Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dog Salon

This morning, while a blizzard raged outside, I held one of my periodic dog salons. The beauty, not the intellectual kind.

Grooming is not my favorite dog-related activity. I get bored and impatient, and so do the dogs. But grooming has to be done, especially if you have German Shepherds and don't want your house ankle-deep in dog hair.

Reminding myself that this was a sacred task to which I should give all my attention, I spread a sheet on the bedroom floor and got out the box of treats. I always do Wolfie first, to get in the mood. Good soul that he is, he lay on his back and let me go to work, his paw limp in my hand, all the while doing a charming low-register yodeling that I interpret as, “I think perhaps you are going to kill me. Yes, I think that is what you have in mind. Can it be that you are killing me? Oh well, if you really want to, go ahead. But try to be gentle.”

The minute she heard the yodeling and the opening of the treat box, Lexi decided that she was not too old/arthritic/tired to climb the stairs and join us, even if it meant getting her nails clipped. I had to keep her from trampling Wolfie to get to the treats. She retired to the edge of the sheet, looking hungry (she'd had breakfast half an hour earlier) and waiting for her turn.

I released Wolfie and called Lexi. She came and rolled over on her back while keeping her eyes firmly locked on the treats. Doing Lexi's nails is a tedious task, for she hates the clippers and I have to file the nails with sandpaper, which takes a long time. But I tried to attend to what I was doing instead of thinking about what I was going to make for supper, and eventually it was over.

As long as I was covered in nail dust I figured I might as well give both dogs a brushing, especially as I've been noticing major dust bunnies in every corner of the house. My preferred venue for brushing is outdoors, where the wind carries away the hair and the birds can use it for their nests. That means that the dogs don't get brushed much in winter. Mercifully, that is the one season when they don't shed.

As soon as I put the brush on Lexi, however, I realized that she has started her spring shedding, big-time. I brushed her back (got handfuls of long stiff black guard hairs), the back of her hind legs (lovely fine white hairs), the side of her thighs (velvety short tan hairs), her shoulders (ditto), her tail....Do not think for a moment that when I say I brushed her back or her thighs I actually ran out of hair to pull out. It simply means that my arm got tired of brushing in that position, or Lexi got fidgety and I had to brush a different spot. In ten years of brushing Lexi, I have never once run out of loose hair. Sometimes it seems as if she is producing new hair even as I brush, like some torture out of Greek mythology.

Eventually I gave up and released her, then called Wolfie. I got long stiff black guard hairs from his back, quantities of shorter black hairs with fuzzy dark gray undercoat from his hips, short reddish-tan hair from his legs. I brushed and brushed, and the hair kept coming. I tried my best to stay in the moment. This is the point at which I always ask myself, as my forearms begin to cramp, what on earth possessed me to get a second German Shepherd? Why not a labradoodle or a pugle or a shitzypoo—a dog whose hairs will stick to its skin as opposed to its entire environment? I brushed some more. Wolfie's coat is shorter than Lexi's, but amazingly there seems to be just as much of it. I estimate I'd gotten about a third of his loose hair by the time I let him go.

Although I'd been doing my best to catch the hair and throw it into a trash can as I brushed, the sheet was covered with hair, and soft woolly strands were wafting in the air currents above the heater. I looked down at my body and saw that, superficially at least, I had been transformed into a German Shepherd. I wondered if that is how the werewolf legends got started.

I opened the back door and shook the sheet out into the blizzard, which predictably blew the hair and nail clippings back onto me. Working hard to stay in the present I got the sticky roller brush and used up four sticky sheets to metamorphose back to human form.

Nails clipped and coat somewhat in order, the dogs collapsed on the rug and rested while their bodies got to work metabolizing all those treats into more toenails, and a fresh crop of hair.

7 comments :

  1. oh, so familiar! boscoe is a border collie and has tons of hair. he no longer likes being brushed because his back end is so tender from his muscles wasting away. he sits down when i brush him and if i make him stand, he whimpers. so i don't brush him as much as i should. our house is very very hairy. very hairy.

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  2. Can I airmail my rottweiler to you?

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  3. Laurie, our Lexi is ten years old and her hind legs are also "wasting away." I'm sure that being brushed is uncomfortable for her. Fortunately, we have a wonderful veterinary chiropractor/acupuncturist who gives her real relief.

    Bridgett, if I lived near you I would happily brush your dog--that would be my version of helping out with the new baby!

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  4. I chuckled at the line, “I think perhaps you are going to kill me", accompanied by the yodeling, that you attributed to Wolfie.

    And,"I opened the back door and shook the sheet out into the blizzard, which predictably blew the hair and nail clippings back onto me."
    After many times doing the exact same thing, you would think I would know that this would happen :)
    I really am enjoying your writing.

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  5. Leslie, I think the reason I shook the sheet out into the blizzard is that I had dog hair on my brain, and it wasn't working right.

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  6. You made me laugh out loud, Lali.
    I couldn't live without a dog in my life, so I know exactly what you are talking about. Why aren't they bald????

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  7. Hilary, bald dogs do exist! There is the Chinese Crested, which is totally bald except for a tuft of hair atop its head, and the Mexican something-or-other, which has no hair anywhere. I can barely stand to look at them! My problem is that I love hairy creatures. I just don't like picking up hair.

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