COLUMBUS _ We had a birthday last week. Della, the exuberant black Labrador, turned one and ate a ballpoint pen.
No one told me, because it wasn't an extraordinary event. Della eats everything: socks, hats, toys, tissues, flipflops. Around our house, if it falls on the floor, kiss it goodbye.
Inaptly named for Perry Mason's refined secretary, Della Street, our dog inhales her food, runs faster than a four-wheeler and knows the location of every mud hole and gut pile in a square mile.
Of course, she always brings home a sample, leaves it on the doorstep, so it'll be there when the kinfolk are calling, or UPS is delivering.
Just step around the beaver tail, over the deer skull, and come on in, if you dare.
That's our gal: big, tough, sweet in her own way, but takes no guff off any dog. In our extended family, there is another black Lab, a champion of champions, whose lineage is nearly legendary.
Not long ago, these two almost got together at a family outing. On the way down the driveway, I was excited, hoping he'd humble her, terrify her, hold her down in a death lock.
As she bounded out the truck door, the champ took one look, and I think he's still running.
Della likes to jump on cars, especially shiny new ones.
She's torn up all the mulch around the evergreens I planted.
She even tried to mount the mailman, and all I can say is, thank God that man's got a sense of humor.
Still, we love her. She's routed the beavers from the pond — no mean achievement — so in her honor I stopped at Homestead in New Berlin to get her a nice, juicy, birthday bone. But before I got home with the present, she'd crunched up a pen or two like nachos and cheese to celebrate on her own.
I mention all this because the next day when Uncle Chet and I were about to start mowing, I saw something funny on the ground.
"Can you believe that not a single Republican senator voted for unemployment benefits this week?" he said, ready for our weekly rumble around the field.
"Heard that," I was staring at a vivid blue spot on the ground.
"A million families going down the drain, people out of work, their jobs shipped overseas, and not one GOP senator gives a damn."
"Because working class people aren't bankers; they don't play golf, so they're almost invisible to the GOP," Uncle Chet said.
What was that oozing, blue blob?
"It was different when the banks were in trouble," he said. "A majority of Republican senators voted for the Bush-Cheney bank bailout. Half a trillion dollars for the brokers who led us astray, but nothing for laid-off service workers."
"McCain and Palin even halted their campaign because the bankers were in crisis. Remember?" he said. "But now, when it's Ma and Pa Kettle, now when it's working-class folks going under, the Republicans won't lift a finger."
"We're a long way from Eisenhower," I said as I got off the lawn tractor.
"What are you doing?" Uncle Chet asked.
"I think we've got some BP coming out of the lawn," I walked over to the spot.
"Well, look at that. What is it?" Uncle Chet asked.
"I don't know," I looked down. "It almost looks like ... but it's so blue."
"Nothing in nature's that blue," Uncle Chet said. "It looks like a melted toy. Better pick it up before we hit it with a blade. Hate to throw that stuff all around the yard."
So I reached down and started to remove the viscous pile. Then I took a whiff and recoiled like I'd hit a hot wire. I swore under my breath, wiped my hand on the grass.
"That dog's disgusting! I think she did that deliberately,!" I shouted over my shoulder on the way to the garden hose, but Uncle Chet was laughing so hard, he couldn't reply.
Cooperstown Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace.