My dog, Emmy, is terrified of water. If you turn on the hose, she heads straight for the back door. When you fill her water dish, she leaves the vicinity. She once held her bladder for three days rather than venture out into the rain. I had to don a slicker and galoshes and drag her around the block for twenty minutes before she’d take a bio-break.
My husband insists this fear of water can be traced back to the first bath I gave her, when she was seven weeks old.
Emmy spent her first days in a garage, along with her mom and siblings, and the first thing I noticed when we got her home was that she stank. Mother dogs are supposed to be fanatical about keeping their kennel clean, but Emmy’s mom must have been one of those bitches who gets hooked on Animal Planet and just lets the housekeeping go to the dogs.
Anyway, we got this adorable little black and white ball of fur home, and, as Richard Pryor would say, it wasn’t just odor, it was o-dear. So the next morning, bright and early, I carried her out into the back yard with some doggy shampoo and a pile of fluffy towels and proceeded to give her a bath.
Next door I was surprised to see our neighbor wander over to the fence to watch. Willy was the Boo Radley of our neighborhood. He had serious health problems stemming from his service in Vietnam, and he rarely came out of doors.
The first part of the bath went reasonably well. I got Emmy all lathered up and she looked even cuter with soapsuds piled on her head and dripping from her little black ears. It was when I went to rinse her off that the trouble started. As soon as I turned on the hose, she made a break for it, streaking across the yard, yelping at the top of her lungs and flinging suds everywhere.
I ran after her, hose in hand, begging her to stop, but every time I got my hands her, she’d shoot through my fingers like a bar of wet soap.
It was about this time that I heard a strange wheezing noise. I looked over and it was Willy, his face alarmingly red, laughing so hard he was doubled over the fence.
Meanwhile, Emmy continued to hightail it around the yard, squealing like a piglet bound for slaughter. All up and down the street, doors began to open as people came out to see who was torturing a poor, helpless animal.
I finally managed to grab the scruff of her neck and held her under the hose, yelping and struggling, until she was soap-free. After I toweled her off, I collapsed into a lawn chair to catch my breath.
Over at the fence, Willy was catching his, too. Wiping tears from his eyes, he said, “I haven’t laughed this hard in years.”
After that, we saw a lot of Willy. He’d come to the fence to give Emmy treats and stay to chat about what was going on in the neighborhood. And to this day, when we go back to visit, he likes to reminisce about the day I gave Emmy her first bath.
As for Emmy, she likes him, too.
As long as he’s not watering the lawn.