cheek, and fitted her with the dreaded Cone.

Shelly was very ashamed of her new bonnet, and walked around with her head hung low for two days. When she discovered that the cone doubled as a megaphone, however, she held her head high, munching her kibble for all in the world to hear.

In addition to her cheek ointments, Shelly had lots of medical needs. She had some sort of growth on her eye, which looked like the pink end of a pencil eraser. I would have to put ointment on this growth twice a day, and also swab her eyes in between, because her tear ducts weren’t working properly. I think it might have been because they were clogged by 2.5 pounds of extra eyelid flesh? Just guessing.

All of these are things I would willingly do for someone I loved; I did not love Shelly, so I was loath to do them, but I am a compassionate person.

Also, I got a cold grand every time I babysat this dog.

Shelly also had a very demanding vitamin routine. With her morning and evening meals (canned duck), I would have to give her no less than 9 different capsules, including fish oils, thistle seed, and flax seed oil. I don’t know why.

Shelly never did learn where the edges of her cone were. She would walk around the house, crashing into walls and lamps with the edges of her new hat. I would wake up in the night to the relentless scraaape, scraaaape, scraaaaaaaaaaaaaape of her insomnia.

When she got older, she didn’t have the cone anymore, but she did fall down the stairs once and scared the crap out of me. Luckily, what it scared out of her was just a little urine, easily picked up with 16-17 sheets of paper towel at 2 AM.

As Shelly got older and deafer, shaking the can of pennies wouldn’t still her incessant barking.

One day, the growth on her eyelid was gone. What a relief! Later, I found it on the kitchen floor.

Another time, I found what I thought was a large, juicy grape on the floor. As I bent to pick it up, I saw its little legs waving and realized it was a tick.

After I cleaned up my vomit, I went out and got a tick collar for Shelly.

Each summer my friends would ask me to dog-sit again, and I would grudgingly agree, because they were my friends, and they were desperate, and poor little Shel knew me already.

Oh! There were also two finches in a cage, one of which was blind. But I’ll leave those out of the story.

And I didn’t kill the orchid, I swear. I didn’t even touch it. It just dropped all its blossoms because it missed you guys. I missed you too, and that’s why the orchid and I shared a bottle of Southern Comfort in your honor.

The last time I babysat Shelly, she had had a few strokes and couldn’t hear, and was fairly blind in one eye. Since she couldn’t manage stairs anymore, we let her crap all over the deck. Luckily, it was winter. On that last stay I swore it would be the last time. Money or no, I couldn’t handle it.

But they asked me again, and I said yes. When I got to the house, I couldn’t find Shelly anywhere. I searched all her favorite hiding spots … the crawl space behind the dryer, under the deck, in the garage … nowhere. After half an hour, I found a note from her owners: Dear Spinning Girl, Shelly is not at home. Please call for details …

I called my friends in Martha’s Vineyard, and they told me Shelly was buried under the hemlock tree in the back yard. She had died that very day. I could stay the weekend anyhow, since we had agreed on it and they’d still like the house watched. I spent the next day planting flowers and mourning my little old friend, shaking the can of pennies and wearing her old cone. I still wear it, when I have an unbearable itch somewhere and I don't want to bite it.

How I miss that old girl.

Some of the Morals of the story:
  • I will care for you tenderly, tumors and all.
  • Ticks make me vomit.
  • Plants do not like alcohol.
  • The cone shape is a deterrent to tearing up one's own flesh.
  • I will do just about anything for a cold grand in cash.


Ɯbermilf said...

this isn't Flash Fiction Friday!

I want my money back!

Weary Hag said...

You are just too flipping cute for words. It all comes out in da writing, my friend, trust me.

Shelly sounds like my very first dog. By eighteen, she was blind as a bat and more deaf than not ... had mysterious growths in odd places and even smelled a little toward the end. But I still well up a bit when I think about her.

Considering Shelly's "conditions" perhaps you should have shared your
Southern Comfort with HER and not the plant?

Excellent story SG ...!