October 1, 2008
Last week I gave my dog his last outside bath of the season. It's an event laden with emotion and excitement for the daycare kids, full of comedy and pathos.
I have a silver standard poodle named Pierre. I give him a bath every couple of months. The daycare kids love to help.
First, before we even go outside, I gather the materials needed, the Dr. Bronner's soap (I mix pappermint & tea tree, my dog smells good), and the dog towels. While I'm doing this, Pierre usually gives me a baleful look and hides behind the couch, especially if I use the word "bath". I must confess that I usually do use the word, just for fun. I know, I"m cruel. Pleae don't report me to Animal Friends. Usually at least one kid picks up on this activity and starts a chorus of "Can I help? Can I help?!" This only adds to Pierre's resigned low-key distress.
So then I gather up all the kids and we tumble out the door. By this time Pierre is pretending to himself that he misheard me and no bath is coming. When I walk around the side of the house to pull the hose out, he turns his head away so he doesn't have to look at this distasteful behavior I'm engaged in. He really hates the hose so he's in serious denial by now.
I grab the soap. The less water-challenged kids are, by this time, gleefully dancing around me. The more water-timid are hanging back, not wanting to miss the show, but no more fond of the hose than Pierre.
Now comes the fun part. By now the kids and I are talking about how Pierre doesn't like baths. Maybe one of them is even old enough to start remembering the last bath, and initiated the discussion. Pierre's physical manifestation of his dislike is really quite memorable.
I call Pierre over. His head sinks to the ground. I use my command voice, "Pierre, get over here." He stands up. "Pierre, heel", I shout in a really mean voice. Pierre lowers his head, sticks his tail was between his legs and slinks over like a cartoon dog.
I hose him down. Yes, I know the water's cold, but he's a dog, for goodness sake.
Then we lather him up with the sweet smelling Dr. Bronner's. Sweet little kids stand on each side of him and I place a glob of soap on his fur in front of him and the smoosh it around. Or they barely touch it with one finger. Or sometimes the give one rub and then stand and stare in amazement at the soap on their hand. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they wash a dog, lol. Sometimes a particularly observant child will intitiate a conversation about peepees and poopie holes (sorry if the graphic daycare language offends) as I wash Pierre's not-so-unmentionables.
Then another round with the hose, this time with the bolder children trying to venture close enough to get a little spray themselves. And more discussion about soap and water and skin irritation since my job involves explaining why I do everything I do at some point or other. (I have to be careful when I'm around grown-ups that I don't just unconsciously go off on a little spiels explaining all my movements and motivations,lol).
All this time Pierre has a look on his face like a long-suffering kidnap victim who has come to accept the humanity of his captors, but still doesn't understand their compulsions.
Then at the very end I turn off the hose, rub him quickly down with a towel, then jump back and say, "Go!". Pierre gives a joyful leap and bounds away. He stops about 10 feet away from us and gives himself one of those marvelous full-body dog shakes. He's usually just close enough to get us a little wet. The kids laugh, even the ones who at first look a little uncertain about the water-flying-through-the-air-unexpectedly thing. They squeal with delight as he pioroettes through the yard, leaping and jumping and dashing about as if he's just been relieved of a heavy burden and won the lottery all at once.
Have fun while you can, Pierre. Next week you have to get your ears cleaned.