Scott Rogers of Edmond, Oklahoma made the national news last month when something odd happened in his own house. His 6-month-old baby’s pacifiers kept disappearing. Now that is hardly news — every home in America seems to have a Bermuda Triangle of teething rings, car keys and argyle socks.
But when the bills kept running up for replacement binkies, Rogers decided to get serious. He searched the house top to bottom — overturning couch cushions, sweeping under furniture, digging through car seats. Surely, he thought, such a shake-down would produce the missing chew toys. But he was wrong, and the toddler remained unpacified.
That’s when things took a shocking turn.
The Rogerses had a house pet — a Shar-Pei named Dovey. You’ve seen pictures of these charmingly wrinkled canines — the ones that look like they stayed in the bubble bath too long. Well, when the wrinkles on Dovey’s tummy started to fill out, his owners took him to the vet. It turns out the pooch had gained several pounds by going on a very soothing diet.
During emergency surgery, the vet removed 21 pacifiers from Dovey’s stomach, which explains why the Shar-Pei had been so calm for several months. I know some business executives who could use a few weeks on the passy program.
It’s a shame the Rogerses didn’t think to have the surgery performed live on “America’s Got Talent.” It would have been like a little magic act: the amazing canine crib. “Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s a purple one!” Like Mary Poppins pulling the hat-stand from her carpet bag.
Whether he meant to be or not, Dovey is part of a long line of eccentric talents. For centuries, entertainers have swallowed unusual things and spit them back up for the pleasure of audiences who clearly have nothing else to do. According to Ricky Jay’s book “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women,” a man who called himself “The Stone Eater” was all the rage in London in the 1780s. He would swallow rocks, pebbles and gravel, and then let spectators pat him on the belly to hear it all rattle. This human maraca created a fad that’s still in fashion: eating dirt.
Sword swallowers have long made a living by sliding steel blades down their esophaguses, but of course, the weapons are always removed to thunderous applause. But an ex-sailor named John Cummings had a brief career of ingesting small knives, which he did not withdraw from his throat. Amazingly, he made it through several months with this act. When he died in 1809, an autopsy revealed 14 knives in his stomach. Plus a teaspoon and a salad fork.
There are more. Starting in 1901, the amazing Edith Clifford worked with Barnum & Bailey for a long time. Among other delicacies, she swallowed a pair of giant scissors and a handsaw. The Frenchman Mac Norton billed himself as “The Human Aquarium” and took European theatres by storm with his act of swallowing and then regurgitating live goldfish and frogs. You may have seen David Blaine do similar geek stunts on TV. Incidentally, according to Ricky Jay, Norton claimed that in a 50-year career, “he never lost a single pet.”
For years, Houdini did a stunt where he showed his mouth empty and then swallowed a spool of thread and a stack of needles. When he pulled the string out of his mouth and stretched it across the stage, the needles were threaded on it. Just imagine if he did the act with pacifiers.
If you haven’t lost your appetite yet, you could look up Hadji Ali on YouTube. The Egyptian performer would gulp down a huge bucket of water then swallow some kerosene. Standing several feet from a small fire on the stage, he would spew forth a stream of kerosene onto the flames to cause an explosion. Which, naturally, he put out by spitting the water on it.
I am required by Harding’s lawyer to tell you not to try any of this on school property.
So Dovey may have a lucrative career in show business ahead of him. Just don’t let him near the car keys. Or the magic markers. I would hate to see your Sharpie swallowed by a Shar-Pei. And turned into Shar-Poo.