By Bonnie Wonders–Trent
Without a doubt, one of Lou’s all-time favorite phrases is “I love big dogs.” She says this when she comes in, takes one long look at the day’s appointments, and sees that there is a preponderance of big dogs coming in. By a preponderance, I mean more than one. Upon seeing two, she groans; three makes her shake her head. More than five makes her shake ME.
Although she loves big dogs as far as owning, petting, and playing with them, that is pretty much where it ends. When it comes to bathing and drying, she is a whiner, not that I can blame her.
Our tub is one designed specifically for dogs. The ramp feature is great… 80% of the time. It’s the remaining 20% that Lou has a problem with. When those 100+ pounders decide that they’d rather not go up that incline, it can be an annoyance to put it mildly. After babying, begging, and bribing (in no particular order) don’t work, the last resort is the pulley method. Usually Lou is the “Pull-ee,” and I am the “Push-ee.” The trickiest part is keeping the dog from turning around in the tub to escape down that ramp that they were “no way in heck” going up—all this while I’m trying to slide the door into the opening of the tub. When we finally get them secured, we instantly give each other a high five.
Once I accidentally smacked Lou in the face when she turned sideways while forgetting to offer her hand for the ritual. She only did that once. Now she puts that old hand up freely… or ducks.
Most of the big dogs decide early on which way they want to face once they’re in the tub. Once in position, they rarely are very anxious to turn the other way for her to wash and dry their opposite side. She heaves… she hos. She begs… she coaxes. She grunts… she groans. Eventually she ends up yelling for my help, especially when they decide to lie down and not move at all.
Just last week she shot herself right in the bangs with a huge stream of anal fluid from a really big dog—actually bangs AND glasses. She just barely touched the dog’s rear end, and the stuff propelled out of there like Apollo 11. All this time and she still can’t perfect her aim when she does a tall dog. She stunk all day, even though she washed her bangs with some pretty potent shampoo. Really had staying power, it did. She finally succumbed to letting me spray her with de-skunk spray stuff. I should probably keep more of that stuff on hand.
Lou often has to go to the grocery store after leaving the shop, and she’s usually near dripping wet. She hates the rubbery bathing aprons and only likes to wear the nylon grooming jackets. We all know how well those hold up to keeping you dry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more prone to being soaked to the skin than she is. She has never mastered the fine art of grabbing onto a big dog’s neck just prior to it shaking water all over the place. I’ve tried to teach her, but no matter how many lectures and pre-pre-shake warnings I give her, it always falls on deaf ears. Often I can be 15 feet away, and even I get splattered upon. I know she gets her jollies out of hearing me yell about keeping water on her side of the room. She gets the floor wet, the tall cabinet next to the tub wet, the phone, the one-way mirror, the ceiling and overhead shelving, and often the dog that I have on my grooming table wet. There’s really not much that escapes her pathway.
You can’t imagine the amount of suds that become airborne when she turns on the high-velocity dryer before they are rinsed down the drain. We both on a pretty consistent basis have our heads adorned with giant clumps of foam. That stuff takes FOREVER to dissolve when it lands. It’s downright embarrassing to go out and wait on customers when you realize you have a unicorn horn sticking out the back of your head.
Then there is all that old super-shedding hair that becomes cyclonic when she starts drying. She’s covered with it and always ends up hacking up hairballs by the time she’s done. She’s got dark brown hair, and when she dries a light colored dog, she gets this spider webbish-looking thing going on all over her head. Those are the days that the good-looking mailman is working. He always has some really complimentary thing to say to her as she’s standing there dripping wet with her really “cool” hairdo as he drops off the mail. I just smile as I slip the long floor wand onto the Clipper Vac hose. I reach over from a few feet away to suck the white hair off her head for her. I do what I can… I’m helpful like that.
I can’t tell you how many times Lou lifts off the door on the tub, ready to take the dog out, and it’s like having a front and center seat at a live cartoon. As soon as she unsnaps the grooming noose from the rail, I’ve seen her get spun around like a Tasmanian devil when the dog makes a leap for the ramp. There goes my poor little buddy looking like a first time skier as she whizzes past me and gets unceremoniously thumped against the door jamb when the dog takes a hard right out of the grooming room door. “I love big dogs… I love big dogs…” I’ll hear as I see her flying back past the doorway. You know, it IS true that as you get older you bruise MUCH more easily. I learn quite a bit at my job just by watching sometimes.
Just today, in fact, we had six big dogs mixed in with the smaller ones. Pretty much as usual on big dog day, Lou had most of the aforementioned happen during the course of the day. One of the last dogs was a big Lab named “Timber.” He’s a gorgeous brute of a dog. Sweet, loving, exceptionally strong, and kind of reminds you of a “Duh, which way did he go, which way did he go?” kind of dog.
Lou and I put the big guy on the grooming table, and I fastened him to the grooming arm. A customer walked in, and Lou went to take care of her. As I picked up a back foot to cut the hair under his pad, he suddenly started peeing everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. So there I am, dog foot in hand, and he’s spraying urine two feet out in front of himself all over the floor and the table. I yelled for Lou as it began running backwards on the table and toward the dog’s feet. She came running and grabbed at the paper towel roll, which was out of my reach. “Get some drying towels,” I squealed at her. She tossed a couple yellow absorbers at me. I swear if I’d have had a clothespin within reach, I’d have used that too. The thing just seemed to keep streaming forever.
Finally, it ended, and I had quite the mess to clean up. Urine had even gone under the Plexiglas on the grooming table and was between the glass and the table frame. It was almost impossible to get out of there, but we managed.
Lou again left to finish waiting on her customer. I went back to trimming the hair under the back feet of the dog. I then moved to a front foot, and just then a warm stream was hitting me under the left sleeve of my smock. Timber was shooting again, and I was in direct line of fire. “Lou!” I yelled.
“Holy cow!” I heard her say as she entered the room, almost running. As all this was going on, Lou just stopped and did nothing but look at me.
“WHAT?” I asked as I stood there dripping. Timber was finished at last.
“I was just wondering what you’re thinking right now,” she said as she burst into laughter.
I looked at her for a split second…”I love big dogs,” I said quietly. “I love big dogs…”