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 How To Dry a Bouvier

by Kate Gilpin, Words into Print
2004

Steinway does not wish to be bathed. In fact, he is a study in passive aggression when it comes to the bath. He walks slowly into the bathroom by my side, trying to lag, and when we get to the tub there is a lot of wheedling and threatening from me. He finally gets in, daintily lifting his great hairy forepaws over the edge of the tub, hesitating before he swings, first one hind leg, then the other over the edge so he is in.

But I've reported on the bathing process before. This is about the drying process, which is also interesting. Clean, soaking wet, and wretched, Steinway catapults from the tub like a G.I. leaping off a landing boat onto Omaha Beach on VE Day. In a headlong rush, he deposits sheets of water all over the floor. I am braced. I have a large towel on the floor, another in my hands, and a third and fourth sitting on the toilet seat waiting their turns. I wrap the towel in my hands around his head, which is now more or less buried in my crotch. I am vigorously rubbing his head through the towel. He likes this. I can tell, because a lot of only moderately muffled snorting sounds are coming from inside the towel. He's moving his head around because he just loves getting his head dried. Snort, snort.

Then I tell him to stand. But although he is usually very responsive to commands, he's hysterical now, and just bounces back and forth in the bathroom, happy beyond imagining to be out of the hated bath. I yell, "Stand!" again a few times, and finally he does. You understand, I am also dripping wet, and without a stitch, besides. It is an improbable scene. Anyway, I towel down his back and sides. I throw away the first towel and grab the next one, starting to work on his legs. There is a lot of confusion here, because he can hardly stand still, he's so thrilled to be standing on linoleum instead of on porcelain with streams of water being inflicted on him. Finally, after several minutes of aerobic towel work, I open the door and let him run around the house for a few minutes. I can hear him rubbing his face on the rug in the bedroom.

Meanwhile, I'm getting out the canister-vacuum-sized dog blow-dryer. I round Steinway up again, close the bathroom door, and blow dry him for several minutes. He doesn't like this--it's high pressure and noisy, besides--but he puts up with it. He's more used to it than he was years ago. When he was a puppy, and the groomer used this kind of machine on him the poor guy used to howl unashamedly. He doesn't do that anymore. Blow-drying him fluffs up his fur, so that by the time I'm through he looks like the biggest, most preposterous plush doggie you've ever seen in your whole life.

The icing on the cake is, I put the big blow-dryer away, get out my own hair dryer, and offer to dry his beard for him. For reasons I've never understood, he loves this. He'll come running from three rooms away at the sound of my hair dryer. I sit on the edge of the tub, and hold the hair dryer. He comes trotting over and sticks his chin out so I can blow dry his throat. His beard fans out like eagles' wings on either side of his jaws while I do this. He's in heaven. This lasts for a few more minutes and then we're done. He's ready for his closeup.

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