As I understand it, our big orange dog – Cooper – is a German Shepherd and Saint Bernard mix. I say “as I understand it” because the information came to me secondhand from the shelter where Cheyenne and I adopted Cooper at five months old. I don’t know if they knew his composition for sure or whether it was merely a visual size-up of him. When you look at him you can see where they would come up with this mix – he has the body and tail of a German Shepherd and the fur and jowls of a Saint Bernard.
Thankfully, he doesn’t sport the amount of slobber a Saint Bernard does, but he does carry the watch dog mentality of a German Shepherd. This includes a bark that is hearty and intimidating to those who don’t know Cooper. Of course, to those of us who know him it is just plain ol’ annoying after awhile as he loves to have his resounding bark heard far and wide. Indeed, I am convinced that he communicates with dogs that are blocks away. As such, neighbors for blocks know of Cooper - and not in a good way.
Cooper is quite a handful some days. His saving grace is that he is a good looking dog who in one-to-one interaction is quite amiable and good-natured. I try and remember that when he is driving me crazy with his need to assert his independence. Hard to imagine that such a dog would find his way into my family unit I know. Apparently complacency isn’t in any creatures’ genes around here.
Our other dog, Chompers, also an adoptee (Coopers’ cell mate at the shelter – read how that all came to be here), is a quieter dog, but has other issues. Chompers is a fairly large dog as well (not quite as tall as Cooper), but as for his mix – who knows. His face reminds me of a seal. Chompers has become quite chubby over the years which makes the fact that he fancies himself as a lap dog problematic. Chompers has evolved in his time with us to be the better listener of the two, but he remains very excitable. Chompers has two gears – sleep and spaz (as in spastic, out-of-control, over-the-top, etc.). Chompers’ best friend is Cheyenne and everyone else in the world who will say hello to him and pet him is his second best friend. His personality reminds me of the friendly dog in the movie UP - charming, but exhausting.
Cooper and Chompers have different coats. Coopers is longer and thicker, while Chompers is shorter and considerably more manageable. This time of year – the time when they begin to liberally shed in preparation for the summer - is quite the experience. These past few weeks the shedding reached its height and no amount of brushing was doing the trick. Cheyenne and Mike both brushed them multiple times, but the hair just kept coming (especially from Cooper). My vacuum was doing overtime to keep up and my face and eyes were itching like no tomorrow.
Yesterday, the situation reached critical mass and I had to pull out the big guns – THE FURMINATOR. If you are not familiar with this tool, it is a grooming tool that is similar to a brush and actually trims the dog’s coat while using it. It is acclaimed for its ability to reduce shedding, I purchased THE FURMINATOR a few years ago on the advise of a former student after a desperate few weeks of wading through Cooper’s shedding.
Typically Cheyenne does all the furminating work around here, but this year she headed out to visit her dad and left the task to me. I struggle with pet hair in great volumes (as does any mascara or other makeup on my face as I sneeze and try and rub my eyes out of their sockets), so I tried to pass off the task to Mike. Mike gave it a shot, but he concluded after a half-hour or so that furminating Cooper would be a never-ending project and he handed it back to me. Yippee. My initial thought was that I could put it off and just hope that eventually the hair-palooza would go away on its own. Alas, while in the throes of vacuuming the living room for the second time in the same day watching tufts of hair floating off Cooper every time he moved even slightly, it hit me that I was just going to have to bite the bullet and get busy furminating.
Imagine if you will – a small woman armed with a vacuum hose and THE FURMINATOR with a big orange dog that is afraid of the vaccum and only being mildly compliant because he thinks his owner has clearly flipped her switch. It was a negotiation (a dance if you will) in finding the middle ground between dominance and compliance. I am sure that a sports analyst could have given quite a blow-by-blow commentary on the playback, but in real time the goal was just to power-through the experience. After a couple of vacuum canisters full of hair, a great deal of intense eye rubbing, and some colorful language the Cooper furmination was complete. The Chompers furmination was, comparatively, a non-event.
After the furmination experience was complete the dogs went outside to romp around and I was left to address a new issue – who would now furminate me? Another full vacuum canister later I emerged from the experience a little worse for the wear, but feeling oddly accomplished as a novice furminator.
Today, mascara intact and vacuum off-duty, I can tell you that I should have tapped into my furminating self much earlier…the avoidance of the task cost my untold time, effort, and misery. Next year, THE FURMNINATOR (both the tool and the person playing the role) will make an appearance in the spring. Next year though there will be goggles and it will be done outside on the deck…there is a learning curve here folks…and slowly, but surely I am getting on it.
Day one thousand and eighty-three of the new forty – obla di obla da