Sticky Dog: A Cautionary Tale
What is that? I asked Annie as she rolled over on her back, revealing globs of sticky black stuff all over her yellow fur. Of course she didn't answer; she just wagged her tail, seeking a long-delayed belly rub.
I don't know how she did it, but while I was gone for a day, she managed to cover herself with pine sap, also called pitch. It had hardened to the point that it wasn't coming off easily. If she were a collie, I suppose I could just cut off the glued-up fur, but Annie's lab-pit fur is short and especially thin on her belly, so we're talking pitch on skin in some places.
I started seeking expert advice, only to find that people have lots of crazy ideas. A groomer recommended nail polish remover. Won't that hurt her? Nah, it evaporates, she said. Okay. The fumes made us both dizzy before I could apply it.
Another groomer suggested mechanics' soap. Folks online offered paint remover, WD-40, GooGone, and something called Di-Solv-it, that's supposed to be 100 percent organic. But hey, this is a dog, not a Chevy. If the directions tell you not to get it on your skin or to call 911 if you ingest it, it's not good for you and it's definitely not good for your dog. Dogs will lick anything they can reach. Ingesting the solvents that make up many cleaning products will make them very sick--if it doesn't kill them.
A friend suggested peanut butter. If it got bubble gum out of her kids' hair, it should work on the dog. Well, not so much. It turns out I'm not the only one at my house who doesn't like peanut butter. Plus I only had the chunky kind in the house. The peanut butter just made a mess.
I looked into grooming supplies. Surely there's a potion for destickying a dog. But, unlike my dog, who rolls in it first and asks what it is later, I guess show dogs don't go rolling around the wood pile. I found no such product, just an array of shampoos and potions to make them smell like roses, strawberries, vanilla, like anything but a dog. Gee, they should have something that takes sticky stuff off, said the young worker at Petco, who suggested an oatmeal-baking soda shampoo.
Back to the books. Literally. I got out my Hound Health medical manual and vowed to do whatever it said. Their recommendation: salad oil. In fact, any kind of cooking oil, mayonnaise, butter, anything greasy from the kitchen will probably work. Baby oil will work, too. Our vet echoed the advice. The oil will break down the sap so you can remove it easily. Then you can shampoo the dog, something I have never actually done on my own, but sounded like a good plan.
I tried olive oil first. Annie tried to lick it out of the bottle, but it didn't work very well. I poured canola oil into a plastic container. This time, I put it up on a cabinet so that Annie couldn't drink it. I got a little oil on a towel. I put it on her fur. So far so good. The pitch was starting to come off. When I reached up for another dose, I didn't reach quite high enough. I spilled oil all over the dog, all over my pants, all over the carpet.
A little voice had been telling me all along to change my clothes and cover the carpet, but I didn't. Now it was all over me and all over the dog. I rubbed it into her fur. She looked like a blonde 1950s greaser. I start to dab at the carpet with a towel, but Annie was licking the oil spill faster than I could dab it up. She was so busy licking that I was able to reach under her belly and pull some clumps of pitch off her fur. The oil worked. Of course she noticed what I was doing and moved away, but it was a good start.
She licked the oil-spotted section of carpet so well that it became cleaner than the rest of the carpet. It said in the book to shampoo the dog afterward. I looked in the cupboard where I thought I had dog shampoo, but I didn't, plus I still had more pitch to pull off. I wrapped her in a big old towel and rubbed.
So now I had a greasy dog. I wished for a big old rainstorm, but for once, it was not raining. Darkness descended. Annie was still licking the carpet. This would not be a quick process. She still had a glob of pitch on her paw, some on her belly, and one on her neck, but she didn't want to play this game anymore.
The next day while I was petting her, a big patch of pitch came off her belly, taking her fur along with it. Oops. She looked at me with an expression that said, "Idiot."
The big pieces are gone now. One of these days, I'll sneak up on Annie with the scissors and be done with it. It has only taken three weeks so far.
Bottom line, the best thing is to keep dogs out of sticky stuff in the first place. Good luck with that. If they do get sticky, you (or your groomer) have three choices: cut it out, shave it off, or soften it into removable chunks with some kind of dog-friendly oil and comb it out. Then rub the grease out with dish soap or shampoo. And if somebody tells you to WD-40 the dog, laugh, and never leave your dog at their house.
