Last week, Jada the Unfazeable got fazed. She was lying in Theo's downstairs bed with Theo's blanket and Theo's soft dreidel chew toy and Theo's antler chew when a breeze from the open window blew a large painting off the mantel, taking with it four ceramic sculptures and two smaller paintings. The carefully curated art collection landed with an impressive boom and a loud shatter just inches from her face.
Jada ejected herself out of the bed practically retroactively. Within milliseconds she had zoomed away from the scene of the mayhem and up the stairs and launched herself onto her favorite little sofa, the one in my office on which there is, dead center, a tennis ball she both never plays with and never lets me remove. There she sat, quivering.
I tried to comfort her. I sat down and hugged her, pulling her tiny, frightened little body against mine and kissing her on the soft, concave spot where snout meets forehead. I explained about the wind.
"Sometimes we don't know it's going to wreak havoc until it does," I said in my most profound, and profoundly maternal, tone. I stroked her face and ears. I admired, aloud, her long eyelashes.
"Where did you GET those?" I asked her. "They're so beautiful!" But Jada just doubled down on her quivering.
So I switched tactics, making my voice babyish and silly, which of course no one would ever do if there were an imminent threat. Oh how I made funny, crazy light of the fact that her daddy had just purchased one of the sculptures and that it was now smashed to smithereens in front of the fireplace.
"Guess where it's going now, sweet Jada. In the trash! That's right! The trash!" Then I laughed a disturbingly loud, high-pitched laugh meant to sound silly but instead sounding insane, causing Jada to trade quivering for the more serious quaking. She quaked so hard her eyelashes vibrated.
So, because I saw that my attempts at comforting her were failing and because I needed to clean up the expensive shards and get back to the (admittedly teeny) part of my life that is not dog-centered, I took Jada back downstairs and gave her and Theo (who is mostly deaf and who did not hear the crash and therefore was not afraid) bully sticks to chew on.
Which was the beginning of the rest of my afternoon going all to useless hell. Not that anything bad happened. Just that Theo, who lives and breathes for things to chew on (my creek-wading shoes, the little leather Levi's tag on the waistband of my jeans, my husband's childhood Bible), was so overcome by chew-stick joy he fell into a wandering panic. Around and around the living room table he circled, past his doggie bed and the fallen painting, past the ceramic shards still dotting the floor, past Jada in the red chair, who had (mercifully) traded quaking for chewing.
When he was through circling the table, Theo went out onto the porch and circled that a few hundred times, and then he went out into the hot yard and circled that, all the while holding tight to the chew stick in his mouth, never daring to put it down or reposition it or (heaven forbid) swallow the saliva bloom forming around it.
Then he came back onto the porch and circled some more before catching sight of the big square flowerpot in which is housed a tall, prickly cactus. With two legs in and two legs out of the flowerpot, Theo proceeded to bury the chew stick beneath the spiny boughs. It took him about 10 minutes. Afterward, he stepped back and considered his work, then dug up the chew stick and devoured it, dirt and all.
I righted the painting and cleaned up the mess. Exhausted from the drama, saddened by the loss of art, I dragged myself up the stairs and sat down at my desk. Whatever it was I'd been doing with my life before the painting took flight now paled in the face of distraction and distress.
There was a lesson in the lost afternoon, but I wasn't sure what it was. Maybe something to do with the unpredictable wind — and how it's possible to be as addled by fright as by good fortune.
Dana Shavin's memoir, "The Body Tourist," is available from Star Line Books and Amazon.com. Her website is Danashavin.com. Respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org.