River's First Bath
Today was the eighth day after River’s surgery. The clinic nurse told me that I shouldn’t let him get wet while the wound was healing, but that after eight days I could finally bathe him.
And he needed it. When the shelter takes in a stray dog, they have a five day waiting period before they are officially documented and checked in. During that waiting period, they get their basic shots, but no baths or surgeries or walks.
So River had the stink of whatever he had gotten himself into before being picked up, and then the kennel smell, and then eight more days of unbathed activity. He was a stinky pup.
So today was the day I was looking forward to. Bath day. I wasn’t sure how well he was going to behave or if he’d cooperate at all or if he was going to hate it.
I decided, first to go outside without him and play with the bucket and the hose and the cloths. I let him watch me from inside for a few minutes. Then I went back inside, just for a moment. I wanted him to get a sense for how happy I was and how much fun I was having. I told him, “this is fun!” and I went back outside to play some more, again leaving him inside to watch.
Then, I went inside and I invited him to come outdoors with me. I kept him on his leash, but let him wander around me, to the extent that his leash allowed, while I continued to gently splash the water, squeeze the cloths and squirt the hose.
When he was curious enough, he came by to investigate. I started rubbing his body with my hands like he enjoys. At that moment he became completely involved and offered up his body. So I added a wet soapy cloth to my hands as I continued to rub him all over.
I’m sure he noticed that he was wet, but he took it in stride. I made sure that the focus of the event was not getting him as clean as possible, but instead my focus was to give him a pleasant experience of being washed; even if it meant he wasn’t washed all that well.
But he was more than happy for me to scrub him all over with a soapy wet cloth. And he didn’t care when I re-submerged it into the bucket and reapplied it to him dripping wet. He even let me clean his ears and his paws.
I made a point not to move quickly or to rub roughly, but I kept it soothing and loving.
Once he was all washed, I switched to the big towel and started drying him. I used motions for drying similar to those that I use for the ‘wrestling without biting’ game, so he was very familiar with it, and he used the opportunity to practice playing without his teeth.
To my surprise, he sat comfortably and allowed me to wash and dry his paws and his haunches, which he typically tends to be more protective of.
I ended the bath by bringing him inside and brushing him with a rubber brush while I dried off any remaining damp areas.
He had a great experience, and I don’t think I’ll get any resistance to doing it again next week. His coat is so soft and bright now, and he smells a lot better.
What’s really funny is, after the bath, I took him to his crate so he could chill, and he sniffed the blanket that was in there. He tried to move it, or adjust it with his mouth, but eventually, he saw the futility and just plopped down on it. Something about his energy told me he was unhappy.
Then it hit me. Could he be telling me he didn’t want to lay his clean body on that same dirty old blanket? I took one that was freshly washed and put it in the crate next to him. He took one sniff of it, and then immediately used his paws to pull that blanket under him. He kept pulling until the blanket was under him enough that he could plop his head down and his nose was only near the clean blanket. Later that day, when he had finished his nap and left the crate, I took the old blanket out and flattened out the clean one.
It’s nice to know that River has some class.