I have a dog. She is a greyhound. Contrary to popular belief, greyhounds are actually quite mellow and lazy, earning the nickname “40 mph couch potato.” Due to breed-inclination, advancing age and her own temperament, Valentina moves rather slowly and is compliant except when she is being aloof (neither compliant nor naughty, just generally uninterested in whatever is going on.)
This dog does not run to the door when you arrive home, rarely barks, and requires a twice daily walk of only 10-20 minutes. The low activity, short coat (bald belly) and long legs of this greyhound keep her fairly clean. I do not have your typical big dog experience.
Cocoa, my sister’s chocolate lab, is the polar opposite. If you think my fish-out-of-water tales of childcare with nephews K. and D. are entertaining, you will think that professional comedy writers concocted the following dog tale:
Dear, sweet Cocoa is just that – a loving dog without a mean bone in her furry brown body. A powerful, slobbery, insistent, sweet dog. She is easily 50+ pounds of solid muscle and canine ambition. If only she had ducks to retrieve.
Cocoa came to my sister’s family by way of a friend. It was a household of a single woman and a dog that she took the time to train well with the intention of breeding. Cocoa’s first “family,” sadly, passed away unexpectedly. Several months earlier my sister’s family had lost their aged golden retriever. Cocoa needed a family, and a family needed a dog.
Cocoa has been dodging rambunctious little boys and retrieving wiffle balls ever since. She nearly knocks me back out of the garage door every day I come to meet K.’s school bus, presenting her slobbered Kong.
Her house-filling bark has an accompanying eye-twinkle that slightly dulls the pain of my perforated eardrum. Her wagging tail is a brown whirlwind. She wants nothing more than to chase balls, run around the yard, and bark at the geese nesting at a pond not far away.
And then there is mud. Cocoa likes mud, too. Cocoa especially likes the post-thunderstorm mud puddle that formed in the low corner of my sister’s yard between the fence and the shed. She likes to roll around and settle right in sphinx-like. It must be a refreshing plunge for an overheated retriever.
I have never before seen so much mud on a dog before last Friday afternoon. Brown to begin with, it took me running my hand under her furry belly and coming away with a fistful of mud to begin to understand just how dirty this dog was. Black clouds rolled in quickly and fat raindrops plus thunder meant I couldn’t just leave her outside until my brother-in-law got home.
I had to bathe her.
I mopped as much dripping mud off of her as I could and led her by the collar to the boys’ bathroom. It was like dragging a filthy bucking bronco upstairs. K., whose quick 7-year-old movements terrify Cocoa, was instructed to *stay away*.
Then, this dog, this retriever who loves water, would NOT get into the tub. I sing-songed instructions, I sweetly pleaded, and I put a treat on the far side of the tub. Nothing. [I now know that Cocoa has been trained to stay out of the tub lest the boys’ bath time become a free for all.]
I finally had to bear hug her to lift her front end into the tub. Both of us were filthy and wet now, but at least she hopped in. I had just enough time to douse her a few times with the tiny play-bucket before she jumped out. And shook. We repeated the routine.
The bathroom felt like a sauna as the switch I flipped was perhaps not a vent but a heater. I was soaked by sweat and bath water and splashed with mud. You can imagine how the bathroom looked.
Somehow Cocoa was clean enough for me to sop up the worst part of the mud from her fur and release her into the hallway. You should have seen K.’s face. I think he thought that Mommy would kill us both when she got home (a thought that did enter my mind).
After a good twenty minutes of spraying, scrubbing and rinsing, K. declared the bathroom cleaner than before I dragged in Cocoa. He intuitively knew to keep the remaining hour of activity sedate (Thank you, Sponge Bob).
My brother-in-law must have been alerted by my sister, who I had forewarned of the afternoon’s events, and thought himself pretty funny when he texted to me that he would be home more than an hour later than usual.
Cocoa has likely by now been cleaned by a team of professionals. I was never so glad to get home and have my aloof, activity-avoiding dog barely open one eyelid when I walked in.
I have a cat, too. Elsa meows incessantly and begs in the kitchen. At least she keeps herself clean.