Mike Todd’s dog, Memphis, left his not-so-fragrant calling card (so to speak) at this house in Colchester, Vermont (about five miles north of Burlington), on Lake Champlain.

Mike Todd’s dog, Memphis, left his not-so-fragrant calling card (so to speak) at this house in Colchester, Vermont (about five miles north of Burlington), on Lake Champlain.

by Mike Todd

“Oh, no. Oh no oh no,” I whispered, stepping into the strangers’ living room to find a most unwelcome discovery in the center of the floor: a dead body. No, not really, but at that moment, I might have preferred one.

Minutes earlier, I’d let our dog, Memphis, into the cottage, which had been advertised, at least until our visit, as pet-friendly. After making a grand entrance, sniffing and tail-whapping everyone, Memphis took about 30 seconds to have a slight, shall we say, indiscretion on their small area rug while nobody was looking. I was the first to find the steaming gun.

In the next room, the sweet old couple who owned the cottage explained to my wife, Kara, that we shouldn’t run the toaster and the microwave at the same time, lest we pop a fuse. They had just welcomed us to their lakefront cottage, which we were renting for a week, with homemade jam and muffins. We had just repaid them with a gift not nearly as aromatic.

Meanwhile, 10 feet away, protected from their view only by a wall that didn’t even reach the ceiling, my own fuses were popping. The tour would come back into the living room at any moment. Would we be booted from the premises before our vacation had even begun? Would we all have to stay in a kennel instead?

At times like these, you can find out quite a bit about yourself. When the (dog) chips are down (on the carpet), are you the kind of person who will step up and take responsibility, or a coward who will try to evade the consequences? For me, the choice was so obvious as to not really exist at all.

To evade the consequences, I knelt before the rug, grabbing it by either end and carefully folding it, my brain racing to remember potential hiding places in the bedroom we’d all just visited. When the heat died down, I could just take the whole package and clean it up or drop it off a bridge somewhere. Mission accomplished, consequences avoided.

“No, this is crazy, and they’ll notice the rug missing immediately,” I thought, dropping the rug and stepping back. Surely, there was an artful way out of this situation. I exhaled slowly, taking solace in the fact that at least nobody else was aware of what had happened.

“Memphis pooed!” my three-year-old son, Zack, said, standing in the doorway behind me and pointing. My six-year-old son, Evan, ran in from the porch.

“Ewwwww!” he said.

“Quiet, please, both of you!” I whisper-shouted.

Just then, I remembered the doggie-doo bag in my pocket, which had been there since our walk the previous night (different day, same pants). Unfurling the bag in one motion, I scooped up the indiscretion and scuttled into the bedroom with it. As I tied the bag into a knot, triumphant, I heard Zack’s voice again, this time coming from the kitchen.

“Memphis pooed!” he yelled.

“What’s that, dear?” the sweet old lady asked. My only hope was that Zack’s three-year-old enunciation would save us since, to the untrained ear, it sounded like he was saying “Meffis poot” over and over again.

The next voice I heard was Evan’s: “Memphis pooped on the carpet!”

There was no mistaking that. His elocution was crisp and faultless, as if he was auditioning to narrate a documentary. With that performance, he could have nudged out Morgan Freeman.

And then, silence. Alone in the bedroom, I hung my head, then hung the doo-doo bag on a hook in the closet.

Fortunately, everyone pretended that nothing had happened, all smiles and pleasantries, if short on handshakes.

“That was horrible,” Kara said after they’d left.

At the end of the week, Kara read me an email from the sweet old lady: “I stopped by the cottage while you were away, and Memphis was a joy. What a good dog!”

“Hey, that’s really nice,” I replied as I dumped their area rug over the side of the bridge.

You can hide Mike Todd in your closet at mikectodd@gmail.com.