Grooming Tips, Part 3: The Drying Game
(Our feature on dog grooming tips that began with Best Practices for You, Your Dog, and Your Fingers and continued in Grooming Tips, Part 2: Bathing your Dog – The New Waterboarding concludes with this column. Unless I forgot something.)
Witty Physics would have us believe that drying a dog is the same as wetting a dog, only backwards, if you follow the math.
Apparently, Physics has never dried a dog. Or owned one. Or been on a date since 1990. So thanks anyway, Physics. We’ll take it from here.
Evolutionarily speaking, fur has proved an excellent material for encasing a dog – more resilient than scales, better protection than thorns, and vastly superior to a flour tortilla for retaining both meat and cheese.
However, dog fur also is capable of holding an enormous amount of water. This trait was well suited to prehistoric canines, which were aquatic. Sleek, gilled, and paddle-footed, these 80-feet-long behemoths swam the world’s primordial oceans retrieving primitive tennis balls the size of The Bean.
Eventually, as the great oceans cooled, aquatic Canine developed beyond gill and paddle crawling onto land in a desperate effort to find and bite me.
However they were still soaking wet.
Today’s modern canine retains most of that water. Add to that the moisture absorbed during a bath and the average medium-sized, soft-coated dog can serve effectively as an oil rig fire suppression system. Thus, knowing the Three Methods of Drying – air drying, towel drying, and blow drying – is as important to the citizen dog owner as understanding the three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Santa Maria.
Also knowing your dog’s fears before selecting a drying technique can reduce his trauma and your arterial puncture wounds. Some dogs grow frightened if covered with towels. Others panic at loud noises like those of a hair dryer. And some, like our formerly alive terrier Oxford, are terrified of flies.
I don’t know why flies troubled this efficient, little killing machine. He routinely knocked off rabbits, chipmunks, even a squirrel or two with the detached psychopathy of a professional hit man. But flies? Flies were the buzzing souls of those he’d murdered. So he hired Brisby for protection.
OXFORD: “That Yakuza contract on the chipmunk under the stoop? Considered it completed.”
BRISBY: “Should I be hearing this, Boss?”
OXFORD: “I’m gonna take a nap. Nobody wakes me. Capisce?”
BRISBY: “What’s ‘capisce?’ Can I eat it?”
OXFORD: “Shaddup! Listen! Your hear that…that buzzing? Like a little voice crying, ‘You killed me! And several dozen of my brothers and sisters, probably. And also peed on my burrow. Now I shall punish you with a sort of high-pitched, mildly annoying whine somewhere in your general vicinity. Forever!’ Ahhhhh! What is that thing?”
BRISBY: “A capisce? Can I eat it?”
Then Oxford would run upstairs to our bed where flies couldn’t find him and hide there until the end of summer. We rarely tried to bathe and dry him before the first killing frost.
Having mastered our fears, let’s explore the pros and cons of each drying method. Mostly cons.
Air Drying: Thrifty, Natural, Useless
Were it not for vice squads, who among us wouldn’t choose to dry off after a shower by running around the backyard au naturel and rolling in smelly stuff au poop?
Sadly, only dogs can get away with that. Also my Uncle Reggie, twice.
The efficacy of air drying depends, in part, on your dog’s ability to shake off water. According to an animal drying study out of Georgia Tech, (“Home of the Fightin’ Wet Malamutes”) a dog can shake approximately 70 percent of the water from its fur in four seconds. And even more if they have a good sense of humor and you’re standing really close.
Due to his type of coat and generally nurturing behavior, Brisby is not an ideal candidate for the air drying method. Budleigh’s demeanor, however, makes him a poor candidate for any process short of One Hour Martinizing.
GIANT 1: “Good, Brisby! All done bath. Now give us a biiiig shake!”
BRISBY: “You’re sure? Everyone’s sought shelter? There are enough lifeboats? OK, here we go.”
GIANT 1: “Good shake, Brisby!”
GIANT 2: “That’s it? But he’s still wet, Dave. Maybe wetter.”
GIANT 1: “Well, he’s not done. No, we’re not done are we, Brisby? We’re gonna shake, shake shake, my good boy!”
BRISBY: “Do you know what you’re asking? People could die! You need to get to high ground. Wait! I feel another tremor. It’s the big one!”
GIANT 1: “Awww, he’s adorable!”
GIANT 2: “But he’s just soaking the rug, Dave. I’ll go grab towels.”
BRISBY: “Yes, go! Save yourselves!”
