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Published October 24 2010

Swift: Owning dog takes cast-iron stomach

I was a fairly squeamish child.

My mother kept a pail of “chicken scraps” – consisting of cantaloupe rinds, potato peelings and other leftover vegetables – under the sink. One of our jobs was to carry the scraps to the chicken coop so the hens could eat it.

After a day under the sink in the summer heat, the remains of the day would get pretty ripe.

I found them so revolting that I would avert my eyes from the pail and plug my nose with the other hand. The only member of the family who out-squeamed me was my sister Bertha, who would actually gag as she carried the pail.

Many other things made me queasy. Cottage cheese. Tapioca pudding. The sight of blood. The incense they burned in church.

Even as I grew older, I would easily get woozy. The first time my nephew spit up formula, I almost lost my lunch. I was easily offended by gory movies, weird foods and any mention of bodily fluids.

My, how things have changed.

I realized that last week when my dog sneezed in my face.

I should have been horrified. Instead, much like a parent who has had to change a particularly gruesome diaper, I remained unfazed.

It really doesn’t matter if a dog has a championship pedigree and lives in a $3 million house. A dog is still a dog, and that mansion is just one big wolf den to him.

So, as a pet owner, you wind up doing things you never thought you’d do; like giving emergency baths to the Pomapoo who has just rolled in a rotting fish carcass and is smelling up your best friend’s cabin. Or realizing your other dog ate too many hot dogs and just threw up on your (former) best friend’s carpet. Or scooping a basketball-sized clump out of the litterbox. Or cleaning up after a cat who won’t use the litterbox because there was a basketball-sized clump in there.

For instance, I had no idea that pet owners needed to pay so much attention to their dogs’ posterior regions. I didn’t even know they had glands back there. When growing up on the farm, Pal – the Cary Grant of dogdom – never seemed to have any problems in his aft region.

Even worse, I had no idea that pet owners were expected to periodically “extract” these alleged Glands of Terror.

We realized Jake had a problem when he very publicly scooted across my mother’s freshly shampooed carpet one Christmas Eve.

A frenzied Google search actually produced several YouTube videos and an animated graphic of what we needed to do. (Suddenly, chicken scraps didn’t seem so bad.) But even after putting on two pairs of rubber gloves, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Sorry, even this pet owner has limits.

Some jobs are best left to the professionals.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com