This week’s ‘Stare of the Dog’ is a tale of cleanliness and preening, as I attempt to describe in detail Dudley’s casual irreverence towards what most of us would describe as our cleaning and grooming regime. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t a dirty dog. His coat sparkles and shines with the glossy lustre of a ‘Max Factor’ model. But this boast on my part can only be attributed to the regular wash he gets in the river or his daily portion of ‘Wagg’ food. He himself plays no deliberate part in the process.
For starters, despite being obsessed with water, he hates being hosed down at the end of a walk. It seems I must take some blame for this, as I was a little over zealous with the implement during one particularly testing bout of ‘socialisation and familiarity training.’ Not content with waving him about next to backfiring motorbikes and refuse collectors, my use of the hose in his general direction was obviously just too much for the little mite to take and has now manifested itself into a problem of my very own making.
As a result of my clumsiness in this matter, the cleaning down of Dudley at the end of each soggy stroll is for me, a thing of frustration whilst, for my neighbours, I suspect a spectacle of pure unbridled joy the likes of which they could probably sell tickets for. Act 1 usually opens with Dudley trapped in the corner of our yard like a boxer on the ropes and me training the hose on the muddy brute like Steve McQueen in Towering Inferno. The watery deluge that follows normally ushers in Act 2, the sending of Dudley into bum-tucking hyper-activity mode, a mode that typically sees him spend five minutes or more careering about the place like a parried bluebottle. Abandoning my faux authoritative position behind the hose, I join him in a spot of dancing of my own up and down the driveway, straining every sinew in order to try and catch him a glancing blow with a brush or sponge as he passes on lap seven of his backyard marathon.
Act 3 tends to see the pair of us cease our shamen-like performance. Instead, I tend to grab a dry towel and change tack. With the reeling in of the hose and the appearance of said towel, Dudley is a dog transformed. Gone are the schisms of nervous energy, replaced instead by a childlike determination to play and act up. Wrapping him in a bundle like ET works for a while, but has a definite shelf-life, as you might expect when trying to entomb a 35kilo wriggling lump. I take the whole process in stages, doing a bit before retreating to the sanctity of the kitchen to gird my loins further ahead of the next round, as you might with a troublesome crossword. At the end of the process, what’s usually left is a semi-dry dog, a filthy towel and paw marks upon most surfaces, including myself. Drying his head is completely off limits too, like cleaning a crocodile’s teeth.
Then there’s the grooming element, the brushing of his coat. It is not that Dudley doesn’t enjoy the experience, rather that he misses the serious nature of the job at hand and instead treats it as one big game. Admittedly, when I last had hair enough to comb, ‘Internet’ was a place people from Yorkshire went to retrieve a football, but I still remember the running of a brush through my locks as being very much a practical matter only and not one that involved play or fun. Not so for Dudley, and because he sees the event in such playful terms, I approach it rather like a sheep sheering competition you might see on TV, the kind where Bruce from Australia can trim 100 ewes an hour. Rushing at him with brush in hand, I drag it frenetically through his coat, pulling this way and that, tickled and itchy from the plumes of hair emitted. Each swift bout ends like the last, with him breaking out into yet another manic charge about the place, trailing loose hair in all directions like tumbleweed blowing through an abandoned Hollywood film set.
There is one alternative to this madness. For a fee, Dudley could be taken into town and dealt with by the professionals at the ‘Pet Parlour.’ Get him booked in for a cut and blow dry. I dare say they’d even do his nails whilst I wait. Of course, there is no way I am lavishing such an expense on him, I don’t even pay to get my own hair trimmed any more. But a one off might be worth it just to see the look on the attendant’s face as he breaks loose and darts around the shop. Or even the disdainful glares shot at our hapless hound by the other more salon savvy customers, with their pink bows and diamante collars.
On second thoughts, perhaps I could stretch to just a little pampering session. What harm could it do?