Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Importance of a Wardrobe and Good Hair and Nails

Lesson Number 7: Everyone Deserves To Be Fussed Over Now and Then, or...How To Raise a Princess Dog, part three

(BLOGNOTE: This one is a little fragmented...excuse the rough transitions; I am posting this as I last left it!)

Every princess values the way she looks, and always enjoys those special times when emphasis is placed upon her appearance. Or so I’ve heard. Frankly, we never would have wanted nor been able to afford the kind of dog which needed a regular grooming appointment with a professional. The biggest part of grooming Bijoux was trying to keep her nails clipped to a manageable length. Bathing her came in second, as nobody in the house likes a stinky dog. Further down on the list was brushing her, which is something I enjoyed doing when she was a puppy—not because it was something she needed—because it was quality time. Her coat was short and smooth by nature, and when our household life got filled with too many activities to handle in the time we had each day, I stopped brushing her. Bijoux hardly saw or felt her brush for years, getting treated to a stroking by brush only rarely.

One day, Julie asked if we had a brush for Bijoux. I told her where to find it, and she took Bijoux outside on the front porch. Bijoux sat down near Julie’s legs and reveled in the feel-good time as Julie brushed her. This became a tradition for them, and Princess Bijoux finally had a coat worthy of her status.

One of the important lessons one learns in raising a puppy is the attraction that said puppy has to any article of clothing belonging to its master. In many ways, it’s one of the methods a dog uses to indulge or pamper herself. Bijoux was no different. When we brought her home and said goodnight to her, we tucked her in with a blanket and one of our t-shirts. Part of the reason that socks were among her favorite toys to play with, I believe, was because we had worn them. It was no surprise, then, that we often found Bijoux nesting in our clean, freshly dried laundry. In fact, she made regular appearances (sometimes with muddy paws) not only on any huge pile of clean clothing that was waiting to be folded on the couch, but even in laundry baskets full of clean, folded clothing. I can’t count the number of times she actually dumped laundry baskets full of clean, folded clothing over, while trying to get in!

I also have a picture of Bijoux, cozy as could be, relaxing in my underwear and pajama drawer, which happened to be on the floor at the time because I had just sifted through it and refolded everything.

When she became sick, I tried to give her some comfort by leaving my robe on the couch so she could snuggle up in it while we were all gone for the day. I often returned home to find her entire body underneath the robe, with just her little face sticking out.

Bijoux went through a stage—or, rather, I went through a stage—where she enjoyed wearing different types of bandanas around her neck. I always thought it was hilarious to see dogs “dressed”, although I thought that the financial commitment that would be required to keep her in sweaters and such was not reasonable at all. I spent a couple of dollars on a pink bandana in the “Western Cowboy” style—with the paisley design and all—as well as a holiday bandana that was made specifically for dogs. Bijoux wore these bandanas daily, and they were quite the conversation pieces. After a while I “grew out of” my stage, and Bijoux went back to wearing her collar by itself. It wasn’t until about seven years later when Minnie stayed with us for a week that she again “got dressed”: I cut two funky pink and orange bandanas from some scrap I had in the closet, and the girls were twins during their visit.

Bijoux gave “neurotic” a whole new world of meaning in many different ways, but one of the funniest was her nail-biting tendency. I don’t remember her doing this for the first few years, however at some point in the middle of her life she was laying next to me on the couch and I heard a soft grinding noise. I looked down at her and noticed that she appeared to be chewing on her paw. I leaned in closer and took her paw in my hand to check it out. Her paw was disgustingly wet and slimy. I noticed that a couple of her nails were jagged, and then realized what she had been doing.

The next time we made a trip to the vet, I asked the doctor questions about her nail biting. I was told that I didn’t have anything to worry about, so I didn’t. Bijoux continued this habit for the rest of her life. It didn’t seem to be a nervous habit; for example, I didn’t notice her chewing on her nails on a car ride to the vet or upon being left home alone for the day. She seemed to bite her nails for two reasons: the first was to intentionally shorten them if it had been a while since I had her nails trimmed. The second reason for her habit appeared to me to be a way to fill time. It was not at all unusual for us to be sitting on the couch together (just as we were the first time I noticed the nail biting) as she gnawed away at her nails absent-mindedly, her eyes glazed over, in a sort of glorious ignorance of everyone and everything around her.

Click here for part 4!