Horse Poo

Note from Aaron: I wrote this seven years ago. Shortly after I more-or-less finished it, our dog Bayla, who is the star of this little tale, shuffled off this mortal canine coil, and I was too upset to  publish it — and then, as with most things in my life, I forgot all about it. The rug is gone, too, but if you read to the end of this stomach-turning story, I think you’ll agree that’s probably for the best.

Given the title of the post, what the hell did you expect me to use for a picture?

I was going to start out with a warning that the following topic might not be suitable for those of gentle constitutions. My plan was to warn whoever read this that they should carefully consider the first sentence—which, in the first draft, was “I’ve just finished cleaning a pile of horse poo from our living room rug”—and think very carefully about whether to proceed.

Then it occurred to me that if I just titled this essay “Horse Poo”, that might weed people out automatically. On the other hand, I thought, it could have the opposite effect, drawing in readers who simply had a morbid sense of curiosity who then had, shall we say, an adverse reaction to poo, puke and digestion or the lack thereof. (This is how I agonize over everything.) Finally I decided that if such a person were to read it and become ill as a result, it’d probably  serve them right. After all, remember what killed the cat: Horse poo.

Still, it would not please my obsessive-compulsive side if I did not fret over this a little more, so let’s be perfectly clear: If a frank discussion of the gastrointestinal functions of horses (and, to a lesser extent, dogs) grosses you out, I beg you to stop reading right now.

You have been warned.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes: That opening sentence.

I’ve just finished cleaning a pile of horse poo from our living room rug.

This leads to an obvious question: What was a horse doing in your living room? That leads to  a less-obvious answer: There was no horse in my living room. The delivery device was our dog, Bayla. (The plot, not to mention the gross-out factor, thickens!)

Those with weak stomachs, this is your last warning, because this shizzle is about to get real.

The horse poo wound up on my carpet because that’s where the dog threw up.

See, I told you not to read on!

My wife Robin owns a horse (and I fear the acquisition of a second one is not far off, but that’s another rant for another time*). Horses are many things. They are (mostly) kind. They are reasonably intelligent. And they are absolute mavens when it comes to excreting excrement.

* 2024 update: Said horse has since passed away, and my wife now has two mules. When I told my boss’ boss we were getting a mule, he said, “Can we make jokes about your new ass?” and I zinged back, “It’s my wife’s ass, I just pay for it.” I didn’t want to tell my boss that technically a mule is a half-ass, because that’d likely prompt an uncomfortable discussion about my work habits.

Those of you who have kids: Remember when they were little babies, and all they did was cry and sleep and poop? Well, take away the crying and the sleeping and the hopes that one day they might cure cancer or invent high-speed interstellar travel or become President of the United States, and then add in the ability to ride on its back and generate monthly bills roughly equal to the lease on a mid-level Mercedes sedan, and presto, your baby is just like a horse. (But hopefully less hairy.)

So when one’s wife owns a horse, one experiences a lot of horse poop. And I have to be honest with you: It’s fascinating stuff.

See, horses, for all they eat—and they eat a lot, as my checking account can attest—really don’t do all that much to the food as it wends its way through their enormous bodies. Human bodies function by converting food into energy. Horse bodies seem to function by the internal organs saying “Look! Food!” and then passing it on to another internal organ, which does the same marvel-and-pass, front to back, until it arrives at the southern end (assuming your horse is facing north) and there is no place left to go.

And then—out it comes. Much like a computer program, the output is remarkably similar to the input. Compared to what goes into the horse, what comes out is a little softer, a lot smellier, but often as not the same bright and cheery shade of green.

This fascinates me to no end. I am seriously amazed that such a big creature can generate the energy to move its massive body simply by eating and then doing next to nothing with or to the food. Horses are on their feet 23 hours a day. Me, if I don’t process at least four thousand calories in me, I might not make it out of bed tomorrow

It is this lack of processing that leads otherwise good dogs like mine to serve as horse-poo conveyance devices. Dogs love horse poop, even my dog, and that’s saying a lot: She’s such a princess that she will not eat dog food off the floor. Seriously. If it’s not in her bowl, she will completely ignore it. But if it just came out of the back end of a horse: Mmmmmmm!

Except that gobbling down horse poo in large quantities is, apparently, not a viable solution for canine nutrition. Hence the horse poo on my carpet.

“Robin, the dog is puking again,” I said when it became apparent that Bayla was shifting her little digestive transmission into reverse.

