New Hampshire Humor: The Puppy Bath, by B. Elwin Sherman

I'd like to introduce B. Elwin Sherman to readers at Cow Hampshire.  He a distant cousin to a famous New Hampshire native, and he has become somewhat infamous himself.

Beginning today, his articles will occasionally be posted here. I know you will enjoy his tongue-in-cheek-Yankee humor as much as I do.

The Puppy Bath–How to Shampoo a New Dog.
by B. Elwin Sherman.

Today, everything pales compared to the perils of shampooing a baby dog.


It's time to give the new puppy a bath.

My apologies to cat fanciers and any other genre of animal husbandries, foreign and domestic, who may feel slighted by the following policies and procedures of puppy hygiene.  I intend no disrespect to your respective kitties, cows and the like.  If you'll kindly ride along with caniners for the duration, I'll gladly devote another day to your concerns on goldfish ick, mad bovines and scratching cat fevers.

We're here now to lather up the pup.

Here are the seven rules for washing a new puppy.  Before we're through, there may be more or less.  Right now, seven rules for four legs and one impossible job feels about right.

1.  Brace yourself.  You've got to buck up and get hard.  If you're a sentimental softie, if a small, begging, whimpering, desperate ball of wet fur in the grip of his first fight-or-flight panic attack is too much for you, stop right here.

If you can't bear the sight and sound of desperate little claws attempting to burrow their way into the slopes of a bathtub, if you internalize this task and try seeing it through a dog's eye, i.e. the hot downpour of wet death in the great white porcelain canyon of sudsy suffocation, go no further.

2.  Brace yourself some more.  I direct this rule to any owners whose new genus canis would fit in the category of excessively hairy, furry or fluffy.

The first time you see him like this — wet, matted and quivering in eye-popping terror — he will look and act like a skinned, manic ferret.  It's important that you don't let your mix of recoiling horror and suppressed laughter show through.

Animals, in general, are extremely intuitive about these things.  He already thinks you're drowning him.  If he suspects you're combining torture and slapstick, you can consider your couch a permanent chew toy.

3.  Continue bracing yourself.  You will find, as you attempt to ignore his heart-rending squirming and squealing, that your initial feelings of horrified hilarity will be replaced by an overwhelming sense of cruelty and guilt.  Only a first-degree, premeditative, murderous ogre from the Planet Meanie could do such a dastardly thing to such a precious, helpless, loving companion.

Learn to live with it.  You’ll find the balance of a dog's life in Rule Four.

4.  Don't stop bracing yourself.  Your self-abasement will be distempered as you now start to wonder how it's possible for a football-sized hyper-kinetic mass of soapy critter to drench you and your entire bathroom, eat a shower curtain, extract a drain cap, puncture a shampoo bottle, and, before the deed is done, send you and/or him plunging flushlong into the toilet.

Don't linger on these phenomena.  You and your dog must consider them the first payments of lifelong membership dues in the union of fetch & carry-on.

5.  I know this may go without saying, but I can’t omit it.  There can’t be anyone out there who would attempt it, but you never know.  I can’t believe it's necessary for me to include this as a rule, but I can't be sure.

I don't want to drive this qualification into the ground, but, after the bath, unless you're prepared to have your pooch labeled the class clown in obedience school and become a prime underwriter of the Pet Psychiatry industry, unless your goal is to transform your home furnishings into shredded, post-traumatic stressors and your car into a rolling Poop DeVille forevermore:

DON’T use the blow-dryer.  Trust me.  DON'T

Oh, maybe down the road, after your full-grown dog has seen and heard you attacking your own head with a wind-driven heat wave, but if you use it on him before he sees you using it on you, you'll find him in the living room underneath your couch/chew toy combo whenever you dry your hair.

6.  A close restatement of Rule Five, I needn't tell you about puppies and vacuum cleaners.  No, they won't grasp your human notion of how this is an economical clean & massage.

Yes, I'll expect letters from readers who do indeed now apply both the blow and suction ends to their adult dogs, and claim that the dogs love it.

They don't.  They never have.  They think you’re trying to suck them through a pipe or blow off their hides, and are only feigning tolerance, even pleasure, because they know the Milk-Bone reward is at the end of it.

7.  Lastly, never let a running, traumatized wet puppy get near a stationary dry parakeet.

Bonus Rule:  Love your pets, from the beginnings of their beaks through the middle of their fins to the ends of their tales.
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Copyright 2007 B. Elwin Sherman.  All rights reserved.
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