Not long ago, Uncle Al saw a coupon in the Sunday paper that offered $10 off on a purchase of $20 or more worth of chocolates. Now, although Uncle Al is very fond of desserts and sweets of all kinds — some people might say he is overfond, but who asked some people? — he seldom buys boxed chocolates. This seemed like an opportunity to rectify that situation, restoring that part of his life to harmony.
Indeed, he remembers quite fondly that his parents often had a box of candy around. His fond recollection includes knowing that they kept it on the top shelf of the china cabinet, and being able to get to it, when he woke up before they did, by standing on a dining-room chair. (This is probably a very early fond memory, as he wouldn’t have needed the chair when he was in high school.)
So anyway, he toddled off to the store in question, bought a pound box of dark chocolates filled with whipped dark chocolate (Uncle Al doesn’t believe in half-measures, especially in the matter of dessert), drove home, opened the box — he notes with some pride the order of those two events — and popped one of the chocolates into his mouth.
It was very nice indeed, and he started to go for a double when a still small voice was heard, suggesting that if he wanted there to be any chocolates remaining for tomorrow, he had better stop now. And, for that matter, he had better not simply leave the box on the kitchen counter or he would do what he has done far too often with the bags of cookies that he leaves there. (When there’s an open bag of cookies on the counter, Uncle Al often pauses now and then, in the course of his activities in the kitchen, to take a cookie break, which means that the typical bag of cookies is never open on the kitchen counter for more than a day or two. The still small voice is quite a pain in the patoot on that subject.)
Thus it was that, in a pleasant, nostalgia-infused moment, he decided to put the box of candy in his china cabinet, which is the very one he remembers so fondly standing on a chair to raid. It is the only piece of his family’s furniture that he has, and it’s in the far corner of his dining room, where it is, happily, not nearly as accessible as the kitchen counter.
In fact, because — as is often the case — more than half of Uncle Al’s dining room table is covered with active and inactive projects, some of which protrude alarmingly from the table (trust Uncle Al, you don’t want to hear about them), the china cabinet is barely accessible at all.
Great, Uncle Al told himself with satisfaction. That’s where he will put the box of candy.
After he gets back from lunch.
A safe place
Meanwhile, on his way out the door, he glanced around for an easier temporary spot not in the kitchen. Ah. In the living room, atop the antique radio-phonograph he is going to get around to restoring as another of his many post-retirement projects. (Never mind.) It’s more than three feet tall, so it’s beyond the reach of Gus, his swell dog who is at least as dessert-centered as is Uncle Al.
We pause here for regular readers to recall a long-ago dining-room misadventure with Fuzzy, Gus’s swell predecessor. (Imagine that Uncle Al has here made his traditional joke about irregular readers; he is striving to avoid repetition. Thank you.) On that occasion, two layers of cake were left to cool on the dining room table while Uncle Al made a quick supermarket run for a forgotten frosting ingredient.
Before he left, Uncle Al saw the possibility that Fuzzy could climb onto a dining room chair, giving him access to the otherwise unreachable cake. So he pulled all the chairs against the walls (away from the table). When he returned minutes later to find two half-eaten layers of cake and a cake-faced Fuzzy, he realized that the arrangement he created had allowed Fuzzy to make a bridge of himself from a chair to the table and the cake.
If readers of any degree of regularity recalled that incident, they were way ahead of where Uncle Al was on the recent day in question, as he hadn’t noted that the box of candy he was leaving behind, although too high to reach from the floor, was only a dog-bridge away from the arm of the sofa.
He knew something was up when he walked in after lunch to find Gus entirely uninterested in the treat Uncle Al always gives him at the door. Oh-oh, that always means that Gus has found and eaten something that Uncle Al forgot to put away. What could it . . . Oh no! The chocolate! Sure enough, the candy box was on the floor, surrounded by those little brown paper cups, all of them empty. So Gus had eaten all but one piece of a whole pound of chocolate!
Uncle Al knows that chocolate is really bad for dogs. (Fuzzy, who was a good deal bigger than Gus, once got hold of a six-ounce chocolate bar, and Uncle Al took the vet’s advice over the phone and immediately fed him some hydrogen peroxide to make him, umm, disgorge it before even bringing him in to be seen.)
A call to the vet
So Uncle Al called the vet to verify the amount of hydrogen peroxide to give to Gus. But as Gus had surely eaten the candy the minute Uncle Al was out the door more than two hours ago, Uncle Al learned that the chocolate might well be out of reach of that treatment, but that Gus might well still be in danger — especially given the amount he ate for his body weight. (Uncle Al would have had to eat almost six pounds of chocolate at once to equal Gus’s intake, and that would be pretty bad even for Uncle Al, for whom chocolate isn’t as dangerous as it is for dogs.)
So after administering the hydrogen peroxide, he brought Gus to the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Center. He knew from past experience that that would be a good thing to do, but that it would not be cheap.
It was indeed a good thing to do, as after a charcoal treatment, additional medications and tests and an overnight stay for observation, Gus emerged the next day fit as a chocolate-eating fiddle. And, although Gus is absolutely worth it, and Uncle Al was already resolved to be much more careful in the future, he was also chastened by the bill, which topped $750.
But he did save $10 on the candy.