This is a not-uncommon occurrence at our house. Besides being a total princess, Bayla does not like conflict. If there’s any tension in the house—an angry phone call, a kid in a bad mood—Bayla deals with it by woofing her cookies. It’s commonplace enough that I can walk into the boys’ bedroom, see a pile of barely-digested Nutro Lamb and Rice (Senior Formula) on the floor, and say, “Bad day at school, eh?”

It is a good thing that Robin and I rarely argue (and when we do, we rarely raise our voices), otherwise the dog would die of malnutrition.

So my follow-on to Robin was going to be “Who pissed you off?” Instead, as I watched the dog scream lunch, I said, “Is that… horse poo?”

“Yep,” said Robin. “I took her to the ranch today and she was wolfing it down. I told her she was going to make herself sick, but she wouldn’t listen.” (Guess we should have enrolled the pooch in those ESL classes after all.)

And so began the Dog Barf Cleaning Drill, which is almost as well-practiced in my house as the Smoke Alarm Going Off Because Someone Is Frying Something Drill. This latter is my favorite: Robin opens the kitchen windows, I bring a powerful electric fan (The Vortex—worth every penny of the $39.99 we paid for it) into the center hallway, and Andrew grabs the biggest hardcover book he can find and starts waving it under the smoke detector like crazy. We can’t pull the battery out of the smoke detector because a) only Robert, my oldest, is tall enough to reach the darn thing, and he’s moved out, and b) the smoke detector is hard-wired, so even if Robert is here, there is no battery to pull. (Although that does rather worry me—if a fire starts in our fusebox and takes out the wiring, does that mean we all die of smoke inhalation?)

Besides, the fanning is funnier. If the last thing I see before I roll up my tootsies and join the choir invisible is Andrew waving a copy of Cars of the Sensational Seventies or Don Ball Jr.’s American Railroads: The Second Generation like a man possessed, I will die with a huge smile on my face.

The Dog Barf Cleaning Drill is simpler, almost disappointingly so. Someone picks up the majority of Bayla’s technicolor yawn with a plastic bag, and someone else follows with a wet paper towel. Bayla is considerate enough that she generally only yells for Ralph within a few minutes of eating, and (like the horse) before too much is processed.

Today was a special occasion, however, as apparently horse poo needs less processing than dog food. I actually had to find some cleaner to spritz, which required Robin’s assistance, because when it comes to the domestic arts, I am clueless. Robin is self-taught, and her skills aren’t much better, as anyone who has visited our home can attest.

“This?” I asked, holding up a bottle I found under the sink. “No, that’s oven degreaser,” Robin said. “This?” “No, that’s bleach.” “This?” “Yeah, that’s close enough.”

So yes, Virginia, you can clean up partially-dog-digested horse poo with Febreeze. (And here you thought this blog had no useful purpose.)

And what of the hapless rug? After ten years of this treatment—plus assorted accidents from assorted dogs we’ve dog-sat and a few dribbles here and there from Bayla’s dearly departed predecessor, Barkley, who suffered from (and I swear this is the actual name) spayed female incontinence syndrome—you’d expect it to be in terrible shape.

Nope—not at all!

First of all, we bought a rug in grayish brown, not realizing it would be almost an exact match for Boxer barf and the occasional bit of twice-partially-digested horse poo.

But what really amazes me is that the rug doesn’t smell—at all.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Of course it smells. You just can’t smell it.

Honestly, it really doesn’t. I travel a lot for work, and I know the sensation of walking into your house and realizing how terrible it smells. I’ve had the experience in cat-owners’ houses, and I’ve had it in my own when the kids were home alone with their socks off and the windows closed. I swear, our rug does not smell like dog innards or road apples.

Not that a rug smelling of horse poo would be the worst thing, because Robin has had horses since I met her. I associate the sights, sounds and smells of the horse ranch with her, and so the musk of their manure is not unpleasant to me. I gotta tell ya, folks: When you can say to your wife, while on your hands and knees scrubbing horse poo from your carpet, “You know, the smell of fresh horse poo always makes me think of you,” and your wife beams and says “Awww, thanks, honey!”, you know you married the right woman.

But no, our rug doesn’t smell and it doesn’t look too terrible. I think we might have inadvertently bought a real-live magic carpet. It doesn’t fly, but it doesn’t smell after a dog vomits horse poo into its nap—and from a practical standpoint, that’s better than a flying carpet any day.

I hope this story doesn’t make you want to hurl, but if it does, no, you cannot use my carpet, not unless you’re a dog or a horse. I’m not taking any chances.

© 2017/2024 by Aaron Gold