In the very broadest terms Budleigh is likewise nurturing, if by “nurturing” we mean “possessed by Lovecraftian dark forces,” and by “air dry” we mean “unleashed on the innocent townspeople.”
GIANT 1: “Good, Budleigh! All done bath. Now give us a biiiig shake!”
BUDLEIGH: “I’m freeeeeee! I’m free, I’m free, I’m free! Get out of my way!”
GIANT 2: “Oh shit! Grab him, Dave!”
GIANT 1: “Grab him how? His collar’s in his mouth. That was our deal.”
BUDLEIGH: “I’m on your bed! Look! I’m on your beeeeed! Now I’m running my face on the carpet. I’m a racecar. Vroooooooom!”
GIANT 2: “Dave, he’s going to ruin the throw pillows. He’s out of control.”
GIANT 1: “C’mere, Budleigh! Who wants a cookie?”
BUDLEIGH: “Your cookies won’t help you! Your priests won’t help you. This house in mine!”
BRISBY: “He’s Satan! Burn him! Save yourselves! And the cookies!”
Towel Drying: The Soggier Alternative
Towels have been successfully employed to dry pets, as well as for other functions, since their creation in the late nineteenth century. The brainchild of inventor Jacob “Textiles” Towelie, the cloths were introduced with great fanfare at the 1893 Columbian Exposition as “Doctor Amazo’s Liquid Drinking Absorbmechanical Automata.”
At first accessible only to the wealthy, towels became more commonplace due to advances in manufacturing. By the 1990s most American homes could boast at least one towel.
Prior to then, dogs remained quite moist.
But fortune favors the bold, and soon a plucky American populous turned their towel to their wet dogs until, by the summer of 2013, this nation was buried beneath a pile of damp, dirty rags.
New dog owners think towel drying is simply a matter of draping a cloth over the wet animal, briskly rubbing her flanks, prying the towel from her jaws, grabbing a second towel while clutching a hind leg, rolling her back onto her feet, rolling her back the other way, hoisting her off the first towel and onto the second, massaging your stinging back spasm caused by hoisting her, ignoring the ringing cell phone, avoiding licks, avoiding bites, and finally dumping her onto a third towel, all the while assuring her that she’s a “smart girl” although, probably, she isn’t.
Towel drying is, of course, much trickier than that, so prepare accordingly:
1. Before bathing your pet, stack designated “doggie towels” nearby
2. Also stack nearby every other towel you own
3. Call your neighbors and borrow all their towels. Stack nearby
4. Bathe dog
5. Call back neighbors who didn’t answer. They own dogs and are hoarding stacks.
6. Carefully lift dog from sink or tub, removing excess water by twisting animal comically like a cartoon pooch. Repeat.
7. Call back Steve, the neighbor who borrowed your pruning shears. He owes you a big ol’ stack of towels, son of a bitch!
8. Set dog on floor and stand back while he shakes vigorously. Why did this come as a surprise? Have you not been reading?
9. Check dog’s undercoat for hidden towel stacks.
10. Say, how late is Target open? They sell stacks and stacks of towels!
The floorboards now groaning under a mass of linens, your drenched pup helplessly pinned between towers of cloth, the air choked with cotton lint, it’s time to begin the water extraction process by selecting a favorite dog-cleaning towel. Usually these are the ones that belonged to your ex or were a holiday gift from the company that laid you off. The ideal towel is one that you don’t mind—and even prefer—covered in excrement.
Start by draping a thick, absorbent towel over the wet animal. It should be soft and absorbent enough to soak up surface water, yet large enough so that your dog appears dressed in traditional Bedouin wedding garb.
Briskly but gently dry face and ears while monitoring your pet’s stress level. Some dogs exhibit anxiety if their heads are completely covered by a towel, while others, like Brisby, stand quietly awaiting the Rapture.
Budleigh doesn’t fit into either of these groups, or might if we were able to get a towel around him. This has proved a challenge that requires Giants One and Two to work in tandem like efficient fisherfolk attempting to net a fast-swimming school of herring armed with pocketknives.
GIANT 1: “He’s gonna break left, so get your towel ready. I’ll try to trick him to go right.”
GIANT 2: “He knows all your tricks, Dave. He’s going left.”
GIANT 1: “No, this time I’ll stand here with my towel behind my back and make a sound like the can opener. He’ll come right to me.”
GIANT 2: “You haven’t thought this through.”
BUDLEIGH: “I’ll just be going now!”
GIANT 1: “Really, I saw this on Animal Planet. Only instead of a terrier it was an immense migration of wildebeest. And instead of a can opener it was a raging, uncontained wild fire.
