I decided in between work obligations and driving to Alexandria this evening to come home and give Cecilia a bath. J and I, after observing several nights of her cleaning herself obsessively, to the point where we had to yell at her to Stop, Please stop, That's disgusting and you are driving us beserk, decided to take a look at her skin and noticed some red bumpy patches as well as - goddamnit - a flea. When J and I see a flea, we don't think rationally. We don't think about flea medications or shampoos. We think - How bad can this get? Will we have to vacate the premises and let loose a barrage of harsh chemicals? Burn down the house? Sometimes J gets more upset and I have to calm him down, and then we switch roles.
I've found, in fact, that ridding the dogs of fleas, or, more specifically, a flea, is actually no harder than putting the dogs back on the preventative Frontline, which I forget to give them most of the time, until I spot a flea. Buying Frontline is essentially the same as paying rent on another house, but it works, and I love to make veterinarians smile by paying inordinate fees for things to make my dogs happier. Like nail clippings and shots.
Before applying the miracle drug however, I wanted to give the dogs, who both needed it, a bath. Unfortunately the May weather is still on the cool side down here. I'm not complaining - we've had gorgeous, humidity-free days, which is rare for this late in the season, but it meant that rather than torture Cecilia with frigid hose water, I'd have to get her in the bathtub.
She got pretty excited when I got the leash down from its hook, but when I tied it to the faucet and told her sweetly to "Come here," she got the picture and skidded under the coffee table where she placed her hard head on her paws with a resolute expression I translated as something like, "Please, for the love of God, I hope she can't see me under here."
I got it done as I always do, of course, hoisting her back end over her front until she tumbled with a horrendous thud into the tub and I proceeded to pour buckets full of lukewarm water gently over her body and head, telling her what a good girl she was and singing some songs I made up on the spot. She continued to look sullen and desperate, as though she were receiving some great punishment, which bothers me, because I'd give anything for someone to douse me with warm-ish water, rub me down with nice-smelling shampoo while singing me a song about how I was the best thing ever.
I let her get herself, clumsily, out of the bathtub, and proceeded to wash Mina (pick up, hold steady, pour water, scrub down, pour water, pick up) quickly, then let them both out in the back yard to dry off in the sun. And rub themselves in the dirt.
I love watching dogs after they get baths. They always seem to find some untapped reserve of energy for such an occasion and act like idiots, running in circles, so extremely joyful to be free from the torture of being properly cleaned. Today as I watched them I saw that same joy, and I also noticed, for some reason, how they looked without their collars on. Especially Cecilia. Stripey, and big and muddled colors, looking at me with her mouth open and ears perked up, I couldn't help but notice how much she looked like so many of the dogs I'd known while working at the animal shelter. Without her prepster sailboat collar, she could have been any of those dogs. Her face and coloring matched hundreds of others, many of whom never made it out. I took Cecilia home when a foster dog I'd had for a few days starting fighting with Mina. Teary-eyed, I took the foster back to the shelter on a unbearably grey day during one of our infamous ice storms. I felt like I was taking her to her death, having not found a home for her, and thought the least I could do was take someone else. Cecilia's brother had been adopted just a few days before, and she sat in the back of her kennel wagging her tail timidly and bit me playfully all over my arms when I reached in to say hi. I took her home because I felt bad about all the dogs who never find homes. I remember distinctly J's reaction when he came over to see my new foster puppy, like, Oh, I see. That kind of dog. A week later I was lying to people who called in response to the "Adopt Cecilia" posters I'd placed around town, telling them she'd already been taken, and then I stopped lying and just admitted I wanted to keep her.
I'm not very keen on yelling at people about adopting dogs from shelters, telling people how many animals are homeless, and how many die because there just aren't enough homes for them all (unless drinking at times). I just think they should be loved. Of course they should - I'm not sharing any deep knowledge, it just struck me today, looking at my collarless dogs, how randomly they came into my life and how I'm so happy that they did but every once in a while I am totally overwhelmed by how many more need that same chance.