Mamas, don’t let your puppies grow up to eat corndogs


If hotdogs are bad for you, corndogs are worse – they’re carcinogens on a stick, breaded and fried.

So I hate to admit that you’ll occasionally find a box of State Fair corndogs in our freezer. Or, you did until one nearly sent us to the Animal Emergency Clinic.

A couple of teens were eating corndogs around the TV and one set his plate on the coffee table for approximately 3 seconds, which, as it turns out, is the exact amount of time it takes for a bad border collie to lunge across the room and attack an unattended corndog.

Much shrieking ensued, and half a corndog was wrested from the bad border collie’s mouth. The rest vanished down his throat, stick and all.

If this ever happens to you, don’t Google “My dog ate a corndog.”

This happens with some frequency, it turns out, and the resulting vet visits, x-rays and stomach surgeries don’t always turn out well. Plus, some of the advice on the internet seems downright suspicious, like feeding the dog bread.

Jason was breathing normally and didn’t seem in distress (unlike the teen who lost his corndog). We offered him a little rice a half-hour later (the dog, not the teen), and he took it happily. So I recalled the advice of my longtime farrier who once gruffly told me, when Foggy was limping, “Well, you can panic if you want to, or you can wait and see what happens.”

This has turned out to be a good mantra for much of life.

So I decided to hold off on the panicking and monitor Jason closely, having neither the time, desire nor trust fund to spend the night at the animal ER.

The next day, Jason walked, frolicked and ate normally. There was no hint of difficulty in swallowing or breathing, no behavior that seemed abnormal.  I started to hope, as improbable as it seemed, that somehow he’d chewed the corndog properly and it broke into pieces and was digesting normally. We started poking through his poop, looking for evidence. But no corndog arrived, no corndog stick.

Then, on the third day, with no notice, he suddenly threw up this: corndogstick 027

Half a corndog stick, intact, with a scarily jagged end.  How it didn’t puncture his esophagus, I can’t tell you. In fact, looking at this depiction of a dog’s digestive system, I don’t know how it got into his esophagus at all, or came back up.

In his terrific book, “If Our Bodies Could Talk,” James Hamblin talks about how humans could theoretically die from swallowing a tongue ring. If the point punctures your bowel, the bile and intestinal flora would trickle into the abdominal cavity and cause sepsis, which kills more people than cancer.

All I know is I have never been so happy to see a used corndog stick, and as long as we have a dog, I think we’ll stick to eating corndogs at fairs.

Note to anyone who found this post by Googling “My dog ate a corndog” — if your dog is in distress, please take him to the vet. We were lucky. My farrier’s wise advice not withstanding, sometimes panicking is entirely appropriate when you have a bad dog.

A dirge averted


We come home from church a few weeks ago to find that Atlas had died.

Or so it seemed.

There was, outside of his shell, a limp, still Atlas.  Katherine looked in the aquarium and screamed.

We knew that hermit crabs molted, shedding their exoskeletons occasionally, but this was not a skeleton but a whole hermit crab, intact: antennae, claws, eyes on a stick.

It appeared that Atlas had succumbed to terminal depression. Or that the Pacific seawater that we buy in a box was contaminated.

We should have been ecstatic. We were free, free, FREE from hermit-crab bondage! We no longer had to worry about whether he was eating, whether he was lonely, whether he was suffocating because we hadn’t changed the water frequently enough, whether the cats would notice there was free food for the taking in that strange glass box on the kitchen counter, whether Atlas was still angry and plotting revenge.

Oddly enough, we were crushed. It seemed a personal failing that we couldn’t keep a shrimp of a crab alive for even a year with the finest accouterments that PetCo had to offer. We’d kidnapped him, and then we’d killed him. It was a sad end to a sad life.

Only it wasn’t.

Katherine believed.

Doubting Thomas that I am, I departed the death scene after a few minutes, but like Mary at Lazarus’ tomb, she weepily remained there, looking for any small sign of life. And after about 20 minutes, she shrieked again.

Damned if there wasn’t a hermit crab in that empty shell.


He had molted. It was the most astonishing thing. Unlike a snake that sheds a skin that is clearly an abandoned outer layer, Atlas shrugged off a second self that was an exact replica of himself. It was as if there were twin Atlases, and one killed the other. They were indistinguishable except that one was dead and one was alive.


The now joyful Katherine went to Google and learned that, gross as it seems, hermits eat their exoskeletons, so we left the body in the tank for a week. Atlas would have none of it, so one day, I reverently lifted the remains out of the tank with a spatula and buried them in the planter on the deck. Old Atlas will fertilize spring flowers.

New Atlas seemed tired for a few days; miracles take energy when you do them yourself.

But soon he was back to clunking his way around the tank, and like marathoner Ryan Hall, he seems a little beefier these days, a little more capable of withstanding his miserable captivity until we can return him to the waters off Sullivan’s Island.

As we learned from his death and resurrection, that eventual parting won’t be without tears.



Mice capades


“Occasionally, a few mice” is what the former owner wrote on the disclosure forms when we were buying this house.

He was right, except for the “occasional” part.

And the “few” part.

Sometimes, I’m not sure what is louder, the braying or the squeaking.

When I was married, my husband would set out old-fashioned snap traps and dispose of the brittle remains, something I cannot bring myself to do.

So later, a friend gave me a Tin Cat, a wonderfully humane device.  It’s a tin box with spring doors. The mice go in and dine on whatever snack you’ve left them and then have a nice nap until you arrive and relocate them.   This works great until January, when a softie like me can’t bear to put a mouse out in the snow.

Yeah, I know, it’s a character flaw.

I understand completely that anyone who picks up half-dead baby mice from the yard and feeds them with an eyedropper in a predictably futile attempt to keep them alive needs psychological help.

If you ever try this at home, you should know that baby mice need their bottoms stroked every couple of hours to stimulate a bowel movement.

Not that I’ve done this or anything.

Anyway.  Of course lunatics like me won’t put cute, warm, household mice outside in a raging blizzard. So in the winter, I take them out to the barn.

Which would be fine if we had barn cats, only ours are in the house, because I don’t want them to be cold either.

So now, in addition to running a donkey resort, we’re running a mouse restaurant.

This particular idiocy started the day I went out to the barn to find the mice had been eating the saddle soap.  I figured they must be starving to do that, and maybe if I threw a few sunflower seeds on the ground, they wouldn’t eat the electrical wiring and tack cleaner.

So now, after feeding the donkeys, we put down a little something for the mice, and for the chipmunk who nests in the sawdust . They have a fine and varied diet, and we’re learning a lot about the culinary habits of rodents.  They don’t care much for watermelon, but they’re wild about day-old grits.

One day, I know I will have to leave this home that I so love, and I’ll have to fill out a disclosure form for the buyer.

“Occasionally, a few mice,” I will write.  “They expect dinner a little before 9.”