A clean dog is not a happy dog

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

There’s no such thing as completing a task on Fowler Farm. One thing always leads to another. For example, consider the responsibilities attached to owning dogs. A person may think it’s a simple thing, but I assure you, it is not.

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

We have four outside dogs and a fenced-in backyard. You would think all four would live happily there, as there is a deck upon which they sun, ample housing, lots of shade and a plentiful supply of water and food.

But, sadly, that is not the case. Due to gender issues which are too complex to explain lucidly, two live in the backyard and two on the front porch, more or less.

The two in the backyard, Kewpie and Diablo, are only outside the fence if we are home. Then they can play with the others. But if we aren’t home and there’s no supervision, they are confined inside the fence. They have absolutely no road sense, and there are also some top-dog issues between our one unneutered male and our two neutered ones.

The porch dogs, Red Dog, our boxer mix, and Sebastian, one of the rat terriers, sleep on the porch in their insulated dog house in winter. They have a heat lamp for cold nights and curl into old horse blankets for a cozy night’s rest.

The backyard dogs also have an insulated dog house with a heat lamp for winter and cedar shavings for additional warmth.

This is fine for winter.

But when the weather warms up, Red Dog and Sebastian must have other arrangements. So at that time, they relocate to the end of the porch near the swing. Red Dog has an old swing cushion, and Sebastian has a wicker cat basket with a retired chair cushion. They each recline happily on their respective cushions.

In the backyard, Kewpie and Diablo enjoy the deck on warm nights and are content there.

Each spring, Red Dog and Sebastian decide when to relocate from dog house to porch cushions.

Once that decision is made, it is time to remove the horse blankets from the doghouse and wash them. This is easier said than done. So far, we’ve found the best procedure for this is to shake the blankets thoroughly outside, removing as much dirt and debris as possible.

Then, the horse blankets are hung on the fence and blasted with cold water.

Next, the big plastic tub is brought from the tractor shed and filled about halfway up with warm water. One horse blanket is immersed, I remove my shoes and roll up my britches legs, then get into the tub and stamp the blanket with my feet. It’s just like crushing grapes for wine. Or at least a lot like it. The water turns black pretty quickly. The blanket is flipped, and the process is repeated.

Then, the water is drained and the blanket is hung back on the fence and rinsed with the hose until the water runs clear. The blanket is too heavy to wring out, so we leave it on the fence to dry.

You may assume this completes the process, but it does not. Red Dog likes the horse blanket folded on top of his cushion by the swing.

But that won’t happen until he gets a thorough bath, because it’s a well known fact that you can’t put a dirty dog onto a clean horse blanket. The bath must take place on a warm day, because he has to be washed outside in the big plastic tub, towel dried and then put into the backyard to finish drying in the grass, otherwise he will roll in the dirtiest thing he can find, and all the work will be wasted.

And when he has his bath, the others must be washed too in order to preserve some degree of cleanliness on the porch.

It takes half a day to get this done, the end of which leaves the people involved soaked from head to toe with all clothing stained and covered with dog hair. Not everyone cooperates. Diablo, who is a little neurotic, thinks a bath is an attempt on his life and resists with all his strength, which is considerable for such a small dog.

And this project also involves a load for the washing machine and a shower for the people.

It’s good to know this going in so there are no false expectations. Although not all the dogs enjoy the procedure, I can feel good about the end results. And this sense of satisfaction will last for an hour or so, until our squeaky-clean dogs succeed in locating something smelly or dirty to roll in. Oh well. I feel we’ve done our part. The rest is up to them.