Dog eat dog? It’s dog eat anything!

For years, young scholars have failed to turn in their assignments at school by insisting that the dog ate their homework. With classes resuming later this month, I thought it would be helpful for students to know if this was indeed a plausible excuse. The answer? It is. I heard from a dozen dog owners, and there is just nothing that man’s best friend won’t eat. It doesn’t even have to resemble food.
Seven months ago, 14-year-old Sam Hutchins’ young dog ate a loaded pincushion, causing Sam’s father, Fred, to observe, “It’s remarkable what adolescent males will eat. Come to think of it, I’m not sure there is a difference between humans and dogs in that regard.” Fred and Sam knew how many pins were in the dog as a result of an X-ray, and spent the next few days pulling pins from the dog’s poop to make sure each and every one was accounted for.
Earlier this spring, Tammy Bourdeau, a sales representative at Gardener’s Supply Co., worried when her cocker spaniel fell ill. The dog was rushed into surgery when an ultrasound revealed a mass in her intestines. The culprit? Not cancer, fortunately. Instead it was a plastic bread clip that was acting now as an intestinal valve, letting some things pass … but not others.
In June, Kit Howe, a human resources generalist at Gardener’s Supply, realized that her greater Swiss mountain dog was under the weather. The animal stopped eating. The problem, Kit discovered, was that the creature had consumed a sizable part of the sleeping bag on which it slept. How did she ascertain this? Eventually the dog regurgitated the zipper and (here again is that great euphemism) passed the rest.
Syndi Zook, the executive director of the Lyric Theatre Company, has a little terrier named Titus. When Titus was a puppy, he spent five hours devouring the floor in her kitchen and swallowing nearly his weight in vinyl. Years later, Titus would also eat a sizable chunk of the rotting seal carcass he came across in Maine. “It looked like a scene from a bad zombie movie, where even the dogs go berserk,” Zook remembers. Later that night the pooch would cough up a part of the seal’s jawbone.
Arguably, rotting seal carcass is food. Not appetizing food — but still food.
Underwear is not. Nor are bathing suits.
Which brings me to Brodie, the panty- and bikini-bottom-mad flat-coated retriever, who belongs to Serena Magnan O’Connell. Magnan O’Connell, a physical therapist, discovered Brodie’s obsession with bathing suit bottoms and panties (not the edible kind) eight years ago, on a gorgeous summer day when she was playing fetch with her dog along the Burlington waterfront. Brodie was barely beyond puppy-hood then, and Magnan O’Connell was wearing jean shorts and her favorite neon bikini top, while savoring the sun, the lake, and her proximity to handsome male college students.
Abruptly Brodie decided that nature was calling, and so her owner raced over with her plastic bag and waited. And waited some more. It was obvious by the way the poor animal was straining that there was a blockage. Brodie was squatting and spinning and doing the classic dog doodie dance — minus the dog doodie. A worried crowd gathered, surrounding the dignified mistress and her retriever.
And then it happened: A tendril of fabric emerged from Brodie’s bottom that matched precisely the top of Magnan O’Connell’s bikini, and subsequently stalled. It was half inside and half outside the dog, and it clearly wasn’t going to go anywhere else unless the physical therapist jumped in. “With many good-looking eyes on me, I had to help my neon bikini come out of my dog,” she recalls. Worse, the audience recognized that the bottom appearing from the dog’s bottom matched precisely the top on the woman’s chest.
In the end, Brodie was fine, but Magnan O’Connell learned a valuable lesson: “I always locate my bikini bottom before taking Brodie for a walk.”
Students, of course, may take heart from this tale. Short of that automobile you were supposed to build for tech ed, there is probably no homework you can’t claim your dog ate.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on August 20, 2006.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.