Helter Shelter 

The sordid adventures of a canine klepto

Back in December, one of my baseball caps went missing. It was one of the good ones, too. It matched daughter Jess’ school colors and it fit my giant 24-inch head just right.
Back in December, one of my baseball caps went missing. It was one of the good ones, too. It matched daughter Jess’ school colors and it fit my giant 24-inch head just right. I spent a fair amount of time looking for that cap, then gave up and turned the cap hunt over to wife Brenda, who’s unnaturally good at finding lost things. But she couldn’t find my ball cap.

About two weeks ago, daughter Jess couldn’t find her softball jersey. “How can you lose your jersey?” I asked. “You had it on at the end of the ball game. You had it on when we ate at McCabe’s. You had it on when you got home. What did you do, throw it out the window?”

“I think maybe I put on a sweatshirt,” Jess answered, “then took off the jersey and the sweatshirt together. The jersey’s probably balled up in a sweatshirt somewhere.”

Again wife Brenda took up the hunt, looking inside all of Jess’ sweatshirts, in Jess’ clothes hamper, under Jess’ bed. But she couldn’t find the jersey. Two-thirds of the way through Jess’ last high school softball season, she had to give up her prized number 10 jersey for lost and switch to number 14.

A couple days ago, when Brenda came home for lunch, our dogfriend Rufus sidled up next to Brenda, because he knows she’ll always give him the last bite of lunch. As Brenda was handing Rufus the last little piece of chicken, she noticed that Rufus had a little blood on his nose. Brenda looked at me and said, “What do you suppose caused that?”

“He’s been digging, most likely,” I said. “Or burying bones. Just the usual dog stuff. I wouldn’t worry about it. No Jowers dog has ever died from a scratched-up nose.”

Yesterday, I got up in a pretty good mood. My fancy bathroom scale said I’d lost 20 pounds the natural way, my dog’s nose had quit bleeding and I was six games away from being free of coaching high school softball. I felt like getting a little something done. So I went to the backyard early, while it was nice and cool, fired up my 12-year-old Ryobi Mulchinator cordless mower and set about cutting the grass.

About 10 minutes into the job, as I mowed the path next to the buckeye tree, I saw a little patch of grey and white cloth sticking up out of the euonymus vines. I walked to the cloth, bent down and saw that it was a pair of my pajama pants (not that I actually wear pajamas to bed) with a pair of my drawers still inside them.

I was dumbstruck for a few seconds. Who would want to pick up my lounging pants and drawers, take them to the backyard and throw them under the buckeye tree? Then, over by the deck, I saw Jess’ pink-and-grey argyle socks and her South Carolina Gamecocks T-shirt. Who’d take them outside and leave them on the ground?

My bloody-nosed boydog, that’s who.

About the time I got the mowing finished, Brenda came home for lunch. As we ate our veggie wraps, I told on Rufus.

“Why would he do that?” Brenda asked.

“He’s a basset hound,” I said. “They’re peculiar.”

Brenda and I decided to comb the backyard. In about a half-hour’s time, here’s what we found: Jess’ softball jersey, along with a pair of sliding shorts and softball socks (under the viburnum); Jess’ “Bonanza” pants, featuring images of horses (under the dogwood); a pair of my socks and a pair of Jess socks (near the deck); my perfectly good, long-sleeved, waffle-weave shirt (under the Japanese maple); one unopened can of dog breath mints (on the deck); my ball cap (pushed under the edge of the deck).

“This has been going on since December,” Brenda said. “That’s when your ball cap disappeared.”

“Looks like it’s been pretty steady ever since,” I replied. “How did we never see him carrying clothes down the stairs? And out through the dog door?”

“He had to do it when we weren’t home,” Brenda said.

“Somebody’s always home,” I said. “Except when we’re at Jess’ ball games. The little sumbitch waited for game time, then started hauling the contents of the clothes hampers out the dog door. I think he did it for spite. Something along the lines of, ‘If y’all love her so much more than you love me, I’ll rob you naked.’ ”

“Sounds like how Rufus would think,” Brenda offered.

“He’s disordered,” I said. “We’re talking about a dog who stole his own breath mints. It’s like that time disordered neighbor Ted built that stone wall, then stole it from himself and took it to his new house when he moved.”

“You don’t think Rufus wants to move, do you?” Brenda asked.

“No,” I answered. “I think he wants us to stay home full-time, rub his belly, give him the last bite of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and maybe buy him some clothes.”

“Come to think of it,” Brenda said, “he started stealing our clothes right after I bought him that holiday dog sweater.”

“Dog’s a klepto,” I said. “But he’s 12 years old. Can’t fix him now. We’ll just have to buy a couple clothes hampers with lids on top.”

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