A little dog goes a long way

This is a story about a woman and her smelly dog. Actually, she’s not too smelly most of the time––the dog, I mean. Not the woman… um, actually the woman isn’t particularly smelly either, but this is about the dog.[*]

And it’s a good thing too, that the dog is not normally very smelly, because her baths typically require two able-bodied adults, and involve the shredding of clothing, and the clean-up of long sudsy trails down the hallway.

Since we don’t relish that kind of drama, we last bathed her when it was warm enough to not feel bad about dousing her with the hose outside for a minute and calling it good. When it’s cold we just let her go about smelling like dog. I feel a little guilty about that because once I promised a certain someone she’d be bathed on a regular basis.

When we adopted her, the pound lady told us she was a Labrador. We kind of expected the pound lady to be an expert in this area, although at the time we could see with our own eyes she wasn’t a Labrador (the dog, I mean. Not the pound lady… who I guess we could also see wasn’t a Labrador either[†]). But she (the dog) was really cute, and she knew tricks and we were in a vulnerable place having just lost Gus, our knucklehead retriever.

This is how we ended up adopting Penny, regardless of her state of lab-lessness. She was little and brown, with a darling underbite and eyeballs the size of gumdrops.

This is also the story of how Mike realized he’s fairly allergic to some breeds of dog, but by the time we got Penny home it was already too late to take her back. I did what any loving spouse would do and suggested he learn to cope, or else make the arrangements to return her and make sure the kids knew it was all his idea to do so.

He went so far as to call the pound lady to try to elicit a little sympathy. You can imagine how that went:

“Hey, you know what? I’m terribly allergic to this dog.”

“Well, I’ve got seven dogs and I’m terribly allergic to all of them,” this from the person who told us Penny was a lab in order to get us to adopt her in the first place.

“Look, my hands are swelling and itchy, this is awful!”

“Yeah? I’m bleeding from my eyeballs and there’re hives on the back of my tongue. Maybe go get some shots or something,” which I guess is pound lady-speak for suck up and deal, fella.

So, Mike got some shots and the rest of us promised regular dog baths. We also bought expensive, hypo-allergenic food and installed air filters throughout the house.

And the bathing thing? Well, one of the reasons we know we do not have a lab is Penny’s intense dislike of water, which lends itself to the inconvenience of bathing her, and unless you’re wearing chain mail or something, a sixty pound dog clawing her way out of a tub can cause a fair amount of discomfort for everyone involved.

For the record, Penny also won’t fetch, doesn’t like hugs, prefers not to snuggle, and is rather an introvert, so her lab cover was pretty much blown right off the bat. I mean, you ever come across a lab who isn’t willing to fetch a ball over and over until her heart explodes? Me either.

Nevertheless, she’s successfully endeared herself to all us, with her big, googley eyes, and especially to Mike, even though we regularly catch her sleeping right on top of his pillow, which must be her way of saying she loves him, but she also doesn’t mind if she kills him.

Love can be complicated like that.

Anyway, we recently took Penny out to my in-laws. Penny also hates car rides, by the way, but she loves my in-laws’ dog Bronco, so we’ll put her through a 40 minute-drive once in a while for some quality play time with her buddy.

They did the dog thing all evening, which includes:

  • Asking to be let out,
  • Then asking to be let in,
  • Then out,
  • Getting yelled at because dammit, come in or stay out, just pick one!
  • Squabbling over over toys,
  • Begging in the kitchen,
  • Getting treats,
  • Getting yelled at to get out of the kitchen,
  • Asking to be let out
  • Then in…

At one point, Penny came up to me wanting a pat. I noticed her neck and shoulder were wet and wondered if Bronco had slobbered all over her.

Nope. And … she smelled bad. Worse than normal.

In fact she smelled like shit.

Cat shit to be precise.

Holy hell it was the grossest thing. My mother in-law felt bad, like it was somehow her fault some cat took a dump in her yard and Penny picked that exact time right then and there to act like a Lab by rolling in it.

(My MIL, by the way, has long labored under the belief that I, having been neither raised in the woods nor around very many boys, am terribly fragile and am offended by things like cat shit, dusty floors, and fart jokes – which is mostly not true, but I’ll work that angle if I need to).

So, we got out a couple of rags and wet them down and tried to wipe Penny off, which is nowhere near the kind of effort needed to get rid of cat shit. Our wiping just kind of smeared the cat shit all around. Made it smell like wet dog, cat shit.

Through all of this Penny was squirming around a lot so I grabbed her by the collar, which it turned out had cat shit scooped up underneath. And that’s how I got a big, squishy handful of cat shit. I tried to play it cool and all about cat shit being packed in up under my fingernails because I’m loathe to reinforce anyone’s idea that I’m some sort of delicate flower.

Although, at that moment I was indeed a delicate flower. A delicate flower with cat shit up under her nails.

We left not too long after that, for our 40-minute, cat shit commute back home.

Of course, Penny needed a bath right away. Since neither kid was home and Allergy Mike wasn’t going to be of any help, I needed to lure her into our basement shower which has a door so I could close us in. I tried to bribe her with snacks, but she fled, probably thinking I was taking her to be gassed or something. I found an old leash and managed to drag her into the shower without crushing her windpipe, and closed the door.

I used copious amounts of the lavender shampoo we bought back when thought we were committed to regular dog baths. I lathered, rinsed, repeated a couple of times, but it turns out either lavender shampoo isn’t enough to get cat shit out of dog fur, or I just had that smell permanently embedded in my nose by this point. I couldn’t tell.

After a while I gave up, figuring this was just our life now.

Mike’s job was to take care of the shit-covered collar. He bagged it up and threw it out and bought her a new blue one. She pranced around with that thing, showing it off, freshly bathed and not at all traumatized by the shower. I doubt she cares whether she smells like lavender or cat shit or wet dog or some combination thereof, but she does like her pretty new accoutrement.

Not that I can hold it against her, in any case. Labrador or no, she’s got those big, googley eyes that melt me every time.


[*] That, ladies and gentlemen, constitutes a personal record for getting off track in the opening sentences of a blog.

[†] Do I need to continue clarifying these things for you people?

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