Jeff Burton presents AMBER EATS EVERYTHING

Amber Eats Everything

Vindictive Rabbits

I should have known what was in store for us when I found the headless rabbit in the backyard.

But it was our first summer when Amber, our Australian Shepherd, was nine months old and very much a puppy. The back of our house is shrouded by a ravine. We have a six-foot privacy fence to keep the neighbor kids and other feral animals from trespassing. I scanned the trees for owls, though I’d never seen one in the hood before. A raccoon? Perhaps.

My brother-in-law stopped by and I asked him what could have de-headed the rabbit.

“Other rabbits,” Mike said.

“Really?”

Mike nodded and, as Mike’s an avid outdoorsman, I believed him. Cleary, I had a Watership Down meets Friday the 13th situation taking place in my backyard. It never entered my vocabulary that our always-grinning puppy Amber could have been the assassin. She’d never hurt a fly. The sweet little doggy sleeps on my daughter’s bed, keeping her safe. So I traipsed about for days afterward, pondering how humanity was oblivious that fluffy bunnies were, in fact, vindictive motherfuckers.

But then I bore my witness.

I looked out the window in time to catch Amber zigzagging across the yard, like a cartoon, in hot pursuit of Bugs. The rabbit would have made it, too, had she zigged under the fence, but the bunny got it in her mind to zag back into the yard and that was all she wrote. I’ll never know if Amber broke her neck or if the poor thing died of fright in what must have appeared, in human terms, as though King Kong was on her ass.

Since then Amber is 12 and 0 on the rabbit front.

Trick or Treat

My daughter, with justifiable cause, hides her Halloween stash from dear old dad, secreting it away in some hidey hole in her bedroom. Since I’m the designated flipper of Amber’s daily deposits over the privacy fence, I made the discovery.

“Maddie,” I called. “Amber found your stash.”

“No, she hasn’t.”

“Check out these wrappers in her twosies.”

So up to Maddie’s room we marched. She made me wait in the hallway while she went to check her hidey hole (I’m positive the stash was in the closet laundry basket, but can’t prove it).

Sure enough . . . as though I were counting: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1

“Amber!” Maddie screamed. “Get up here!”

The Cause of Cancer

My wife, Cindy, is anti table scraps. She’s got this notion in her head that by feeding Amber people food, I’m giving her cancer. I’m old school and let Amber lick out pots or toss her the occasional leftover that nobody wants, but, like most husbands, I do this on the sly out of fear.

Anyway, when I make salads, and Cindy is not nearby, I flip the tomato innards at Amber and hope she wolfs them down before my wife saunters into the kitchen. So imagine my surprise when I arrive home one day and Cindy is waiting for me, arms crossed, and looking like the vice-principal during detention class.

“Hello dear,” I Eddie Haskell-ed. “My that’s a beautiful blouse you’re wearing.”

“You are so busted.”

“What did I do now?”

“Follow me.”

Cindy leads me out to the backyard and over by the trampoline, which, over time, has managed to kill the grass beneath it. Under the tramp is a place where Amber spends no small amount of time.

“Look there.”

I knell down and stare. Sure enough, beneath the trampoline, two budding tomato plants.

“No way.” I’m actually proud of Amber. She’s the Johnny Appleseed of tomatoes.

“Over here, too.”

My wife leads me to the property fence, over which I’d been flipping Amber’s waste. Sure enough, a string of tomato plants are pressing against the fence.

“I hope you’re happy,” Cindy said. “You gave her cancer.”

The Gingersnap-ectomy

The bakery at Cub Food had a deal on a package of 24 mini-Frisbee-sized gingersnap cookies. I unpack the groceries and set the package of cookies on the edge of the island top when my wife takes me out to the garage for something to add to my Honey Do list. When I return to the kitchen, Amber’s hunched over something on the floor . . . a now empty cookie package.

Worse yet, from above, Amber is appreciably wider, like Cool Hand Luke after the eggs. My first thought was: Amber ate herself to death. My second thought was how to hide this from Cindy, but I decided to come clean as there was no way my wife would miss how Amber had morphed into Oliver Hardy.

Cindy called the vet, who informed us, in no uncertain terms, to keep Amber outside for the rest of the day, which we did. We brought her out late at night and early the next morning. However, the next day was Monday and we had to go to work and/or school.

When I got home in the late afternoon and saw what Amber had done to the inside of her kennel, I thought of the San Francisco earthquake, of what Little Boy had done to Hiroshima, of 9-11. The inside of her kennel was a shit storm. No, literally. A shitstorm. Gagging, I lifted everything into the backyard, untwisted the billion bolts that piece together the kennel, and spent an hour with the backyard hose and dish soap.

And that didn’t include Amber’s worst bath ever.

Amber Does M&Ms

So the extended family is coming over for Christmas and my wife buys a monster bag of mint M&M’s to parcel out in glass bowls for our guests to enjoy. A week before the party, my daughter opens the bag and eats a few M&M’s as she does her homework until it’s time for me to run her to gymnastics.

Upon my return I find the empty bag on the floor, looking like a teething toy. I call Cindy downstairs and ask her if she heard anything like, perhaps, a billion mint M&M’s bouncing about the kitchen tile and a rapturous dog snarfing up said billion M&M’s.

“No, I was upstairs.”

“Great,” I replied. “You gave Amber cancer.”

Cindy calls the vet and they inform us what must be done.

So I sat petting minty-breathed Amber as Cindy approached with the turkey baster full of hydrogen peroxide. The first dose went down uneventfully because Amber never imagined that “Mom” and “Dad,” who spoil her rotten and love her guts out, would ever fuck her up like that. She coughed and gagged, but there was no volcanic eruption of green and red M&M’s.

The second dose found Amber trying to squeeze herself behind the couch, but I grab her in a doggy full nelson and used my fingers to unclench her mouth . . . as betrayer “Mom” approached with the reloaded baster.

On it went, three more doses . . . and no eruptions.

At this point I ran to pick up my daughter, barking at Maddie the entire ride for setting this vaudeville in play, and get home to find that my wife had magically gotten a popcorn bowl in front of Amber as she hurled a two-pound glob of minty brown. If Richard Dreyfuss had been visiting, he’d have begun sculpting Devil’s Tower.

I looked at Cindy in amazement.

“The chemotherapy worked,” she said.

Amber Hits Puberty

As my daughter hit puberty, Amber discovered a new favorite . . . feminine hygiene products.

I called my wife to the backyard. This was way too weird and required a second opinion.

“It’s like she swallowed rope,” I said, looking at the mess in the scooper.

“She’s got worms?”

“What?”

“She’s got worms,” Cindy repeated.

“Yea, if we live on Dune.”

So I haul the stool sample to the vet, where the receptionist takes one look and tells me it’s a digested tampon, but I pay $35 to have her diagnosis confirmed.

“So it’s not a worm?” Cindy asks upon my return.

“Nope. Vet says cancer.”

So we run to Walmart to buy one of those stainless steel bathroom bins, where you have to step on a pedal for the lid to open. We’ve got Amber in checkmate now, outsmarted the little devil. That is, until a week later, when I’m the only one in the house and I hear a noise coming from the hallway bathroom. I sneak slowly toward the door and peek inside.

There’s Amber—one paw on the pedal, snout deep in the bin. I clear my throat and she looks up at me.

“Fuck it is with you, Amber?” I wax philosophically. “You eat everything.”

Jeremy

Author’s Bio: Jeffrey B. Burton’s mystery/thriller “The Chessman” came out in May of 2012 to some good reviews, including a starred one from Publishers Weekly. Jeff may be stalked at www.JeffreyBBurton.com