“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day 90: Squeamish No More, or Dog Bath at My Sister's Wedding

Not long after we took Zoe home from the pound I heard a story about an acquaintance of ours, very reserved and proper, the kind of person who wears beautiful jewelery just to walk the dog.  She was worried that her dog might have a urinary tract infection so she was told by her vet to bring in a urine sample.  There she was, in her nice jeans and lovely silver and turquoise necklace, chasing the dog around the yard with a bowl to slip under her when she peed.  This woman was one of the last people I could imagine in this scenario, and I felt a kind of tenderness for her afterward.

I think it's fair to say that if you are one of those people who is a little squeamish about bodily functions, you probably shouldn't get a dog.

You probably shouldn't get a cat either.  In his failing years, our cat Arnold gave up on the litter box and even years after he had passed away we would still find his "mark" on some of the throw pillows on the couch.  This was not very convenient when company was coming over--or they were already there.

And while we're at it, you probably shouldn't have babies.  My friend with twins told me the other day that one of her girls went into the closet and pooped in one of her shoes.  She was just having a little fun, I guess.

One of the things I've always loved about where I teach is that the weather is so intense in the winter--well, it was, before climate change took hold--that it is pretty near impossible to hold forth in an arrogant fashion up here.  Not when you're wearing big, fleece-lined muck-lucks and one of those lined hats with flaps.

And since Zoe came into my life and a lot of students have come to know her (some only visit me in my office when they know she will be there; they call ahead) I have another way to keep my intellectual side from taking over.  During the semester, students join me on my dog walk at least once a week.  As we talk about their work, their writing, and what they're reading, at some point they'll have to wait for me to scoop Zoe's poop before I can finish a sentence.  Then we go back to the conversation.

When my sister got married, Zoe had a terrible case of the runs.  She has a tendency to get diarrhea when she's stressed (which is why I was so worried about her new course of cancer drugs, since diarrhea is one of the main side effects) and she's also a shy dog, so being at an outdoor wedding reception with a couple hundred people dancing and clapping--even though it was at Mira and Doug's home, which is her home away from home--was a challenge for her.  To make things worse, she had just broken a toe the day before on one of her mad zooms around the yard with Sadie, my sister's dog whom we think of as Zoe's saucy cousin.  The pain was stressing her too.

My sister's memoir, The Memory Palace, was about to come out, and her literary agent was at the wedding.  She is an old friend of ours and Mira and I just adore her.  She is also stunningly beautiful.  She and I were just about to sit down together on a couch in the barn to listen to the band and I happened to get a look at Zoe as she came running over to say hello to us.  Zoe was just about to do her version of a hug, what I call "the lean-in," which takes multiple forms, but in this case it was the dog-rump-against-human-leg lean-in: against this lovely woman who was dressed in her summer wedding best.  It's a good thing I was paying attention: Zoe's whole rear end was covered with moist feces.

I said, "I'll be right back.  I think I need to get Zoe her dinner," and I escorted Zoe out of the barn and onto the lawn.  A few minutes later, I was back outside with a bucket and soap, washing my sweet dog's ass.

I'm so used to this sort of thing by now that I didn't think it was necessary to clean her up away from the masses.  Hey, the band was playing.  My sister's talented musician husband, Doug Plavin, had performed a song for Mira a while earlier, and I didn't want to risk missing anything.

So Zoe and I just plonked ourselves down in full view of everyone near the entrance to the barn, and I lifted her tail and scrubbed her down.

Later, my sister came up to me, laughing hysterically.  "I'm afraid some people misinterpreted what you were doing with that bucket," she said.  "The word's getting around that you've had a little too much to drink."

There was nothing to do about it but laugh.  Zoe enjoyed the sight of the two of us having a hearty guffaw, and she would have been content if her toe wasn't broken and her insides weren't in a tumble.

Mira Bartok and Zoe
So I just continued what I was doing with that bucket.  I finished  shampooing Zoe's butt, and then brushed her down.  We sat out on the lawn like this for a long time before we went back into the barn to join the others.  That's just the way it goes when you have a dog.


  1. I'm going to look for a picture of this from our wedding album! Hopefully we have one for public consumption!
    xoxo m

  2. I confess to picking poop off my little guy's butt while bathing him...you're right, we love 'em and do what it takes ♥

  3. Ha! I love this. You just have to do it. It's what we would want if we were dogs, right?