Cone of Shame By Robin Densmore Fuson
This time, the pain didn’t feel as intense. The shame, however, was another story. Rex needed to lick. Any dog wanted to lick, well, everything. Michael had taken him to the frightening place where the senses went on high alert. Sounds, smells, textures, and sensations bombarded his brain, nose, ears, paws, and body.
A minor issue of a sore paw and he ended up at the dreadful, scary place.
Yesterday, Rex and Michael went hiking in the mountains. Rex loved frolicking in the water and the creek looked inviting. He splashed and played. Sticks were scattered on the shore and floated in the water. He grabbed one and took it to Michael, who flung it out again. On one such trip, he felt a stab in his paw. The cool water soothed the sore spot. Rex kept on playing and didn’t think much of it.
Now, the person in a white coat spoke garbled words, too foreign for Rex to decipher, as to why his foot hurt. That person poked and prodded, causing him pain.
Strange, he didn’t feel any discomfort. He saw the white-clad person working on his foot but it didn’t hurt.
Rex left the horrible place with his head encased in the dreaded cone. The shame! A dog shouldn’t be harnessed up like this and be prevented to see his hindquarters. What if they needed tending? And worse, to look silly in the process. He tucked his tail and accepted his sentence.
He remembered wearing a cone before but he didn’t remember why. Who could ever forget the horrible contraption?
Before Rex got a chance to jump up, Michael lifted him onto his seat in the car for the ride home. The cone barely made it through the opening and bumped against the side, jarring his head. How could he sit there where the whole world would see him? Michael snapped Rex’s seatbelt. He never did figure out how to operate that device. If he could now, he’d hide on the floorboard.
He closed his eyes hoping it made him invisible. The cars swooshed by. He thought he heard a bark but didn’t respond.
Back in his driveway, anticipating Michael, the moment the door opened, he gingerly jumped from his seat to the pavement. His rear paw didn’t even touch the ground—he still had his athleticism. He should strut but instead, he hurried to the door before the neighborhood canines came by.
“Easy boy. Let me get the door. You’re sure anxious to get inside.”
Rex panted his reply. He wanted to be behind closed doors until the cone came off. His friends, Derby and Butch might see him.
Chrissy, the other human he took care of, greeted him with a pat on his head. “How did it go? How’d he do?”
“A real champ. The doc gave him a few stitches. He must have cut it on a sharp rock at the creek.”
“Poor baby. He didn’t let on but left bloody footprints. I prayed the vet could fix him fast and sure. When does he get this thing off?”
“The doc said to bring him in next Wednesday. I made the appointment. I’ll take him.”
“Thanks.” She kissed his cheek.
Rex wagged his tail and wished for a kiss.
Her face appeared in his cone. “You deserve a kiss too.” She planted a light one on the bridge of his nose. “Belgian Malinois needs tenderness too. You big adorable brute.” She backed away from sight.
Out of the corner of his eye, Rex saw it. It walked sideways at him, wanting to play.
They had brought it into the house a week ago. An annoyance from the moment they set the thing down into his domain. No one had asked his opinion. They assumed he’d be thrilled to have a “play mate.”
Nonsense. According to long tradition, dogs chased cats up trees and barked at them. Every time he barked at the creature, he got scolded. “Be kind to Midnight. God wants us all to live in harmony.” Softhearted Chrissy said.
He hated being scolded.
He avoided the rambunctious creature as much as possible. The kitten ate his food, stole his favorite chew toys, swiped at his tail, and happened to be where Rex wanted to be. All. The. Time. Now, it swiped at the cone. Her tiny paw didn’t do anything but make a scratching sound.
Rex stepped away and went to his bed for some alone time. So far, the creature hadn’t bothered him there. His left back paw needed his attention. It hurt and itched. Something held his paw tight. The desire to get it off almost drove him crazy. After numerous attempts of slapping his hip and side with the plastic cone, he gave up.
He needed a distraction. He got up to inspect his kingdom. He had been gone a while, what damage had the little ink blot done to his home?
The pain and thing around his leg annoyed him. The worst part of everything he endured was the cone—a huge hindrance that banged against walls and furniture and prevented him from walking, eating, and drinking with dignity. Holding his head up, prancing, and enjoying life seemed doomed to the alternative of slumping and slinking.
Maybe the humans would get tired of the noise and take it off?
An idea came to him. Walking down the hall, he became the bass drummer in a lone marching band. Bang, clang, bang, clang against the walls might get them to take away the annoying headpiece.
Rex inspected the human’s bedroom. A few things were out of place on the dresser.
He rolled his eyes.
