Friday, January 29, 2010

How to Dye a Dog

I love my cats, but sometimes I wish I had a dog. Growing up, I had cats, dogs, horned toads, rabbits and even a white duck.  One dog, Missy, a black and white, border collie mix, was special.  She was loyal, protective and an extremely fast runner.

I was on top of the world the day I received by Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. When I started school, times had been tough for my family.  Mom had been sick my senior year in high school and our income plummeted. I had managed to stay in college only because I lived at home. My friends and family all celebrated my graduation with me.

By early morning, I was exhausted, so I happily went to bed, a proud, new graduate. I was deep in sleep when Missy barked wildly in the back yard and woke me.  Her bark changed to ear piercing yelps of a dog in trouble. We lived just a few blocks north of the university in the heart of Austin. As I stumbled to the back door, I wondered what had happened to my dog. Missy yelps stopped. I called her and she came at a hard run. As she approached, my nose identified the problem. Missy had been skunked!

Missy had been sprayed before. We had a small cabin near Lake Marble Falls where she often came in reeking of skunk.  We figured that she was such a sprinter that she reached a skunk before she realized what it was.  How else to explain multiple skunkings.  At our cabin, we kept a huge can of tomato juice to pour over her to neutralize the odor. We had never expected her to encounter a skunk in the middle of the city. We had no tomato juice.

When Missy reached me, I grabbed her and picked her up. The smell so close made me wretch, but I knew that I had to keep her out of the house and off the furniture.  If she behaved as she did at our cabin, she would head directly for my mother's bed.  Missy might be my dog, but Mom was her human.

My grandmother was at the door now.  "Take her to the tub,"she ordered. I obeyed.

I stepped into the tub with Missy   This tub was an old, claw-footed one with high sides so it was no easy task to get in it with a squirming, stinking dog in my grasp. I made it, still in my pajamas. I turned on the water and contemplated what to wash Missy with. My grandmother solved the problem.

"This is the best I could do," she said as she handed me two open cans of tomato soup.

I used both cans of the bright red soup on Missy, and the odor lessened noticeably.. I then washed her with my shampoo and rinsed her thoroughly. As I dried her, I noticed that her white fur was distinctly pink. Tomato juice had never done that. I picked up one of the soup cans and read the ingredients. Sure enough,this tomato soup contained a red dye. I looked at Missy; the red dye was very good at coloring dog fur.

With Missy in my grandmother's care, I bathed. As I sat in the warm water, I contemplated my graduation night and God's sense of humor.  I am sure he laughed when I poured tomato soup on my dog..  I would never forget this graduation with its highs and lows.

The next morning it was clear that our black and white dog was now bright pink and black. Several weeks would pass before Missy lost that color. Our neighbors all knew what happened, but I suspect that strangers seeing me walk Missy wondered why that woman had dyed her dog.

Missy did not care. I think she enjoyed the extra attention she received.  At least she never found another city skunk.

Photo by Charles & Clint

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