Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Five, "One Year Old"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

By the time Blitz had hit one year old, we had all started to figure things out.  We all got used to feeding and walking routines.  I had elevated my game in terms of picking up poop (hints: never after a rain, and sunny days are your best friend).  Even the cat had established a dentate of sorts with Blitz, tenuous as it may have been.  But one thing of which my  wife could not make an adjustment was "the doggy smell." 

Blitz was basically a clean dog.  However, she was a Labrador, and that meant she had the proclivity to want to be in the water, regardless if the water consisted of a lake or a dirty  farm mud puddle.  If it contained moisture, she wanted to be there. 

Since she was going to be used to hunt ducks, enjoying the water was important for her resume, but it came with a price.  The Lab is an incredible dog, and you'll not find a breed that combines friendliness, intelligence, athleticism, and passion for retrieving and hunting at uniformly high levels.  Unfortunately, a distinct liability is that God granted them a gift of a funky smell when they get wet.  For those that have not smelled a wet lab before, it's hard to describe.  It's musty, pungent, not very pleasant, and unique.  Nothing really smells like it.  This was driven home by the 7 year old son of a hunting buddy, who upon entering the Suburban his dad and I were sharing after a hunting trip, took a quick whiff, pointed to the crates in the back, and claimed "UGH, WET GUN DOG!" 

When a dog is wet and dirty, the only thing that can get them back in good olfactory graces is to get them dried out (in which case a hint of the funk remains), or get them washed.  With my wife, the latter was required, with shampoo, rinsing, drying, and the whole fluff and buff.  You'd think that with a dog that loved the water so much that this would be an easy chore.  And you couldn't have been more wrong.  Blitz seemed to have an aversion to being clean, and wisely made herself scarce anytime the garden hose came out or the laundry tub got filled. 

Despite her reluctance, I did get a process pulled together.  First, I had to coax her into the laundry room, which was fairly easy to execute with the bribe of some kibble.  Closing the door behind her, I'd get the laundry tub filling, and that's when she'd figure out that she'd been had, and the tail would drop and the crying would start.  Yes, crying.  My tough hunting dog, capable of hunting all day, swimming long distances, chasing cats, and getting fishing lures removed from her mouth would cry the whole time, including the prep time before she was even wet. 

Once the tub was filled, I'd lift Blitz up and place her in the tub.  Keeping her in was quick a struggle, as she made motions like Jared Allen, while I played the role of lumbering offensive lineman.  Eventually I caught on to her moves, she'd give in, and she'd just put her front paws on the top of the tub, rest her head on my shoulder and cry until we were done.  While this configuration was a difficult one in which to accomplish a bath, I was able to wet her down by scooping up water with my hands and pouring it over her. Eventually, when the shampoo had been fairly rinsed out, I'd pick her up and set her down on the floor, which would always be met with a giant shake by the dog to remove the offending water from her coat.  Between the wrestling matches of keeping her in the tub, her laying her wet head on my shoulder, and the numerous shakes, we were both equally drenched.  To mitigate the shaking I'd take a towel to her and rub her down thoroughly, and then take another towel and wipe myself down.  My wife once asked why I needed two towels, when I described the first time I used Blitz's towel to dry myself.  The result what that there was so much dog hair left in the towel that I transferred to myself that I ended up looking like Blitz's mangy sibling, and ultimately needed a shower for myself after the dog bath. 

Once as dry as I could get her, I'd let Blitz out of the utility room for a desired roll on the basement carpet while I took to the task of cleaning up after the bath.  With the thrashing and shaking, dog hair was everywhere, towels strewn about, and water everywhere as it someone had dropped a massive water balloon in the room. 

The bottom line is that neither Blitz nor I enjoyed dog baths, and we'd both dread them.  The dread would usually start on the ride home from an outdoor excursion at the cabin, as being cooped up with a Lab that had previously been playing in water for a 2 hour ride home made my impending responsibility clear. 

Fortunately, as I was driving though the town of Hutchinson, MN on one such afternoon, I happened to spy something that looked like an ice fishing shack which had a sign which read DOG WASH atop it.  I drove past a first, but was intrigued, so I pulled a U turn and headed back.  Sure enough, there in the parking lot stood this little house which claimed itself as a dog wash.  I got out the car to investigate, and was delighted to find a coin operated dog wash, complete with waist-height tub, ramp to get in and out, blow dryer, hand-held shower, and selector switch for things like shampoo, conditioner, rinse (and skunk shampoo - I made a mental note in the dreaded occasion that I may need it in the future).  But the  best feature was a clip for the dog's collar which would keep her held steady and not shaking until we were completely done.  This was heaven!  No more dirty towels, dirty rooms, or dirty spouse looks.  It was almost too good to be true. 

I hustled back to the car, got Blitz out, and went in for our inaugural try at the automated dog wash.  She hopped up the ramp with ease, and I hooked her up to clip, then fumbled for some cash.  I was out of singles, but had a couple of fives, which the machine was happy to accept.  I figured that the five would be a waste,  as we'd likely only burn through a buck or two, but for a clean dog without all the fuss, it was five bucks well spent.  I started with rinse, and by now Blitz had realized she'd been duped and started crying.  Despite her noise I got her fully soaked in no time, started out on the shampoo work, and was happy as a clam until a loud BEEP BEEP BEEP from the wash machine startled me.  Judging by the red numbers counting down on the face of the box, we were under a minute left.  I quickly stuffed in another five and picked up the pace, half complaining about the price gouging I was taking, and half thankful for the ease in which I was cleaning my dog and keeping my marriage sound. 

While my second five ran out in mid-blow dry, Blitz had effectively been transformed from a smelly hunting dog to huggable family pet in a mere 10 minutes right before my eyes.  I kenneled her up, and headed for home where I wanted to share my great find.  As we arrived, my wife was working in the garage, where she greeted us.  I let Blitz out, and she immediately went to Vera for some loving, and in the initial petting, Vera exclaimed "Ew, you're wet!" She knew she'd be covered in dog-stink.   I grinned and asked her to smell the dog.  The joy the three of us shared in that moment is something I'll never forget. 

The dog wash in Hutchinson fast became a required stop for Blitz and I, and if the owner ever reads this, I'd like to personally thank him for helping to save my marriage.   

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Please feel free to include any thoughts you may have. Know, however, that kiddos might be reading this, so please keep the adult language to yourself. I know, for me to ask that language is clean is a stretch...