“Do Buddhist Dogs Have Fleas?” by Gail Mackenzie-Smith

Apr 20th, 2023 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

It happens fast.

First you refuse to eat anything with a face.

Milk, eggs, and cheese soon follow.

You trade your leather Louboutins, an anniversary gift from Michael, for shoes made of plastic. They scream cheap but you suck it up feeling superior to everyone at the office with their shoes made of animal skins.


You acquire handbags from companies called Namaste and Big Buddha.

A bee in the kitchen or a spider in the bedroom are gently caught and released outside.

You watch countless animal videos on Facebook and share them all. Several people unfriend you but you don’t care. Elephants can cry.

You get email alerts from dog rescue sites and work late at night finding homes for abandoned pit bulls and geriatric labs.

Oreo, your beloved terrier, lies at your feet as you repost pictures of dogs with names like Trooper, Samson, and Nemo. He gnaws on his paw and tears at the fur between his pads. You watch him for a moment then notice a hot spot on his rear flank. You take a closer look.

Tiny black specs flit across pink, raw skin.

Oreo has fleas.

Momentarily flummoxed, you realize that fleas were Michael’s department. Now that you’ve separated it’s yours. No problemo.

You Google “flea med ingredients” and read: Pyriproxyfen, fipronil, (S)-methoprene, and spinosad are chemicals that target the nervous system of the flea causing involuntary muscle contractions, tremors, hyper-excitation, inability to fee, paralysis, then death.

Holy shit.

You Google “natural flea remedies”. Diatomaceous earth comes up. Non-toxic. Safe.

Relieved, you continue to read: Diatomaceous earth is the powdered remains of diatoms, ancient, sea dwelling algae. Composed of millions of tiny, jagged edges, it cuts up the flea’s insides causing it to dry up and die.

You feel sick.

Oreo nips at his rear end then slurps his left leg. You run a bath. As you lower him into the warm water you stop.

Can fleas swim? A vision of hundreds of drowning fleas floats into your mind. You can hear their little screams. Oreo squirms out of your arms and hides under the bed. He grunts as he scratches and licks.

You find a cigarette in the back of your desk drawer and smoke it outside.

The next day you drop a hundred bucks at the hipster doggie boutique around the corner and come home with spray bottles of peppermint and clove oil, Brewer’s yeast tablets, and odorless garlic capsules. That night you work the pungent oils into Oreo’s skin and mix the Brewer’s yeast and garlic into his kibble.

In the morning, you notice that Oreo’s flank is now hairless and his breath smells like sour eggnog. A puddle of vomit lies under the kitchen table.

Later, on the way home from the vet with a six-month supply of Frontline for dogs, you stop at Whole Foods and pick up a couple of grass-fed steaks and a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

You text Michael.


After a soul-destroying career in advertising, Gail Mackenzie-Smith got her MFA in screenwriting where she continues to torture herself with near misses and empty promises. In the quest for a more varied rejection collection, she started writing essays and flash fiction and has actually managed to get published although her submission to publication ratio is probably 1,000 to 1. She’s written for Purple Clover, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Manifest-Station, and a few others. Ever the masochist, she is now thinking about writing a novel and looks forward to even bigger and better rejections.

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