Doggy Day Spa

6 Mar

A friend of mine recently asked me to help give her dogs a bath. I said, yes, of course, no problem.  Mostly because I was thinking how easy it is to bathe my dachshunds – I simply lift them into the half-filled tub, squirt a little doggy shampoo on, and suds away. 

Debbie, however, has big dogs. Personally, I think they’re horses wearing dog tags to fool the neighbors.  She says they’re mixed breeds – perhaps one of the breeds is Shetland Pony?

Obviously, these are not the kinds of dogs who fit into your standard-size bathtub without some type of Origami-folding trick. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s not room for one horse/dog and Debbie in her bathroom at the same time. Not without removing a wall.

Nope, these are the kinds of animals who go out for a bath. So we corralled the dogs into the van and drove them to Peggy Ann’s Pampered Pet Parlor. Imagine kind of a doggy day spa, with soothing music, fresh-washed towels, and a whole assortment of aromatherapy shampoos. We chose “liver,” which supposedly calms canines and eradicates the stress of having to prevent the mail carrier from getting too close to the house.

I have to say I did find it oddly disconcerting that some dogs get to go to the spa, but whenever I want a soothing bath, I have to fill my tub with whatever I have in the house that bubbles – usually dishwashing powder – and the only relaxing sound is the sound of my toilet running.

Once we chose our shampoo, Peggy Ann asked if we’d like some cucumber. I figured she meant as a snack. I wasn’t sure if it was for us or the dogs, but I was hungry, so I said yes. Then she started to show us how to place the cucumbers slices over the dogs’ eyes. I have to admit I laughed. I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, but I was afraid she would suggest a full-body salt scrub with shiatsu massage next. Or meditation and chanting affirmations: “I am a strong and intelligent dog. I deserve lots of treats, ohm…”

Debbie grabbed me by the collar and hissed, “Be a good girl!” as she dragged me off towards one of the giant tubs, with a large hose and sprayer attached. The dogs trotted behind us, munching on their cucumber slices.

 If you’ve never bathed a large animal, you should know it involves three basic steps:  Step 1:  You have to convince the large animal that a bath is fun. You do this by using your “This is fun!” voice, the same one you use when trying to convince your three-year old that the cough medicine tastes like candy. Of course most three-year olds don’t slobber all over you in the process. 

Step 2:  You must get the large animal to remain in the tub long enough for you to at least spritz him or her with water. Every time Debbie’s biggest dog, Bailey (personally, I would have named him Trigger) felt there was the least chance he could get wet, he hopped over the side of the tub, clearing both our heads like he was Keiko the killer whale at the end of Free Willy. I gathered from his behavior that Bailey did not enjoy bath time. I also started a mental list of the favors Debbie now owed me.

Step 3:  If you ever do get the large animal washed (we did after only thirty minutes and some relaxing herbs – for me, not the dogs), you must get it to stand still long enough to towel it dry.  You’d think a dog who doesn’t enjoy getting wet would love getting dry, but you’d be wrong.  Bailey ran around the spa, knocking over shampoo bottles, conditioning sprays, and a large basket full of curlers. I pretended I didn’t see the latter because there was no way I was going to give a dog a perm. Not without another swig of those herbs.

When we finally got Bailey and Maggie, the much-better behaved dog, out of the spa, they yanked hard at their leashes and dragged Debbie and I over to a muddy spot in the grass next to the parking lot. They were apparently disappointed that mud baths weren’t part of the doggy pampering package and proceeded to take them anyway. I guess they were trying to cover up the smell of liver. 

I should have taken a mud bath too, because when I got home to my low-maintenance dogs, the liver aroma followed. And the dachshunds eyed me like I was lunch. I handed them a slice of cucumber and decided to take a bath myself.

Flirting with Other Dogs

13 Feb


I confess that I flirt with other dogs. There, I said it.

This is not news to my own three canines–they can smell any transgression on me the minute I walk through the door. But some humans who think I am perfect should know that I am just as likely to cave into the temptation of flirting as anyone else.

Take the guy in the picture here. I mean really, who could resist eye-batting, tail-wagging, or hair-tossing with a man this gorgeous? Not to mention that he had his own truck!

My usual doggy pick-up lines go something like this, “Well, aren’t you a handsome studly man, you. Are you attached?” Nothing wrong with that. The problem is that when I see a human male, I usually open with, “Who wants a belly rub?” That’s when I get into trouble.

As long as you always go home to your own animals and when you do you make sure you have lots of cookies and squeak toys, a little flirting shouldn’t land you in the doghouse.

Terriers and Dachshunds, Oh My

21 Jan

For the past week, I’ve been pet-sitting a terrier mix named Arrow in my home. My dogs and I have been opening our home to her twice a year for the past four years as her people travel to art shows across the country.

