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Playing with Cujo

October 17, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

In my new book "Cujo and Me," I talk about how much we love our 300-pound beagle, even after he nearly gnawed off my left leg, thinking it was his own. Pets are so important to a home.

Yep, Cujo is a chewer all right. The other morning, he coughed up a train set that had been missing for five years. So, no, he's not perfect. Who among us is?

In "Cujo and Me," I explain how we inherited the dog from the lovely and patient older daughter, who moved home recently, bringing Cujo and about $3,000 in hair care products, 40 bushels of scarves. If there's one thing young women like, it's hair and scarves. I guess that's two things.

Anyway, she brings home the beagle, Cujo, whom I never really cared for, as I don't like other males in the house unless I'm legally bound. Cujo, turns out, eats four meals a day and goes out about 60 times. It's how he keeps his weight down, probably.

Like most dogs, the 300-pound beagle is very careful about his diet. For breakfast, he prefers a nice bowl of botulism. For lunch, he'll sneak one or two of my shoes. At dinner, he rewards himself a little. Yesterday, he ate Posh's new vacuum. There's also a portion of the baseboard near the front door that he uses as a salt lick. After about 15 minutes of that, he orders out Chinese.

So, yeah, Cujo has a little belly. Who doesn't? The lovely and patient older daughter says it's the product of bad genes, but I've lived too long to fall for that old excuse. His generous girth is the product of a savage appetite and the kind of hedonism you don't see much in America anymore. Lucky us.

In appearance, Cujo increasingly resembles a very hairy beer keg. On our constant walks, he stops only to eat chicken bones that have spilled from the neighbors' garbage. And Halloween decorations.


"Don't eat that!"

"Crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch. . . . "

As he ages, he looks a little like Orson Welles, mostly around the chin and eyes. It is the look of what might have been.

Yet he is strong, the strongest beast ever to pull me helplessly around a cul-de-sac. On walks, he lunges forward ferociously on all four legs, as if headed for Fairbanks. In a perfect world, he'd be hauling coal cars in Latvia.

"Easy. Easy! EASYYYYYYY!!!!!" I calmly urge.

God forbid Cujo spots another dog, or a person, or a tree waving in the wind that he thinks might be French fries. (Did I mention he's half-blind?) In those cases, he goes completely ape. He will pull on the leash until he cuts off his own windpipe and begins to cough and spasm.

When he finally passes out, I carry him home in 30-second bursts, as if cradling an oak stump. Usually, he stirs awake about halfway back. He thanks me by nibbling at my ear and trying to suck out my brains.

Meanwhile, we have this other pet -- I think he's a cat, though he might be a raccoon, or some derivation of the Norway rat.

What a rascal.

Pets give a house a very homey feel, so I am very glad to have this cat-rat-coon, who bounces from couch to chair to my ever-growing lap, usually with the 300-pound beagle in hot pursuit, knocking over vases and lamps. Sooooo cute.

"We're very blessed," I tell Posh.


"To have so many animals," I say.

"Um, that's your youngest son," she says.

Oh. I guess that explains the jeans and the baseball cap. The little dude sure can fetch.

Misunderstandings like this often crop up in a family, and I think you just need to roll with them. Turns out the cat-rat-coon was really our first-grader. From what I understand, they're all God's creatures, even the teenagers.

I blame my fading eyesight for the pets vs. kids confusion. After 120 years of marriage, my eyes are going and Posh's hearing too, which is probably fortunate for both of us. A little disconnect can be good for a marriage. It's almost sexy.

For example, the other night, after a romantic evening on the couch watching Florida crush LSU, my wife handed me a children's goody bag and led me gently to the front door.

"Thanks for coming to the party," she said.

"Thanks for inviting me," I said, sneaking a peek into my goody bag (plastic Slinky, cheap yo-yo, SweeTarts).

First I got the prize, then I got the goody bag.

Honestly, I don't know why every man doesn't marry.


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