I always thought I knew how to listen to my dogs. I mean, I know they can’t tell me of the deep philosophical thoughts that wander through their minds when they are sitting, all sparkly-eyed and dreamy in a patch of sun, or what they are thinking when I look up from my book and find them gazing thoughtfully at me, but if I listen closely enough I can usually tell when they’re happy, or scared, or hungry or grumpy. And most of the time that’s enough. We rub along quite happily. But sometimes, just sometimes, one of them will do something totally unexpected and out of character and I think how cool it would be if they were wearing one of those dog translator collars (a la ‘Dug’) and my bewildered “What the ??? ” would elicit some sort of lucid response . . .
I have written before about the joys of ‘bath day’ in our household (‘Anyone who doesn’t know what soap tastes like . . . ‘) It’s always a bit of a drama and something I only put the girls (and myself) through about once a month. Unless of course on one of our daily walks Maudie decides to dive head first into the scungiest, smelliest, most disgusting pile of dead ‘something’ she’s just found in the park. (Oh joy!) By the time I managed to chase her away from the whatever-it-was (or used to be) she was black and reeking—and extremely pleased with herself. I felt a tiny bit mean spoiling her fun and dragging her home to take a bath—but only a very tiny bit. The only other option was to give her away to one of the local fisherman to use as bait . . .
None of my girls have ever liked baths so I was sure I knew what to expect. On realising a bath was imminent, Maudie would immediately adopt her floppy, unresponsive, dead-dog persona (although she doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that dead-dogs don’t normally squeal . . . ) Molly would run in frantic circles, barking madly, ensuring the whole neighbourhood was aware I was about to murder her sister (and possibly her too) and Mabel . . . well, Mabel would creep silently away to find herself a deep, dark, quiet place to hide and ‘wait me out’ . . .
Imagine my surprise then, after wrangling Maudie into the bath (and actually getting some water on her—she’s a squirmy little sucker) I turned to find Mabel sitting quietly on the bathroom floor next to me, watching the proceedings with interest. “Oh. Hi Mabes. Have you come to watch Maudie have a bath?” Mabel wagged her tail and smiled at me. Well, okay then. This is new . . .
Even more surprisingly (and in spite of several further earsplitting Maudie-shrieks) Mabel stayed, peering over the edge of the bath as Maudie was shampooed, rinsed, and shampooed again. (If I didn’t genuinely believe that dogs were better than humans I might have wondered if there was a little of the old ‘schadenfreude’ going on there . . . )
I hadn’t intended to also bath Mabel that morning ( because Mabel was a good girl . . . Mabel hadn’t rolled in some decomposing dead thing) but after Maudie had been dried and released and fled the bathroom (doing her usual four laps of the house and frantically flinging herself into every cushion, pillow and other soft furnishing she could find) Mabel continued to sit calmly beside me . . . almost as if she were waiting . . . I decided to take a chance. “So—what do you think Mabes? Does Mabel want a bath now?”
I honestly expected her to bolt. I really did. I thought it was some kind of new game she was playing with me. Feign interest and then run for her life. That’ll be a good game. But no. She let me take her collar off (usually another ‘no no’), stood quietly while I got the water to the right temperature, and happily let me repeatedly lather her up and rinse her off. No shivery shakes, no sad ‘why me?’ looks, no trying to escape as soon as my back was turned. She even seemed to be kind of enjoying it . . .
So what happened? What changed between last month and this, after years and years (eight years to be exact) of trying to avoid a bath at all costs?
I have absolutely no idea, and I suppose I never will. But I’ll bet there’s a good story there. A story I would love to hear. If only we all spoke the same language . . .