Dangerspouse Rides Again

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Mar. 28, 2006 - 2:35 p.m.

Irish Soda Bread


I think I am cursed never to have a happy St. Patrick's Day.

Last year, if you check my archives, after much toil and anticipation NewWifey(tm) produced a spectacular looking authentic Irish feast that unfortunately tasted like an authentic Irish feast. We ended up throwing out mounds of flavorless colcannon, gallons of tepid water with lamb bits ("Irish Stew"), and a traditional whole wheat Irish Soda Bread which weighed more than an equivalent sized lump of osmium.

The previous year saw NewWifey(tm) lock herself in a pair of handcuffs, then get arrested while driving topless to a locksmith (she still can't bring herself to read that entry).

The St. P's Day before THAT I set a corned beef to steam while we went riding, and accidentally turned the knob to "HIGH" instead of "LOW". By the time we returned the bottom of my wok had melted into the burner, the bamboo steamer was smoldering, and DangerHouse has never smelled the same since.

And so on and so on, one careening disaster after another down through the decades.

I'm glad to report that the streak is intact. This past March 17th was a fiasco.

I have a question to ask you:

What do wild dogs do when they catch a chicken?

Let's assume for a moment that you are a dog (and I'm not saying you're not). You're attached to one of those packs of feral St. Bernards roaming the streets of Geneva by night, searching for scraps of Swiss cheese and discarded chocolate. You're not the Alpha Male - far from it. As one of the low ranking juveniles you are lucky if you can scrape the last bits of fondant from the wrapper of a well chewed Teucher champagne truffle by the time it's your turn. Deprivation and cold have made you mean and ravenous. But as luck would have it, the peace talks between Sri Lanka officials and Tamil Tiger rebel leaders are taking place in "your" town this week, brokered by Norwegian diplomat Erik Solheim.

Mr. Solheim never travels anywhere without his pet chicken.

I think you see where this is going. In the heat of diplomatic brokering, nobody notices the lone poultry pecking closer ...closer...closer to the front gate. Even the guard detail is caught unawares. None spot the snowy white tail slipping between the wrought iron bars and down the alley to freedom.

Which is where you find him.





You had broken away from your pack on a scouting mission, knowing these dank side venues are the haunts of Switzerland's poorest: itinerant watchmakers. By day you see them on street corners in tatty lederhosen, harassing tourists with offers to fix their jeweled movements for a few paltry francs. By night they huddle together in the alleys, gnawing on Ementhaler rinds and swilling spiked heavy cream. That's your quarry. When their Swiss movement finally winds down into a lactose induced stupor, you pick your way among them and lap at the dregs. It's not much, but it carries you through the bitter Alpine nights.

And now...a chicken has appeared before you. An unguarded chicken.

He stares at you. You stare at him.

It's all over in an instant.

Now, here's the dilemma:

Do you pluck the chicken, roast him over a blazing hobo, then daintily pull the meat from his bones before chewing? Or do you pop the whole thing in your maw, chew and swallow in the same motion, and disregard your mother's admonitions never to eat bones?

I ask this because of an argument I got into with NewWifey(tm) the other day.

See, I was feeling rather guilty about attaching Casey the Wonder Corgi to the end of a fishing lure last month. Nothing I was gonna don a hair shirt over, mind you. But I felt some act of contrition was in order. So I started slipping him some extra rations of food.

Human food.

Well, Casey went out of his little corgi mind. After 4 years of nothing but compressed lamb fat, soy meal and sawdust nuggets (according to the Alpo sack), a mouthful of dry-sauté string beans with tofu must seem like gustatory heaven.

But that's not what I gave him.

I gave him chicken legs.

On the bone.

I mean really - what dog eats tofu and string beans? Even if it IS in a nice ginger-hoisin sauce?

Unfortunately, NewWifey(tm) saw me lob a particularly meaty one into the dog's face and she hit immediately the roof.


"Oh posh" said I. "Wild dogs have been eating chickens since they evolved together on the plains of ancient Pangaea. If bones were the death trap you say they are, canis fidelis never would have survived their first generation and we'd be feeding a pet emu every night instead of Casey."

She bared her teeth at me and growled "I don't give a flying fuck about evolution or emus. I'm telling you, do NOT give the dog chicken bones. Period."

I waited til her back was turned then tossed a wing, which was swallowed noiselessly in one gulp.

Over the next few days I further assuaged my guilt by hurling oatmeal, risotto con funghi, Lorna Doons, pizza crusts, pork chops and a large veal knuckle from the stock pot into that bottomless pit of a corgi.

I'm pretty sure he forgave me for the dogfishing incident. And his breath smelled GREAT.

However last Thursday the chicken bones came home to roost. As I'm sure you knew they would.

I got home from work around 2 and on opening the front door was greeted by an amazing tableaux. Casey was hunched over in the middle of the living room rug in a football center's stance, NewWifey(tm) crouching behind holding a 16 inch paella pan directly under his butt. Kinda like Julia Child as quarterback, getting ready to take a snap.

