Darwin came to find out that the local Korean and Vietnamese restaurants didn’t serve dog, so his nephew’s Bichon, Huckleberry, lived another day. It was then Darwin realized he would have to bathe the dog himself if he didn’t want to suffer with its cadaver smell.
He stopped off at a PetSmart for their strongest shampoo and a dog brush, then grabbed enough towels from Target to equip the Olympic towel snapping team. Darwin didn’t realize the breadth of expression animals were capable of until he saw the look of abject betrayal Huckleberry gave him as he lowered him into the bathtub.
“Don’t give me that look,” he said. “I’m not the one who rolled in rotting flesh.”
Several hours later, after many iterations of soaping, sudsing, scrubbing and rinsing, the bottle was empty, so Darwin toweled the little beast off. The one moment of happiness in the process was when he took a short break and weighed himself. He’d lost ten pounds in the last week.
Exhausted, they both fell asleep on the bathroom floor, curled up on the remaining clean towels.
When Darwin woke, he found Huckleberry whimpering under a chair.
“What’s the problem, mutt?”
Huckleberry continued whimpering.
“Come here, pal. We’ve had a rough start, but I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Darwin coaxed him out with a piece of cheese, and what emerged was a snaggy mess of matted fur that looked like one of those sprayed-white Christmas trees chopped up and left in a pile. Huckleberry finished his cheese with his head hanging and continued to droop after he finished it. It was in that moment Darwin realized that the poor little beast had pride. He looked like hell, and he knew it.
Darwin would have to groom him, but he wanted it done right, so he did what any intelligent man would do—he searched YouTube for directions on grooming a Bichon Frise.
The biggest challenge was clipping away the matted fur. He used his Wahl beard trimmer at shorter and shorter settings until the matting was gone, the pink of Huck’s skin showing through, and a big pile of fur threatening to swallow up Darwin’s stack of Celine Dion CDs. He tossed the clippers into the trash.
Following the YouTube video as best he could, Darwin shaped the fur on Huckleberry’s tail and face, then bathed him one more time with a dab of shampoo he drained from the bottle. He toweled him, blow-dried him, and brushed him. When he was finished, Huckleberry no longer looked like a tangled mess. He looked like a naked albino Irishman with an afro.
Be that as it may, Huckleberry’s personality turned a one-eighty. He pranced around like he owned the place, demanding food and a walk to show off his new ‘do’ to the neighborhood dogs. The dog insisted on constant attention, and that bothered Darwin enough, but it was the obvious air of superiority that really put him off.
Darwin’s resentment grew throughout the next few days. He walked the dog and daydreamed about drastic measures, like locking him in the closet, making him wear a dunce cap, or lacing his dog food with Benadryl. Darwin jolted out of his reverie when he realized that Huckleberry, after snuffling in a tuft of grass for a while, pulled out a long dead vole. The dog tucked his head to roll himself over the top of it.
“No! Huckleberry, no!” Darwin tightened the leash to hold him back from the carrion.
Huckleberry jumped to attention and looked at Darwin. In those beady little eyes Darwin saw realization in the little guy. Huckleberry knew Darwin had just saved him from himself, and the dog’s expression convinced Darwin that he was grateful.
“Come on, pal. Let’s go home.”
Getting a dog plopped in your lap for a couple weeks can inject life into your funk or inflict chaos into your life, but it’s impossible to tell the difference.