Dachshunds and terriers may not seem as different as Chihuahuas and Newfies, but watching them both makes me wonder if they evolved from different ancestors. Take these examples:

Wiener dog:  Sniff every spot in the neighborhood for 10-15 minutes to make sure nothing new has happened to that spot since the last time you sniffed it for 10-15 minutes. Then slowly move on to the next spot.

Terrier: Take one quick sniff and move on. There’s nothing to see here.

Wiener dog: Eat immediately after food is put within reach, sooner if at all possible.

Terrier: Guard food bowl and wait for someone else to appear to want it. Growl a bit then eat as slowly as doggedly possible, all the while keeping your guard up.

Wiener dog: When on a walk, be sure to always walk 6-16 feet behind your human (depending on leash length).

Terrier: When on a walk, be sure to always walk 6-16 feet in front of your human. And never, ever, walk in a straight line. Serpentining burns so many more calories.

Wiener dog: Spends hours arranging pillows and blankets to achieve exactly the right combination of comfort and cover in order to take a 6-hour nap.

Terrier: Plop down on top of anything–sofa, chair, floor (Wiener dog says “Floor?”) and rest, making sure not to achieve too deep a sleep because someone may be nearing the spot on the floor where your food dish was until the human got tired of waiting for you to eat and put it up.

Wiener dog: Play “fetch” by running after stuffed animal down the hallway a few times. Never actually retrieve said animal because how else will human get her exercise?

Terrier: Play “fetch” by running up and down hallway hundreds of time whether anything is being thrown or now. Occasionally grow if anyone gets to close to your imaginary animal.

Wiener dog: When temperature are below freezing, go out, do your business, and hurry back as fast as your short legs will carry you. Lie in front of heating vent for several hours to recover.

Terrier: No matter the temps, go out and run across the yard yipping until human comes out in housecoat and slippers, picks you up, and brings you back inside. Run to where your food dish was and growl.

I think in many ways I am more like a terrier than a wiener dog, but perhaps the reason I’ve been under dachshund management for 28 years is that I aspire for a slower paced life in which I have time to sniff what needs sniffing and get really comfortable before taking a nap.

Fetch This Name

13 Jan

Gone are the days of Fido, Rover, Spot, and Fluffy. These days we name our dogs after celebrities, a memorable vacation spot, even our favorite comfort food (“Sit, Macaroni. Good girl!) We bring our new four-footed friend home, stare into his or her tiny face and try to think of just the right moniker. Especially with rescues who come poorly named. Cujo? Really?

It can be hard to find just the right name that isn’t also just the right name for millions of other dogs. We don’t want to be go to the dog park, call out, “Max, come!” and have twenty dogs come running, dropping slobbery tennis balls at our feet.

If you’re struggling with a good name, you’ve come to the right, uh, spot. After all, I named my first two dogs, Copper and Slate, after minerals, so I know a thing or two about avoiding the obvious. Plus, now whenever I see anything made of copper or slate, it brings back wonderful memories! This list may not yield the perfect name, but it should get you thinking about other options you hadn’t considered.

Rock and gem names – Agate, Clay, Crystal, Igny, Jade, Jasper, Lapis (great name for lap dogs), Lazuli, Malachite, Mica, Opal, Pearl, Pebbles (good for small dogs or really large dogs who think they’re tiny, Ruby, Topaz

Rock ‘n roll names — , AC, DC, Blondie, Doobie (works on many levels), Genesis, Journey (good for roamer), Kinks (good for poodles and poodle mixes), Santana, Skynrd, Zeppelin

In the kitchen names — Cinnamon, Cupcake, Gluten-Free (just so you can say your pup is gluten free), Honey, Peanut (make sure you’re not allergic), Pepper, Pilaf, Quinoa (practice saying this three times fast before you commit), Whisk (also good for cats), Vanilla

Car names — Alfa, Bentley, BMW (great for a black male wiener dog), Ford, Jetta, Lotus, Mercedes (save for a true princess of a dog), Prius (doesn’t get gassy),

Plant namesAgave, Aspen, Azalea, Bambo, Cedar, Clover, Daisy, Dogwood (I expect this one to take off), Freesia (great for dogs who despise walking on a leash), Hazelnut (good for dogs who love to sit on a lap while person drinks coffee), Johnny Jump-up (you know who needs this name), Magnolia (a great name for southern dogs), Redbud, Stargazer, Verbena, Yarrow.

