I am sitting in the sun in a ragged piece of lawn furniture. The brick red paint is chipping off the soft wood and the pillow which kindly softens the slatted backrest and woven seat has lost gobs of its stuffing. I don’t care. The rays from the sun are warming the top of my head and a slight breeze is tickling my nose with some of my own hair.
Around me the grass is deepening to green again. Almost all the brown which was so prevalent only last month has been excommunicated. Pink tulips with white edging burst from a corner of the backyard. Daffodils permeate my sidewalk boxes. Dandelions sprinkle the lawn.
Cleo, our small Siamese, rolls over and over in the dirt and leftover fall leaves, crushing the tender greens from an unknown bulb. She rises, her eyes still crossed in ecstasy, and settles in a sunbeam.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Smells reach my nose; freshly turned dirt, sweet grass cuttings, and a hint of rain.
Spring is here.
I look across the lawn and spot Mookie, the poodle we babysit. She’s still all fuzzed out from the winter. Her curly brown hair fluffs out in an all over poodle afro. She sits in her own patch of sun, mouth slightly open to release the heat.
It’s time for Mookie’s spring makeover.
The first step in this process is convincing Mookie’s mom that it’s not too early to cut the dog’s hair. She hates change in any shape or form, so this is not an easy task. We only win by noting the escalating temperature repeatedly and citing doggy health tips which pertain to grooming.
Finally, she gives in with great reluctance after we threaten to take Mookie to the groomer’s during the day when she has no control. As Mookie’s mom has a mysterious but adamant fear of professional groomers, this tactic usually works.
Second is scheduling. This process is decided through long discussions which go much like this:
Us: “So, when is good for you?”
Mookie’s Mom: “Well, we need a whole afternoon.”
Us: “So, when is good for you?”
Mookie’s Mom: “Well, it should be a sunny and warm day.”
Us: “So, when is good for you?”
Mookie’s Mom: “Well, when is good for you?.”
It’s worse than trying to get a group of lesbians to decide on a restaurant. (Lesbian Law #12: Every decision must involve everyone who will be affected by that decision. The best way to structure the discussion is to sit down as a group and get everyone’s opinion. This decision making process should be used in every situation, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the subject matter.)
Finally, a date is set with complete understanding for things like sudden romances and sunny day disease as long as a phone call is in the offing. One slip up on Mookie’s mom’s part and the groomer (one Stephanie, also known as my sweet honey bunny) must be bribed with sushi dinners and breakfasts at the Mercury Cafe, a bohemian bistro with great atmosphere and even better food.
Finally, the gathering occurs. A large bath towel is taped to our dining room table. Mookie’s mom brings over the dog and assorted implements of grooming. Scissors are tested for sharpness. Combs & brushes are laid out, cleaned and at the ready. The clippers are plugged in and oiled. A lint brush is laid to the side for final cleanup of the towel.
It is time.
Get the poodle.
Two large, intelligent, powerful women set out in search of the dog who knows what is about to happen. Unfortunately for the poodle, the humans know her hiding places. They quickly find her and carry her small struggling body to the table. It takes both of them to get her settled.
Now we begin. Mookie has three different emotional stages during the grooming ritual.
1. Denial (1 hour):
Mookie’s denial stage is pretty calm. She tries to look cute and just ignore the fact that her mom is collaborating with her second most favorite person in the world to shave her entire body. Eventually, she begins to feel cooler and must acknowledge that the strange whirring noise is connected to the clumps of fur which are dropping onto the table. The stage is ending when Mookie begins to try to appease the humans. She licks their hands while they are clipping her. A naive person might say, “Oh how sweet. She loves us.”
We know this means, “Oh, please stop! What did I ever do to deserve this?” This pathetic little lick is accompanied with little poodle trembles as the chill of the air sets in against her newly clipped hairs.
The humans have been at it for awhile. They’re tired. I get them iced tea while they let the poodle run. She looks like a miniature deranged lion charging through the house to her favorite hiding place. All the other pets block her path by gathering and commenting on her horrible haircut. The humans return and quickly make the capture.
2. Anger (until she gets smacked):
Having been released once, the poodle is reluctant to begin again. She immediately begins the licking tactic. As this is basically useless, the struggling begins. Yipping barks which don’t quite exceed the hearing of humans pierce the air. The valiant amateur groomers struggle with a poodle which weighs approximately one zillionth of their combined body weight. When they finally immobilize her and start clipping once again, she snaps at them, yipping and flinching when the clippers come too near her fur. The snapping causes a curious change in Mookie’s mom who grabs Mookie by the scruff of the neck and gives her a short tug Mookie realizes she is trapped.
3. Acceptance (20 minutes):
The final moments of the clip are spent in weakened acceptance of her fate. The human clip her face, trimming her mustache and finding just the right slope for her ears. She is finally done. Mookie is about one third her original size. Her sleek body is revealed and the few decorative touches acknowledged. The puffball on top of her head and her rounded ears frame her face well and you remember why they called them “poodle-do’s” in high school. She retains her schnauzer mustache and a small poof of fur at the end of her tail. She resembles a small deer as she gracefully bounds off the table to remove herself from the close vicinity of the humans. Her newfound agility is tested as her pawpads reach the floor and she no longer skids across the linoleum on her trek to the pet door.
The humans smile at each other in recognition of a job well done.
I refill their iced tea glasses and smile gently. After all, Lesbian Law #1 is Never underestimate the power of a Lesbian Housewyfe.
A gentle spring snow begins to fall outside the window.
In the mid-90’s, we watched our friend Paula’s dog during the day while she taught at the nearby university. Mookie was her darling, as were all of her dogs. When Paula passed away several years ago, we took in her dog, Ty. We went through this same journey with Ty a couple of times before deciding that a professional groomer was the way to go.
I don’t think Paula would mind.
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