GIANT 2: “Perfect!”
BUDLEIGH: “I’m going that way. So, you know, good luck!”
GIANT 2: “Dave, we’ve got a runner!”
GIANT 1: “RRRrrrrr-RRRrrrr! Grind, grind! rrrrRRR-rrrRRR! Damn! Missed him!”
GIANT 2: “That’s your can opener, Dave? ‘Grind, grind?’”
GIANT 1: “Too nasal?”
BUDLEIGH: “I heard a wildebeest!”
Blow Drying, or Gone with the Wind
Who among us hasn’t washed their face in a public restroom, then groping blindly for the hand dryer, accidentally activated what appears to be the searing hot, thunderously loud exhaust of a Lockheed Martin F-22A fighter jet?
That’s how dogs perceive blow dryers.
Dogs tend to be leery of hair dryers, as they are of anything that requires thumbs. Getting your dog accustomed to loud noise like that produced by a dryer should be done in small stages. For example, monitor how he reacts when you pop open a can of beer. Did he remain calm? If so, drink your beer and think about that. Now move a little closer and pop open another. Still quiet? Hmmm…that’s worth some more thought. Continue this process until you’re tearfully telling your pet that he’s yer’ bes’…yer’ bes’ goddamn frien’ since your ex walked out leaving you with all those towels.
For many dogs, however, it is the dryer’s blowy-hotty functionality that is most distressing. Best to set the dryer on low heat and low blow-outyness, then move it quickly back and forth across the animal’s coat avoiding the face and paws.
Oh, and Brisby would also like to suggest that before you get to him, go right ahead and blow dry all the other dogs everywhere in the world. He’ll wait.
Budleigh, however, absolutely adores the blow dryer and hopes to marry one, pending a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States. This might be a trait common to terrier mutts. Oxford, our formerly alive terrier thing, would demand to be blow dried even when he wasn’t wet.
Oxford never feared the dryer, possibly because he’d grown so accustomed to it being used on Brisby, who was bathed often. Young Brisby was an easily distracted dog, often following butterflies through whatever patch of filth and muck they flew over. The butterflies thought he was hoot! He paid the price in baths.
Wet Oxford enjoyed a blow dry like an old Russian Jew relishes a good sauna schvitz. He’d sit contentedly in Giant Two’s lap, eyes half-lidded, wiry-haired chest thrust out, and lean into the air stream, sighing, “Such a day, I’ve had. Don’t ask!”
Even when dry, Oxford sought the wind and warmth, urgently nosing ahead of wet Brisby to grab the barber chair.
“Sorry, guy! Big client presentation today,” he’d claim. “Just need a little off the top, then I’m outta here!”
Though not as obsessed as Oxford, Budleigh is not nearly so resigned as Brisby. He sees this activity as a means to an end. The means is the hair dryer; the end is having the world’s entire population committed to making him feel good.
BUDLEIGH: “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Plug the thing in the thing! Get to work!”
GIANT 1: “He’s so excited, hon. What a little cutie. OW!”
BUDLEIGH: “That’s your only warning. Don’t talk. Dry!”
GIANT 2: “Did he nip you again, Dave?”
GIANT 1: “A little. Think he’s afraid of the blow dryer? Does he seem anxious?”
GIANT 2: “Maybe we should just hand dry him.”
GIANT 1: “Do we have enough towels? I could call Steve. He has stacks and stacks, that son of a bitch!”
BUDLEIGH: “No, no, no, no! It’s all good! See? I’m on my back doing that funny thing with the paws.”
GIANT 2: “Oh, look at him on his back doing that funny thing with his paws.”
BUDLEIGH: “I’m adorable!”
GIANT 1: “He’s adorable!”
BUDLEIGH: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
GIANTS 1 & 2: “ʻThese aren’t the droids we’re looking for.ʼ”
GIANT 1: “Here we go, Budleigh. Gooood Budleigh! Don’t be scared of the big noise.”
BUDLEIGH: “Ahhh…. Feels so good! Sounds like the can opener.”
GIANT 2: “Now we do your tummy. Next, your sides and back. Yeah, that feels so good, doesn’t it?”
BUDLEIGH: “Such a day, I’ve had!”
GIANT 2: “Hon, while I finish him will you get Brisby ready?”
BRISBY: “Look, if you’re not going to towel dry me, I’ll be next door at Steve’s, that son of a bitch!”
Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.
Your feedback is welcome, probably. dj
Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.sleepingbetweengiants.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.