Scenting trouble

Juno the Dog says she’ll be glad when this damned play is over. You see, Juno and I share a crate at night. I used to think of it as “my bedroom,” but Juno has rather imposed her personality on our shared quarters. Now, she has the nerve to complain about me as a roommate. I may even have to find my own crate.

The thing is, with rehearsals for The Communication Cord about to culminate in a performance, I have become increasingly restless. Most nights, I wake between 2 and 3 o’clock and, rather than just lying there cursing the dark, I do lines. Out loud. With feeling. Unfortunately, one of those lines goes like this: “Stand still, you brute you, or I’ll hop the stick off you!” Juno takes this personally and, refusing to accept an apology, retires muttering to a safe distance.

Oh well, we don’t have long to go. Tonight is the Preview – gulp! – and tomorrow (Wednesday, March 28 at 8 pm exactly), we open to the world, or at least that part of the world that lives in Ottawa and likes theatre and especially Irish wit.

Lines have not been the only challenge – you know, choosing which to include in to any particular run and in which order. Last night, for example, one of my fellow actors broke it to me that a beautiful phrase – “tethered there like a brute beast” – has recently disappeared from my repertoire. Too bad, because it is actually a cue for him to respond.

Another actor told me with a smile last night and a strange glitter in her eye that, if I ever again left the box of matches on the stool where she is supposed to sit, she would “bloody kill me.” So you see, tensions are running high.

Back to Juno. She just came in from the garden, and there is mud on her shiny black nose. I can’t bring myself to go and look, but I fear – I FEAR – it’s another hole! I used to have a tiny perfect garden, with a little heart-shaped plot of green grass. Then Juno arrived. Today, the landscape resembles Belgium 1917.

Learning lines and gardening are just two of the issues on which Juno and I part company. Another involves rolling in dead animals. I don’t. She does. Observing her delight when she comes across a dead fish or mammal, I imagine that it is something like dabbing a little Eau de Dead Groundhog behind the ears. Frankly, I prefer Eau de Joy.

It’s not that I haven’t given dead animals a go. Only last fall I was out in the forest with Juno when she found something nice and smelly to roll in on a steep forest slope. I plunged down the hill, shrieking wildly and seized her by the collar. Unfortunately, Juno resisted arrest. At the time, she represented some 80 pounds of pure kinetic energy and, though I outweigh her, she has always had the stronger will.

Juno toppled me backwards into a large hole where something had died not too recently. Perhaps she meant it kindly, wanting to share her interests with me, but it was not a good moment. Though nothing was broken, no blood was spilled, I was unhappy. Upside down with my feet in the air, rolling around and moaning, I had a splendid opportunity to experience life from the point of view of a dog. So it is no mere prejudice when I say I don’t like Eau de Dead Groundhog. I have tried it, and it doesn’t work for me.

I hope it won’t turn you against Juno when I say that she also likes to eat dead things. Really dead things. Walking home last week, we found a rotten squirrel carcase in the gutter, and I had to intervene. It would not have been my first choice, prising open a very determined canine jaw and scraping out rotten bits of used squirrel. I also didn’t like disappointing Juno when she had patently found something nice to eat. However, the alternative was waiting till the middle of the night when Juno – disgusted by my nightly recitations – has been known to vomit in my bed. So I faced the crisis firmly and did the right thing.

The other thing about Juno is the difficulty of getting her to bathe. All last summer, I pursued her with the hose when things got too intense. But now it is March, and the hose is still rolled up in the shed. As for stepping into the bathtub like a civilized being, Juno doesn’t see why she should.

So this is where the iron enters to the soul. Now that I have been spending long days rehearsing The Communication Cord, Juno is spending more time on her own. She doesn’t mind. She has a nice bed to lie on, and her life is evenly divided between the park, where she rolls passionately in dead animals, and snoozing in the comfort of her crate – otherwise known as my bedroom. Unfortunately, it’s my bed that she has made her own.

Fair is fair, and I guess the honours are about even. I disturb her sleep with loud cries. She disturbs my waking hours with the ripe scent of Eau de Dead Groundhog.

In the meantime, I am very happy about this play. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is a hoot. So do come and see it. The Communication Cord by Brian Friel, produced by SevenThirty Productions, opens Wednesday, March 28 at 8 pm at the Gladstone (910 Gladstone Avenue), and it runs till April 14. Visit the website at or call 613-233-4523 for tickets.