On the floor, he found his squishy ball and picked it up to carry to his basket where it belonged. Down the hall he went, bang, clang, bang, clang. The poor ball tasted like the kitten smelled. It needed cleaning. At the basket, he slobbered it soaking wet before dropping it in. The cone prevented him from using his paws to hold it still. He hoped he did a good enough job.
The kitten skidded up. Didn’t it know how to walk normally? Rex gave a low growl. Those were his toys. The feline had its own.
The black furry head rubbed against the edge of the cone.
Be useful and unclasp it.
Did the animal understand dog language?
“Midnight, you bothering our Rex?” Chrissy scooped up the pest. Thank goodness.
Alone again, he needed to inspect the other side of the house. He wandered toward the kitchen and laundry room. In the kitchen, Rex went to his water bowl. After a few attempts, he figured out how to plop the cone around the bowl to get a good drink. Ah, his water tasted so good. Nice and cool.
The laundry room had become the cat’s potty room. Who heard of such a thing? He’d be in terrible trouble if he made a mess in the house. The cat got special privileges. Good grief. The place took on an indescribable odor. He’d never explain this to Derby or Butch.
The inspection tired him out. He needed to lie down. The sun shone brightly on the deck in the backyard where the neighbors couldn’t see him. One time, he heard his owner say the sun had healing powers.
Slow and careful not to bang against the doorframe, he hobbled to the wooden deck. Sure enough, the sun warmed the wood under his paws. On three good legs, he limped over to his favorite spot and eased himself down.
A sigh escaped out the side of his mouth and he closed his eyes. Sleep, a dog’s prerogative, should help him while away his time.
A thump inside his circle of plastic startled him. The kitten critter curled up by his nose inside the cone. She had a lot of nerve.
If he jumped up, the cat would fly out. An image of black fur sailing through the air made him want to laugh and thump his tail. He huffed instead. In the chairs near him sat his people. Flinging the cat wouldn’t be in his best interest.
A scratchy tongue licked his nose.
Why were small razor blades part of their tongue’s anatomy? The kitten moved around and wiggled until it finally curled up. Rex rolled his eyes.
A little motor started. No! Purring? Really? Chrissy told him the sound meant contentment. Well, the cat might be. He wasn’t. Didn’t his feelings matter?
Chrissy said, “Look honey, the kitten loves Rex. I told you they would become friends. Isn’t that sweet?”
Rex closed his eyes. Tomorrow, or when they take the cone off, he’d show them they didn’t get along. But right now, in this nice warm place, sleep called, kitten or not.
The purring continued and he wondered how cats made that noise while sleeping. The kitten had to be asleep. Normally, the furball wiggled, pounced, ran, clawed, bit, or meowed.
The mellow sound comforted him. Strange. Rex never bothered to stay long enough to listen.
Maybe the kitty had some good qualities. She didn’t smell as bad as yesterday. A short time letting the cat curl next to him would be all right. Only a short time.
The kitten hadn’t moved. The cone of shame didn’t seem to bother the furball. His people wanted them to be friends. Maybe it would be fine to be buddies here in the backyard and in the house where his neighborhood friends didn’t see them.
Pretend to tolerate the creature. After all, he wanted to please his people. Michael and Chrissy would love that. He might get treats out of the deal. Yeah, a nice bone. The cat probably didn’t like hard heavy bones. Rex loved them. In anticipation, he drooled and licked his chops. Things might work out on his side of the deal. Now, he needed to convince his people of his plan.
Again, a lick made him open his eyes. Small yellow eyes greeted him. The kitty rubbed his face against Rex’s. A nice gesture. The kitten seemed to like him.
Well, he might take a shining to the small thing. One step at a time. Never be too open and giving to those felines. They could change in a moment and scratch him. He’d never get away with biting back. One heavy paw could do damage to the runt and he’d be in big trouble.
He could crush her. He’d better be careful. Rex outweighed the kitty ninety to one. How big would it get? Would it become a mother and bring in littles to get into everything? That terrible thought niggled his brain for a moment.
Again, the cat rubbed his head against Rex’s. The purring got thunderous. Easy Midnight, you might hurt yourself with all the racket inside your little body. Rex sighed—the only thing he knew to do. They needed a way to communicate.
When Rex got this cone off and his paw healed, there were things he needed to show the little guy. There were huge dangers in this world. The other day, a snake had come into the yard. A menacing squirrel might chase the poor thing. Eagles and hawks. Crows bigger than this baby. Rex’s eyes widened.
He nudged Midnight with his nose. Come closer little buddy, Rex will protect you. Buddy. Yep, we were destined to be companions. Friends. Rex closed his eyes, content to snuggle with his new friend, Midnight, in the cone of shame.