How not to bathe a dog

It started with a discarded McDonald’s cup on the side of the road. A big plastic one. Annie grabbed it in her teeth, did a U-turn and started trotting toward home. Okay, I didn’t want a long walk anyway.
The contents looked like water and a lump of what might be dirt. It had rained briefly in the morning. I figured it was perfectly safe, unlike the various coffee and chocolate drinks she has picked up in other discarded cups. I laughed as she hurried along, cup clenched in her teeth, liquid sloshing out on her face and chest. So determined, so darned cute, doing her part for recycling.
It wasn’t until we got to our back yard and I unleashed the dog and took away the cup that I smelled it. Whatever was in that cup reeked something awful. Skunk spray would smell better. As I took the cup, the rest of the contents spilled out, and Annie started rolling in it. And rolling in it. And rolling in it. Oh Lord, such a smell.
I threw the recyclable cup in the garbage can, wanting to get as far away from it as possible, then pondered what to do about my dog, whose new name is Stinky. I had never bathed her, always left it to the professionals at the kennel, but now in addition to reeking of eau de awful, her tan fur was streaked with mud from all that rolling in the dead-leaf area under the trees. It was already past dinnertime, but a bath was required.
I had once tried to clean her with the garden hose, but the cold-water spray scared her so badly I can’t even water the flowers now without her bolting for safety. But a nice warm bath in the house ought to be less frightening.
Okay, I can do this, I thought. I dug in the cupboard and found an ancient bottle of anti-itch shampoo the vet gave us for a previous dog. Like that dog, Annie had itchy skin, so this would help that, too. I prepared the bathtub by putting down the non-slip mat, pulling down the spray nozzle and warming the water. I grabbed the sponge from the kitchen sink to be converted into a permanent dog sponge. Then I lured Old Stinky into the bathroom with Milk-Bones and closed the door. She started getting suspicious.
The water was a perfect temperature. I wouldn’t mind soaking in it. But how would I get this 80-pound smell-factory into it? I put cookies on the edge. She gobbled them up and backed toward the door. I patted the side. “Come on, it’s warm. You like water. Look.” No go. I had to get this dog washed. I soaked the sponge and rubbed it on the dog. Okay. I did some more. She was starting to get wet. I squeezed some blue shampoo out of the bottle and rubbed it into the fur on her back. Sudsy. I scrubbed it in. Okay. She was used to getting shampooed at the kennel. Of course they had a dog-sized tub and a noose-thing to keep her in it, and we were still on the floor.
More shampoo. More rubbing. So sudsy. Too sudsy. How could so little shampoo create so many suds? How the heck was I going to get this gunk off her fur? She had to get into the tub, but so far that wasn’t happening. Okay. How about this? I kicked off my shoes, stripped off my socks, pants and underpants and got into the tub naked from the waist down. I knelt in the murky water where patches of tan fur floated like ice floes and beckoned my sudsy dog. “Come on, it’s great.” Not moving. I grabbed her slippery front legs and pulled. “Come on.” Nope.
I was squatting in a half-full tub of fur, dog shampoo and stink, and she was standing on my pink bathmat covered in suds. If another human lived here, perhaps he/she could have helped me lift the mega-dog into the water, but it was just me and Stinky. Screw it. I grabbed the spray nozzle and aimed it at the dog, letting water, shampoo and dirt flood the bathroom floor, soaking the flowered linoleum, the bathmat, my shoes and the scale. As the water rose, it trickled toward the carpet in the bedroom. This was not good for any of these things, but I got enough of the suds off the dog and toweled off the rest as she strained toward the door. Now she smelled of shampoo, with an undertone of the stink, but it was tolerable.
With aching back, I rose, opened the door and let her bolt toward freedom as I blotted up the flooded bathroom with five of my best towels and scrubbed out the tub with multiple layers of Comet cleanser.
Okay, done. Tomorrow I’d go to Fred Meyer and buy her a new collar; the old one was going in the trash. It was finally time for our belated dinner. As I pulled out leftover chicken and salad makings, I looked out the window. There was my dog, rolling in the dirt.
There has to be a better way.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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