Nutty names —  Cashew, Filbert, Macadamia, Peanut, Charlie Sheen

Latin and legal names — Ad Hoc, Bona Fide, Ergo, Ibid, Modus (for dogs who always get in trouble in the same way, Pro Bono (come on, you know you love this one), Quid, Quo, Vini

Pop Culture — Anderson, Blockbuster, Gaga (for dogs who enjoy dressing up), J Bow-Wow (oh, that’s good), Oprah (for thoughtful dogs), Ozzy (for dogs who are just goofy), Timberlake

Hi Tech — App (for dogs who can do anything), Apple, Atari, Blackberry, Crash, Google, Hacker (may be better for cats) iPad, iPod (for tiny dogs who love to sing), Linux, Mac, Pinterest, Yahoo

Just Plain Funny NamesBoogalou, Bumbum, Cheeky, Chimichanga, Doglet, Flapjack, Garbanzo, Gilligan, Hootenanny, Lilliput, Loofah, Malarky, Pickle, Polydog, Pumpernickel, Pupernickel, Snorkel, Tater, Whizbang, Wombat.

There, that ought to make things easier!

Is Your Dog a Diva?

9 Jan

ImageThe other night I was browsing through a pet catalog when one of my dachshunds, Penny Royal, planted her paws firmly on my knee and gave me that look that clearly said, “The bottled water in my bowl has been depleted. Please take care of this situation before I have to have my people call your people.” In that moment, I realized she has become a diva. Her brothers Justin and Watson are the male equivalent – is there such thing as a miva?  

When I say “diva,” of course I don’t mean a famous female singer, because while Penny can howl a good tune, no one would mistake her for Celine Dion. And the boys? Well, let’s just say they’re tone deaf. What I mean by “diva” is someone who expects the world to revolve around her (or him). There’s at least one in every household, and if your household doesn’t currently include teenagers or cats (all cats are divas), chances are it could be your dog.  

If you want to know whether your dog is diva take this quick quiz (note, you may insert “he” where I’ve used “she” if the dog collar fits):

1. Where does your dog sleep?
    a.    On the floor.
    b.    On an orthopedic dog bed on the floor.
    c.    Under a handmade afghan on an orthopedic dog bed on the floor.
    d.    On your bed. You sleep under a handmade afghan on an orthopedic dog bed on the floor.

2.  At dinner time, do you:
     a.    Pour dog food from a bag into a plastic bowl.
     b.    Spoon canned food into a ceramic bowl with your dog’s name on it.
     c.    Set a place at the table for your pooch.
     d.    Hand feed your dog a meal you prepared yourself, making sure each bite is exactly the right size and temperature.

3.  What is your dog currently wearing:
     a.    Nothing but a smile.
     b.    A dog collar and ID tags.
     c.    A monogrammed collar with a 24-carat gold bone-shaped tag that says “Spoiled Rotten.”
     d.    A t-shirt that says “Whatever!” in sparkles.

4.  When you go out of town do you:
     a    Have a friend watch your dog.
     b    Hire a pet sitter.
     c.   Go out of town, what are you, crazy?
     d.   Carry your dog in your purse wherever you travel. So what if she’s a Golden Retriever?

5.  What is the highest level of education your dog has received:
     a.   Basic obedience training.
     b.   Advanced obedience training.
     c.   Charm school.
     d.   Modeling school.

6.  What are your dog’s favorite colors?
     a.   She doesn’t have favorite colors, she’s a dog.
     b.   Anything that matches her hair.
     c.   Pink and black.
     d.   Turquoise. Pink and black is soooo 2009.

7.  When it comes to beauty and hygiene, which is your dog’s usual routine:
     a.   A quick spritz with the hose.
     b.   A bath in the tub.  
     c.   A day at Ms. Fifi’s Pet Grooming Boutique.
     d.   A salt scrub and cucumber facial with you at your favorite spa.

8.  Which of the following is your dog allergic to:
     a.  Wheat.
     b.  Peanuts.
     c.  Cashmere.
     d.  Caviar.

10.  Which comes closest to the nickname you usually call your dog?
     a.  Hey, you.
     b.  Sweetie
     c.  Ma’am.
     d.  Queen of All Things.

11. Describe her last birthday:
     a.  I completely forgot it.
     b.  I bought her an extra chew toy.
     c.  There was a cake, ice cream, and a pony.
     d.  The harpist was five minutes late and I’ll never live it down.

12.  When she’s feeling really stressed do you:
     a.  Pet her a little more than usual.
     b.  Encourage her to take a nap.
     c.  Hire a massage therapist to work out her muscle tension.
     d.  Feng shui the house to improve the doggy chi.

13.  What do you take to work to keep your dog in your thoughts during the day:  
     a.  Dog hair on everything.
     b.  Her photo in my wallet.
     c.  A joint checking account we share.
     d.  Her other tiara.

If you answered mostly “A’s,” you’ve managed to raise a dog who believes she’s a dog.  There is a twelve step program for that, you know. Mostly “B’s” means you and your dog are well-adjusted.  Neither of you will be needing a therapist soon. Mostly “C’s” indicates that your dog is on her way to diva status, so you might as well encourage her to go for it. If you chose mostly “D’s” without shame or guilt, you’re the mother of a true Diva Dog. You know who is in charge and you can say without a doubt, it’s not you.


