The Heat of Summer

A dogs’ tale

My grandkids got a little education before school even started this year. Not that we planned it.

What happens is, my daughter Gladiola calls me all excited. She has been volunteering at her school, Celibacy Academy, helping the nuns get ready for fall, and she been chosen to look after their puppy over the weekend.

They are going off to some nuns’ conference somewhere.

There are only a few old nuns living at the academy these days, and I remember something about them adopting a puppy for protection a while back. If some burglar who didn’t care about his eternal salvation put a foot through the window, I guess she would yap loud enough to warn them.

Gladiola said they dress her in a blue tutu to match the school uniform. I bet she’s adorable.

And then Gladiola shows up with Immaculette, who happens to be a Great Dane. Well, this ain’t going to work. We live in a tiny apartment, and this dog takes up the entire sofa. She don’t sit under the kitchen table; she wears it.

I call my mother-in-law Ms. Larda. She lives in half a shotgun double, but it’s roomier than this, and has a yard. Her sons Leech and Lurch live on the other side. There’s even a laundry room on the back of the house, which they supposedly share. Naturally, Ms. Larda is the only one who uses it. Lurch and Leach just pile their dirty clothes back there, and take them out when they are miraculously washed and dried and folded.

Anyway, I tell her that if Chopsley, her Chihuahua, ain’t too scared of Immaculette, maybe he would enjoy some doggie company this weekend. Ms. Larda says he just loves other dogs, so I bring Immaculette over. That’s that.

The next morning, Ms. Larda calls me back. Immaculette has gone into heat.

And she ain’t behaving like a young lady from Celibacy Academy, either.

Evidently the nuns never got her fixed. I guess they thought lecturing her about mortal sin would be enough. It worked with us back in the day.

The thing is, Chopsley ain’t fixed neither. He was quite studly when he was younger. He had a lady Chihuahua friend named ChaCha and they produced a few litters of pedigree puppies. But even though he and ChaCha aged out of puppy-making, Ms. Larda never had the heart to take away his maleness. Anyway, he pretty much stays in the house, and behaves like a gentleman.

Until Immaculette. And just like that, Chopsley transforms into a single-minded missile o’ love.

Ms. Larda had to hustle Immaculette out the door, slam it on Chopsley’s muzzle, and drag her by the tutu to Lurch and Leech’s side. So they become Immaculette’s dogsitters. Which ain’t easy. Even without the tutu, she attracts lovelorn boy dogs whenever she so much as steps outside for potty purposes. Somebody has to stand guard, with the hose.

Next day, the Gunches get together to celebrate the kids’ last weekend before school starts.

When it’s time to eat, Ms. Larda tosses Chopsley in the laundry room so he won’t be pestering everybody. The kids flock inside and sit on towels—they were playing with the backyard sprinkler — and Leech and Lurch wander in. Gladiola asks, “Where’s Immaculette?”

“We didn’t want her chewing up nothing, so we stuck her in the laundry room before we came over,” Leech says.

Ms. Larda drops her fried chicken.

She throws open the laundry room door. Gloriosa grabs baby Flambeau and rushes her away, but the other kids stand around pop-eyed. So do I, to tell you the truth. I didn’t know a Chihuahua could do that. I got new respect for Chopsley. Ms. Larda yells “Throw water on them!” Lurch throws his beer, but that just works like a aphrodisiac. And then it’s too late.

Well, the nuns are going to have a few little surprises.

Afterward, my little granddaughter Lollipop whispers in my ear. “I got a question.” I brace myself. “Is that why they call these the dog days of August?”

“Yep,” I say. “Every dog has its day.”

I think they both did.