Dog Spa

A while back, I publicly admitted to having become one of those “kissy-kissy, smoochie-smoochie” dog owners. “Dog mommies”, if you insist. Lately, this has become even more true, especially after bringing the mutt along with the rest of the family for a camping vacation. Prior to this trip, she had tended to be a bit much in the car. It isn’t that she doesn’t like it. It’s that she likes it too much. She’ll jump right in regardless of whether she is coming along or not. Once in the moving car, she commences an unrelenting stream of overly-excited whining and barking. With a bark collar, we got it down to merely whining.

Before you sic the folks at PETA on me, in her case the bark collar is essential dog gear. It is the equivalent of doggie sedatives, and she is no dummy. It got her only once and she’s never set it off again. She canny enough to know if I forget and let her out without it that she can safely bark down the neighborhood. I like my neighbors at least as much as I like my pooch, so I’d rather not annoy them excessively. I really can’t overstate its importance in the happy result of a considerably calmer dog. She is much more inclined to sit and chill out with the bark collar on. Without it she is a noise-making perpetual motion machine.

I stumbled onto the trick for improving her car ride by way of Ceasar Milan and my dad. If you don’t know the celeb dog trainer Milan, his schtick is understanding dog psychology. My dad unwittingly contributed when he reported he had caught Foxy napping in a laundry basket of freshly laundered clothes. Seems the laundry basket offered a cozy, contained nest. Kind of like a den, which would be soothing to a dog (says Ceasar). Unwilling to sit for twelve hours with twenty two pounds of dog on my lap, I rigged a laundry basket into a “car seat” for her. Voila! Before long, she was not only quiet, she had passed out cold. (With her head on my shoulder, I might add.) No matter, this let me off the hook with my better half who had threatened to tie us both to the roof rack if she was a nutball on the trip.

These days I proudly display a “Who Rescued Who?” pawprint on my car. She is a shelter rescue, snatched from the jaws of death somewhere in Georgia. We can only say for certain that she is some mix of Sheba Inu and half crazy. It’s not uncommon for her to smack face first into a wall when she’s overly excited. She once fell partway down the stairs in a too enthusiastic chase after a toy. She has a passion for indiscriminately chasing anything that moves quickly; birds are a particular favorite. This lends me to think someone may have tried to make a bird dog of her. She will chase, certainly. She even managed to catch a rabbit once. Her failure is that she is no way going to give up her prize. Her favorite plaything is a skinny, floppy rabbit toy. Once it’s in her possession, her sole intent is to hang onto it for dear life while licking it to death. To say that she lacks discipline is not quite correct. Rather, she’s only inclined to do what she wants when she’s in the mood for it, most often by way of bribery.

She is a food whore. There’s almost nothing she won’t do if you are patient enough to bribe her with treats until you get her to do what you want. My family swore I couldn’t teach her to roll over on command. It took me a week and an awful lot of dog treats, but she learned. I should’ve placed bets on it. I could have scored some cold, hard cash off the deal.

All of this is well and good, but it says nothing about the moment at which I realized that this dog had landed squarely on her feet, all the while worming her way into the hearts of the humans who had so kindly taken her in. As a kid everyone I knew regarded dogs as creatures requiring little in the way of care. After all, they were related to wolves–albeit distantly. They had their place, but it wasn’t remotely on par with humans. So there I was on my living room floor in the midst of being a doggie stylist. First, she gets her teeth brushed. Then she gets her short coat and thick undercoat brushed until it is sleek and silky. Last but not least I trim her claws.

This process began after we installed new hardwood floors ourselves, over four back-breaking days. Getting the new floors severely scratched by untamed dog claws wasn’t high on our list of outcomes. So I read up on the subject. It wasn’t a quick process, and it took well over a year to get them short enough. Now, she sometimes gets stepped on in the kitchen because she’s come up behind me in stealth mode.

It’s the claw trimming that really got to me. At least once a week, with a big sigh, she suffers to have me provide her with a doggie pedicure. I do mean a pedicure. I not only trim down her nails, but I file them smooth after they’re clipped. She effectively gets a paw massage as I check her feet for ticks or nicks. I have a hard time getting her back claws, black ones, and I have to be careful. Black claws are a challenge to trim because it’s hard to see the quick. Nip it and your dog will feel it. He or she will then bleed all over the place. In order to avoid catastrophe, I’ve got her in the habit of lying on her back so I can see better. Lying still on her back requires a few minutes of gentle tummy rubbing before she is somewhat catatonic.

In my next lifetime, I have no intention of evolving into an allegedly higher form. I’m worn out already and have a long way to go. I want to come back as a pampered pooch with a devoted dog mom who fusses at me, plays with me, and takes me on long outings to fabulous national parks.


Kathleen Ronan is a writer and a nurse, specializing in meditation for medical applications. She’s also a harpist, a bookworm, and a renaissance woman.

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