For the last few days, our dog Charlie has been constantly scratching. He wakes me up at night scratching, so I get up and spray him down with flea spray on the chance he’s picked up a flea or two from the strays outside. Then I check him from head to toe for any sign of a flea. I haven’t found the first one, but fleas are tiny creatures. Maybe I missed one. By this time, I’m scratching my head literally and physically. If Charlie has picked up fleas, then I could have one, too. My left shoulder starts to itch. As I scratch, I remember Kermit, a huge golden retriever that we had several years ago.
I was still teaching then and when I’d pull into the worn ruts in front of the mailbox, Kermit would frolic across the front yard to greet me. He grinned with his whole body, wagging a tail known to knock untold items off tables and send cats flying. He’d escort the car from the driveway to its customary parking place and me from it to the back door. Impatiently he’d wait as I juggled bags, papers, and keys, and then precede me into the house to check his bowl for food and his dish for water. Occasionally, he’d growl menacingly at a cat who dared to rub against him in greeting. It was all part of our afternoon schedule. Then came that terrible sound that stopped the pleasant routine.
“Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch!”
It came always in fives. This 120 lb. dog would contort his body in the living room floor, biting at an elusive flea on his back side, now under one leg, now under another. He’d roll from one side to another, emitting a long whining howl. He’d bite his tail. With a massive paw he’d scratch one ear.
Whatever I’d been doing, I’d stop and call him.
“Come here, Kermit.”
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