Through the Fence 10-12-09 |

Through the Fence 10-12-09

Certain kinds of dogs are just happier living in the country. They don’t dress up for Halloween, have their names engraved on their food bowls or go to the groomer. Working dogs like border collies, heelers, Aussies and Catahoulas prefer riding in the back of a pick up or working livestock.

While my sister was still living in the big city, she came out here and bought a blue heeler. She named her dog, Reyna, “queen” in Spanish. She housebroke her and taught her to obey basic commands. Back in those days – before she found herself a cowboy beau – my sister usually worked long hours. And when she wasn’t working or shopping at some fancy health food store, she was relaxing in her high rise condo.

One summer Reyna came and stayed with us while my sister was out of town for an extended period. I noticed what fun she had being a “country dog,” so I asked my sister if she would give her to us. When she responded with stunned silence, I described how Reyna enjoyed rolling in rank smelling road-kill, chasing coons and stray cats and eating nasty stuff she found in the pasture. She also came in handy helping us round up the goats, which she adored.

“She’s having a blast! Don’t take her back to the city,” I pleaded. My sister looked into Reyna’s darling brown eyes, and agreed to let her stay.

We’ve all enjoyed her so much, and she has truly become the queen of our family. But when she came in the house the other night reeking of skunk spray, I didn’t care about her experiencing the country life in such a direct way. That smell had to go. Our youngest daughter, Lena, agreed to stand in the tub and hold Reyna’s head while I administered the cure. By the time we would get done, I’m sure the dog would have much preferred the more natural odor that she was wearing to what was forthcoming.

The first step in the complicated process of “deskunkification” was a liberal dose of coconut shampoo. When the warm water penetrated Reyna’s curly fur and soaked her skin, it reactivated the skunk smell. Lena and I choked back the desire to gag. As I lathered up her coarse hair, it came out in huge clumps, not because of the skunk spray, but just because it was the time for Reyna’s annual molting. She had already shed so much; I didn’t know how she wasn’t already completely bald.

The next step in the process was the dousing with tomato juice, the poor folks’ antidote for skunk spray. Since I was fresh out of tomato juice, I had to dilute some tomato paste with some warm water in a jar. I poured it slowly over the dog’s back. There were some thick gooey clumps of the paste that remained. And when she shook herself to get the water out of her ears, she slung them – along with some wads of wet, curly hair – up against the wall. It looked like someone had been field dressing a wild hog in our bathroom. The bathwater was full of black hair, so I drained the tub and started on the next step – coconut conditioner.

After the final rinse and towel drying, I took a baby wipe and sprayed it generously with lavender scented Febreze and wiped Reyna down. She was surely tired of all those girly smells by that time. She shook herself off again and sneezed. She was ready for a fight with the blow dryer, which she took on with a vengeance, biting at the warm air as it streamed across her face. I turned off the dryer and opted for another blotting with a towel.

Lena and I tried to clean up the wreckage in the bathroom, slopping up enough dog hair to make a toupee and a matching beard. However, there were a couple of critical items we overlooked since it was getting late, and we were both mentally altered from the profusion of aromas that overwhelmed our noses. We had left the foul smelling collar lying on the bathroom floor along with the first wet towel.

I was rudely reminded of these omissions the next morning when I opened the bathroom door … and fainted.

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