But in reality, Casey was getting ready to take a dump.

In the middle of our living room floor.

Into one of my good Le Creuset pans.

For some reason.

Was this a new recipe NewWifey(tm) got from one of her trailer-trash buddies back in Missouri? I mean, I know they eat pig intestines in various ways there. Can the contents be far behind?

I had to know.

"Ahh, hon-"

"DO NOT SAY A WORD TO ME. I want you to get on the phone RIGHT NOW and call the Vet. Casey can't shit, and it's YOUR FAULT! Fucking 'dogs eat bones in the wild', my ass. Look what you've done to him!"

I was actually pretty relived to hear that my good cookware was not about to be filled with dog poop, but I kept that opinion to myself and picked up the phone. The vet's number is on speed dial, and after 4 years of, let's just say, "unusual" maladies, the vet's office has us on caller ID.

The receptionist answered with, "Hello Mr. Spouse. What have you done to Casey this time, and we can fit you in at 4 o'clock."


At 4 o'clock we hoisted Casey, still in full squat, onto the examination table. The vet thumped his distended belly a few times and asked "Has he had anything unusual to eat lately?"

Through gritted teeth, and glaring at me the whole time, NewWifey(tm) said "...bones. Chicken bones. Pork chop bones. Steak bones. BBQ rib bones. God, probably squirrel bones for all I know. Whatever he cooked, if it had bones in it he tossed it to the dog. For the past. Two. Weeks."

The vet looked at me in amazement. "Why would you feed your dog chicken bones, Mr. Spouse?"

"Well you see" I said, "Imagine you are a wild dog living in the jungles of Borneo. Suddenly you spot a herd of capybara in a clearing ahead...."

I stopped there because the heel of NewWifey(tm)'s Red Wing work boot was grinding into the ankle I'd just had surgery on. "I guess I just made an error in judgement" I gasped.

I sure did. We left the dog and 240 dollars on the table, and were told to call back in an hour after he was sedated and x-rayed.

Two hours later we were back at the vet's. They informed us that Casey had a couple of hardened blockages in his intestines, but the shots they gave him combined with the enema we were about to administer should do the trick.

Enema? That WE were gonna administer??

Yessiree. Inside the doggie bag we left with was as lethal looking a syringe as ever graced a Wes Cravin film. The barrel must have been 4 inches long, an inch in diameter, and filled with an evil pink gel. Instead of a needle there was an equally long tapered plastic nozzle.

This was definitely womens' work.

"Ok pookie, I'll be downstairs playing darts. Just remember to warm the nozzle. You know how much you hate it when..."

"You put it into him. You get it out." was all she said, then turned and walked into the bedroom, locking the door behind her.

Meanwhile the dog was lying on his side, still sedated and panting heavily. His stomach looked like he'd swallowed a small child.

It was now or never. I popped the cap off the top of the nozzle.

I looked at Casey's butt.

I looked at the nozzle.

I didn't see any difference in diameter.

Only one thing for it then: KY Warming Gel. It's never failed me yet.

I decided to skip the normally requisite dinner and jewelry ("foreplay") and just dove right for Ground Zero.

The dog, thanks to a combination of unrelenting discomfort and the moderating effects of Puppy Percoset, didn't flinch. Just a brief curl of his upper lip, a slight stiffening of his haunches, and the merest of whimpers were all the indications he gave that he'd never be able to hold his head up in the company of other males again.

I rammed home the plunger until the last vestige of pink goo disappeared, then pulled out and fell asleep.

Old habits die hard.

Later, over dinner, Casey seemed marginally better. He was actually able to walk with his back legs behind his front legs again, at least for short stretches. However every 10 minutes he was still bolting through his doggie dog to the back yard, where we watched him strain and grunt while passing nothing more than small rivulets of pink glop.

After dinner we called the vet back.

"Yeah, I had a funny feeling that wasn't gonna work. You'd better bring him back and we'll try to unclog him with something stronger."

"Something stronger" turned out to be a garden hose. And 300 more dollars. Basically they knocked him out, inserted plumbing, then ran warm water up into him for several hours hoping to dissolve the concrete.

Early the next morning, St. Patty's Day, they called us to come retrieve our dog. NewWifey(tm) trundled out while I stayed chained to the stove making soda bread and corned beef. A half hour later she returned carrying a groggy corgi with a soaked back end.

"The vet said to keep an eye on him to make sure he goes. If he doesn't poop by 3 we have to bring him back and they'll do surgery. Oh, you also get to make friends with him again." And she plunked another pink syringe onto the counter.

I was elbow deep in flour kneading soda bread. I had a 5 pound sack of potatoes that needed peeling, and a 4 pound corned brisket that needed to be prepped and steamed over beer. This was not a good time to stop and play with a dog's anus.

"Er, sweetie, could you...maybe...."

My words trailed off as NewWifey(tm)'s back disappeared down the hallway and into the bedroom again. "Snick" went the lock.

I scraped sticky dough globs off my fingers, grabbed the syringe and made for the dog. I didn't have time to dig out the KY so I just smeared butter on the nozzle. Hey, we've all resorted to that in a pinch, right? Please tell me I'm not the only one....