31 Dec


Human resolution                                                                                 Dog resolution

Enjoy each day                                                                                              Be a dog

Show everyone I love just how much                                                  Be a dog

Get plenty of sleep                                                                                       Be a dog

Be grateful for little things like heat and pillows                             Be a dog

Enjoy the ride                                                                                                Be a dog

Express gratitude                                                                                         Be a dog

Don’t keep my feelings to myself                                                            Be a dog

Work less, play more                                                                                   Be a dog

Spend less time online, more time in real life                                   Be a dog

Follow my dreams, no matter how impossible they seem          Be a dog

Seek out new adventures                                                                           Be a dog

Love more, forgive more, harbor resentments less                      Be a dog

Be a dog                                                                                                             Be a dog

Good Opening Lines for Dogs

30 Dec

1.  Who’s a big boy? Are you a big boy?
2.  Hey beautiful. Wanna share a stick?
3.  Do you dig holes here often?
4.  Your ID tag says “Penny.” Did you fall from heaven?
5.  Yes, I do have cookies in my pocket. Why do you ask?
6.  What’s your whine?
7.  Wanna come up to my place and see my squeak toys?
8.  All my shots are up to date, how about you?
9.  It’s much more fun to be disobedient together.
10.  You smell like an alpha dog to me.

Puppy Love

29 Dec

I first fell head over heels in love in 1984. He had red hair and brown eyes and my heart skipped a beat at the mere thought of him (and that was well before my mitral valve issues). Two weeks later, I fell in love with his brother too – a dark-haired hunk whose zest for life was infectious.

So I took them both home.

We were quite a threesome, my first two dachshunds – Copper and Slate – and I. And in the years since there have been four more – Maddy Lou, Justin, Penny, and Watson – about whom I have felt just as giddy. So, in honor of the New Year and starting it off on the right foot, I thought I’d write about true love of the canine variety. Puppy love, if you will.

There are some people who think that true love is romantic in nature. But according to an online dictionary (we know it must be true if it’s online, right?), “romantic love” is when the chemicals in your brain kick in and you experience an emotional high, exhilaration, and elation whenever you and your love are together. That doesn’t just happen between humans. I dare any scientist to take a blood sample to see just what chemicals (besides caffeine and chocolate) are surging through my veins when I come home and my wiener dogs wag their tails and do their “We Love Her So Much We’d Almost Even Give up Chasing Squirrels for Her” dance.

It is important to show our love to the humans we can’t live without by letting them be right occasionally and remembering that liking them on Facebook is not enough.

But we owe our doggy loves even more. Talk about unconditional love – nothing my dogs do truly irritates me. Penny can piddle on the floor right in front of me because it’s raining outside and she prefers to be dry, and as hard as I try to be annoyed with her, I am still overwhelmed by the same rush of love I felt that day I adopted her from a rescue organization and she crawled into my lap as if to say, “Well, it took you long enough!” Watson can growl at me if I try to take away whatever stuffed animal he is busy unstuffing, but I just kiss his snout and say, “Oh, you don’t really mean that.” Justin can stand on my trachea at 4:07 a.m. because he’s decided that despite what the clock says, it really must be time for breakfast. As sleepy and grumpy as I usually am at that time of morning, I’ll still call him “Dog Muffin” as I’m serving up his kibble in the wee dark hours of the morning.

By the way, standing on someone’s trachea is an excellent way to wake them up. As long as you’re under 25-lbs.

It is difficult, however, to find the perfect way to celebrate love with a four-footed friend. Even I have a hard time – and I once threw Maddy Lou a debutante party to which my best friend Rhonda wore a hoop skirt and presented Maddy Lou with her own bone china tea set which I still have in my hope chest. I can’t imagine how much trouble it is for those of you who don’t have my party-organizing skills.

A candlelit  dinner for dogs is a little over the top. Not to mention that I really shouldn’t be allowed around an open flame. Or a stove. Greeting card companies make  cards from the dog (“I love you… despite the fact that you feed me all your peas and then blame me for the consequences”), but not TO them. That’s a darn shame if you ask me. And although I’ve been known to dress my dogs up coats and sweaters, doggy lingerie is a little too kinky even for me.

There are boutique pet stores in town that carry carob-coated doggy treats shaped like little hearts, but I know what my dogs really want – besides some table scraps that don’t consist primarily of tofu and brown rice. What they truly want to show them how much I love them is for me to sit on the couch for twelve straight hours without moving a muscle – no laughing, no blinking, and no breathing so deeply that my stomach goes up and down and interrupts their naps. They want me to be their  hostage. And that’s what they’re going to get. I’ve been practicing motionlessness and shallow breathing for a week now and will have it down pat by the time 2013 rolls around.


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