I wish I had good news, but I don't. Fred had a terrible January, with three trips to the hospital and much misery in-between. His troubles revolve around his prostate and bladder, both dangerously enlarged. In an otherwise healthy man, he probably would have had surgery and be on the mend by now, but instead, he is still suffering. His cognitive and emotional health have declined tremendously. Partly because of the stress, partly just because, I have been sick myself much of the month with a cold/flu/sinus infection that is taking a long time to ease up.
At least the month ended with some sunshine after a wild wintry January. The bulbs are sprouting, a sure sign that spring is coming.
P.S. Annie is fine, except for the stickiness. Every time I get her clean, she gets some more gunk on her fur. It's pretty hard to eradicate tree sap when you live in the forest.
In between crises, I had a
wonderful time being queen
of Twelfth Night at the
Cramer abode in Newport.
As per my edict, we
feasted, performed songs,
skits and dog tricks for
each other, and dressed to
the nines. Fruity martini
mixes and a chocolate
fountain added to the gaiety
of the evening. David
Cramer found the magic
trinket in his slice of cake,
so he now wears the crown,
but I will continue to enjoy
my status as queen
emeritus, the one who sang
the "Jeremiah was a bullfrog"
version of "Joy to the World."
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos, Grove/Atlantic, 2004. This is a crazy, wonderful book, poetic, layered and loving. The plot wraps around Margaret, who has a brain tumor and has been living alone in a mansion full of antiques since her father died. She rents a room to Wanda, a stage manager whose parents both left when she was little. Wanda is always looking for them and also for Peter, the guy who dumped her. The story that unrolls is just beautiful. Highly recommended. Crafting the Personal Essay by Dinty Moore, Writer's Digest Books, 2010. I don't usually carry craft books around like novels, racing from page to page and finally reading the appendices and acknowledgements like somebody scraping their plate after the last morsel of cake is gone, but I did it here. This is a great book for writers of creative nonfiction. Moore, editor of Brevity.com, professor of nonfiction, and author of several books, lays out a mind-pleasing plan to find ideas and write them into essays that will make the readers think, laugh, cry and explore. He describes the various types of essays and offers examples, including several complete essays with commentary. He talks about revision, writer's block and rejection, and he offers wonderful resource lists. I wish he had given a bit more on finding markets, but overall, I love this book, and it's going on the shelf above my computer, where I only put books I intend to look at again and again. Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or By Chance by Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D. Greenleaf Book Group, 2011. To me, this book seems to lean heavily toward the "childfree by choice" camp, but Walker has done a thorough research job on many of the aspects of life as a person who does not have children. As a narrative, it's a little dull, mostly a string of interviews and information, and it veers into psychologist-speak, but it is interesting. She does well with such topics as deciding whether or not to have children, childfree personalities and the financial state of childfree adults compared to that of parents. She has some good advice on getting over any grief one might feel about not having kids and offers numerous resources. She continues the discussion at her website, www.completewithoutkids.com. Matters of the Heart by Danielle Steel, Dell, 2009. Hope Dunne is a successful photographer sought after by famous people for their portraits, by big-name magazines for stories, by the top galleries for shows. We learn that she has suffered tragedies in the near past, but she is flourishing now. Then she meets author Finn O'Neill, who is charming and seems like the perfect mate. Their romance moves quickly into talk of marriage and children, but something is not quite right. The more she learns, the more Hope knows that Finn is not to be trusted, but she loves him. And so it proceeds. As an editor, I shudder at many of the things Steel does, the messy punctuation, the clichés, the info dumps, the dangling participles, and yet, by page 50, I no longer cared. I had to read all 368 pages, barely stopping to eat, sleep or work, because I had to know what was going to happen. It's not great literature, but it is a fun read.
Thanks to the magic of computers, you can't catch my germs, even though I'm coughing as I type this. It's February. Watch out for groundhogs. Happy birthday to Jessie and whoever else is celebrating a birthday this month. Happy 26th anniversary to Mike and Sharon.
Remember, above the clouds, the sun is shining, and the sky is blue.
All contents copyright 2011, Sue Fagalde Lick
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