Out of Thin Air

As I watch Harley give me his “good boy sit” just outside the kitchen, with his back nice and straight, head square on his shoulders, forelimbs long and strong, I wait for the ear flicks. I know they’re coming. First, a look of confusion crosses his eyes, then a slight backward twitch of one ear, then both together. Next he’ll turn his head slightly but reluctantly, not wanting to take his eyes off the prize (the treats are in a jar atop the ‘fridge). Finally, he can’t control it any longer. A series of small squeaks escape and reverberate off the hardwood floor. His ears bolt to the back of his head, he stands up, looks behind him for the cause of the sound, turns back to me with a sheepish look and repositions himself for that treat. He farted.

I know I’m an adult and this juvenile humor should have no hold on me, but let’s face it, most of the time it’s pretty darn funny. If my mother were alive, she would have confirmed that by pointing me to a children’s book series about Walter the Farting Dog. (Thanks, Kathy and Linda the Librarian for the tip.) Walter’s gas nearly lands him in the pound, but he saves the day when he gasses out the burglars who break into the family home. Walter goes on to have big adventures on the beach, through some rough weather and on a cruise (not sure why the family thought this would be a good idea, but it’s a kids’ book….)

Funny as it is, gas and all its descriptors provide important feedback on how well the boys’ digestive systems are functioning. There are times, especially when Harley’s taking an antibiotic or another medicine that disrupts his delicate constitution, when the gas is disconcerting for him. During these times, the escaping gas will literally shoot him off the couch. Harley can be sound asleep beside me on the couch, then bolt from the cushion like he’s been stuck with a pin. He’ll look back at me with confused, hurt eyes, wondering why I did that to him. No manner of cuddling, stroking, petting or soothing voice can convince him that I am not responsible for the fiery flame escaping from under his tail. Harley: “You did it. Please stop, I’m trying to sleep. It’s not funny any more.” Me: “I know it’s not funny, Bud. I want you to feel better, too. And no, I didn’t do it.”

Sometimes, I create the gassy issue (unintentionally, of course). After hearing more than one veterinarian dismiss the benefits of large breed senior food, I decided to try the boys on regular adult maintenance diet. Normally, I would transition them slowly to the new food over the course of seven to ten days. Entry #528 in my diary of stupid things reads: “Change dog foods with no transition period.” Idiot.

Strangely enough, Harley has shown no ill effects. Travis, however, is leaving burn holes on all the dog beds and has wilted the cut flowers. The fumes are noxious and always strike without warning—he’s even smoked Harley out of the room a few times. His system is not happy with the change, so we’ll transition him back immediately and supplement his food with some probiotics to get him back to previous non-aromatic self.

Without their natural warning system, we’d never know either of them was having a problem with their food or medicine. That said, as I sit writing this, a cloud has wafted over me (again) and my eyes are watering. If I frame it as a kind of Emergency Broadcasting System powered by the bacterial fermentation of nutrients, I think I can survive the flatulent production rushing from Travis’ back end for at least one more day. Until then, please pass the menthol camphor ointment. I need to overwhelm my olfactory bulb before the next cloud rolls in.



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