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Labs and dreaded baths

“You boneheads don’t know it but you are on a collision course with ‘the dreaded bath.’”

 I am speaking to Labradors Lucy and Oscar, who are sitting, listening to me as if they understand, and waiting for the words, “treat,” “supper,” “goodies,” “dog-dogs” or some other cue that might promise food. Alas, none is forthcoming.

 “I am getting tired of the ‘Eau de Labrador’ fragrance that I immediately smell once you chow-hounds are loaded into the old Suburban. It is a nice warm day and Laurie picked up some special dog shampoo at the pet store that ought to have you two smelling sweet as young puppies in short order.”

Laurie hauls a half bucket of hot water from the kitchen, and dilutes it to tepid by filling the bucket with water from the hose. She stretches the hose out in the grass, allowing the sun to warm the water in the hose. “It’s very cold,” she says.

 “You’ve got to be kidding. These are Labradors.” I remember very clearly when we took Labradors Josie and Otis up to Hyalite Reservoir one spring — a 16-mile drive from our home in Bozeman. There was 30 feet of open water around the edges of the reservoir; the rest of the lake was still covered with ice. Yet, Josie and Otis happily plunged into the icy water, swam around like a pair of otters for a while with big Labrador “smiles” on their faces.

Laurie ties a leash to each of the apple trees, calls Lucy over to her and orders her to sit. Lucy has been through this before, and reluctantly accepts her fate. First comes the warm soapy water poured over her, and then Laurie scrubs her up with a wash cloth. Lucy doesn’t fuss, and in five minutes she gets a warm rinse. (The hose water is still too cold, Laurie has determined.)

I scrub Lucy with a dry towel and Laurie cuts her loose from the leashes. Lucy shakes and water still sprays, then she rolls in the grass and relaxes.

Oscar has been watching all this with a suspicious eye. His first bath was in the kitchen sink when he was a puppy more than five years ago. Most of his other “baths” since then have been swimming in reservoirs and lakes. However he comes to Laurie when she calls and she quickly snaps the leashes to his collar.

He doesn’t like the bath at all, struggles a bit against the leashes but realizes that he is trapped. Within 10 minutes it is all done. I scrub him with the towel and let him loose. He promptly dashes to the north side of the house and rolls in the only dirt he can find in the yard! So he gets a second bath, groaning in protest, and with a sour look on his face.

This time after toweling him off we leave him tied to one of the apple trees. Oscar has never been tied up before and quickly tangles his legs in the line. He groans and grumbles piteously. “Too bad, ‘Biscuit Head’ — you are going to be tied up until you dry off a bit.”

After a half hour of Oscar’s “suffering,” I can bear it no longer so I brush him, getting double hands full of yellow hair before unsnapping his leash and ordering him into the house.

 “That’ll probably do it until next summer.”

The next day Lucy and Oscar get to ride in the Suburban. “You guys are such sweet-smelling dogs,” I say to them over my shoulder. “Isn’t it nice to be clean and not stink?”

Oscar gives me a lick behind the ear, as if to say, “It was not fun but I forgive you. Now you guys shut up and watch the road.”

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been                             an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974