It was another trauma free event, thankfully. A twitch, a halfhearted growl, and the pink goo disappeared. In less than 5 minutes I had scrubbed my hands back to "semi-sanitary" and was adding raisins and caraway seeds to the bread mixture.

NewWifey(tm) meanwhile was watching Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne mix it up in "The Quiet Man", a St. Patty's tradition for her. The bedroom door stayed locked, her only company a 6-pack of Harp's.

At 1 o'clock the feast was ready. A glazed, naked Corned Beef took center stage, surrounded by Mt. Mashed Potato, a chafing dish of my patented Gassless Braised Sweet Cabbage with Apples and Bacon (I still despise boiled) and a very pregnant looking and savory Irish Soda Bread covered with a warmed tea towel. The good sporks dressed each plate.

DangerHouse - hell, the entire neighborhood - smelled great. Finally the curse of the Hambino was broken. We were gonna have a flawless, delicious St. Patrick's Day hoe-down.

NewWifey(tm) wove a bit unsteadily from the bedroom, carrying the last two bottles of her 6-pack. She sat down and placed the green novelty bowler on her head.

"How's the dog?"

I looked over at Casey, who only moments ago roused himself from the spot where NewWifey(tm) had plopped him down several hours before. Pain or no pain, the smell of food overrides all.

"He's fine."

"Has he pooped yet?"

"Not yet, but now that he's awake it's only a matter of -"

Just then, right on cue, the dog exploded.

For the first time since I've known him, Casey was not ambling towards the dinner table to beg for scraps. He was trying to make it past the table, to the doggie door leading to the back yard.

He didn't make it.

Three feet from the door the stool softeners, surgical hose, and pink enemas simultaneously reached Activation Potential inside my little corgi, resulting in an internal pressure buildup probably rivaling that reached by the core meltdown at Chernobyl.

The ensuing swath of destruction was just as spectacular.

At first I thought that someone had started an outboard motor in our dining room. There was a sharp "BRAPP!", a brief pause, and then "p-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-T.....". It only took an instant to ascertain that it wasn't a wayward Evinrude, but rather a now jet propelled Welsh Corgi racing around the table at top speed.

The poor dog. That first violent expulsion was just the opening salvo of a non-stop torrent of liquid, gas and solids propelled out of him at fire hose speed. He didn't know what was happening, but he was startled and probably burning from the force of the ejections. And like any scared animal his reaction was to bolt blindly away from the pain as fast as possible. Since he couldn't get away from his own butt though, he ended up just tearing around our dining room at full speed, bucking and leaping with a spray of brown, black, and bright pink goo shooting out behind him like a hideous 4 foot long tail. Every once in a while a chunk of undigested bone would shoot out, and one struck a chair leg hard enough to leave a gouge.

We couldn't catch him. That dog is faster than most cars even on the calmest day. On top of that, after the first 10 seconds the floor was too slick to even walk on safely. And NewWifey(tm) was already unsteady on her feet to begin with. We just sat stunned, watching as Casey went from the size of an over inflated rugby ball to his normal bologna shape in just under two minutes.

The entire dining room was covered in a stinking patina of excrement and pink gel, us included.

And...the feast.

I don't know how he managed to generate such force, but Casey had coated the contents of our table - a good 3 feet over his head - with a uniform layer of the contents of his lower GI tract. None of my precious five hours of toil was edible.

NewWifey(tm) didn't say a word. She just got up, steadied herself, then carefully inched across the mess to the bathroom for a long shower. After which she climbed back into bed with the remainder of the beer from the fridge, and turned on the parade.

The dog, by contrast, was giddy and relieved now that he was empty. He went to his play bin and dragged out Green Spiky Ball, nudging it across the slop onto my foot in hopes of a game of soccer. Dogs certainly bounce back quickly, bless their little hearts. And empty skulls.

After a few halfhearted tosses I booted Casey onto the back porch and locked the door behind him. For the next 4 hours I scrubbed, scraped, troweled and sponged fecal matter and clots of bone from the floor, walls, table and chairs in our dining room. $78 dollars worth of food get shoveled into the trash, untasted. I used an entire gallon of bleach and two spray bottles of Fabreze. Even though it was 22 degrees out I left the back door wide open for the next three days. Then I sat on the couch and played Gran Tourismo until I had to hit the sack.

I didn't even get a beer. On St. Patrick's Day.

Oh, did I say that ALL the food was tossed? That's not quite true. The Irish Soda Bread that I had lovingly kneaded and baked to perfection was protected by a tea towel, if you recall. When I lifted the towel I saw that none of the reeking dog stew had penetrated to the bread below. So, I went for it.

It was delicious! I ate 3/4 of the loaf by myself.

The other 1/4? Straight into the dog.

Hey, there are no bones in Irish Soda Bread, right? He'll be fine. After all, wild Irish Setters.....

Well I know it's been over a week since the holidays, but I hope yours was less shitty than mine.




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