2010-06-09 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

The term “spring cleaning” brings on a new meaning when your broom is an Afghan Hound. Few breeds can boast as much long hair ready to collect seasonal rubbish and then whisk it into the house. Rather than noting the vernal equinox, my spring officially arrives around Cinco de Mayo when the wormy strings start falling from oak trees. My dogs have a fiesta with this confetti.

Those wormy things that clog gutters, pulverize on windshields, and aggravate allergies are called “catkins.” The tan tassels are the oak flowers that eventually become acorns. For 30 years catkins have given me nightmares, clinging tenaciously to my generations of Afghans. Just when you think the silly strings have stopped falling, another aerial invasion begins. Each variety of oak must drop at a different time just to torture me.

Since an Afghan coat gradually balloons at the feet, the surface area of each leg “mess magnet” actually increases as it touches the ground. This anatomical design is not for neat freaks. Everything nasty sticks to Afghans. If you don’t get hitchhikers off in a timely fashion, the debris decorates your house, while the remnants make mats in the dog’s coat.

Edgar Afghan Poe on Cinco de Mayo, the start of the annual catkin invasion. Edgar Afghan Poe on Cinco de Mayo, the start of the annual catkin invasion. Because my dogs sweep up catkins, sticky leaves and everything else sprouting outdoors, a pin brush takes up permanent residence as “doorman” on the stoop from early May through June. Edgar Afghan Poe and his sister the Beauty Queen chase each other through bushes, running loops early in the morning when the lawn (or what is left of it) is wet. Then they flop, rolling around like self-breading cutlets, into one of the many backyard bunkers they have dug in the perimeter, adding mud to the mix.

Years ago when my black Afghans were alive, I thought pantyhose might be the answer to my catkin problem. Trevor, my riches to rags male had been raised in a magnificent show kennel with a spiral staircase, stained glass windows, and a complete grooming staff. I had to promise he would never lie in the sun which might “bleach his coat red” before I took him home. However, since we allowed him to be a real dog, he enjoyed the next 11 years baking in our yard. Yes, his black hair had henna highlights, and catkins clumped on him worst of all.

One spring morn’ I sent Trevor outside wearing colored stockings to ward off the oak menace. He looked stylish…..for ten seconds…until he took off like Secretariat and stepped right through his protective leggings. Since then, the brush has been my only defensive weapon.

This week Mother Nature reached into her arsenal and fought back with some new spring zingers. I put the Beauty Queen up on the grooming table for her daily brushing, only to find that her legs and chest were glopped with a thick pine tar. Leaves and sticks were glued into her coat, swirling the hair into knots just like Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

Yikes! Brushing, fingers and water made it worse. Perhaps you heard me screaming. It took several days of various conditioners, working on small sections at a time before a brush would go through her coat again. I only hope she found the pine tar on a walk and not in our yard because then the - scene including my histrionics - will be repeated each time it happens again. On a global scale, I can only imagine how difficult the horrendous BP spill is to remove from oil-soaked wildlife.

This morning after an AM snooze outdoors, the Beauty Queen became Medusa. She had a “slimy snake” caught in her dark long tresses, right at the shoulder blades where Frontline is applied. The stowaway turned out to be a tangled slug which had to be removed without squishing it, making matters worse. A quick twist of a paper towel worked, but the whole ordeal was lethal to the slug, probably asphyxiated by long strands. In case you are wondering, slug trail crystallizes as sticky white powder when it dries on dog hair.

Now, I have nothing against slugs. When I was teaching my students even produced a Slug Fashion Show using puppets to elevate the “slime-sters” status in the animal kingdom. The kids designed squiggly outfits for all sorts of invertebrate occasions. Real slugs relaxing in aquariums were part of our audience. No, I have nothing against slugs. I just don’t want my Afghan Hounds wearing them.

For Adoption at Last Hope Dog Center (631-957-0023) 642 Rt. 109 Lindenhurst, adjacent to Basic Pet Care: “Lainie” a 3-legged black Lab mix is originally from Huntington Shelter. She was born with a deformed front leg that required amputation to improve her mobility. Lack of a limb doesn’t slow this effervescent Lab down one bit. “Stuart Little” a Westie mix came into Babylon Shelter as an injured stray, but his limp was actually caused by a benign growth on his foot. He also had a pair of similar harmless lumps removed from his side. Other dogs include: “Kale” a Beagle mix from a Kentucky shelter and “Cocoa” a brindle Pit mix.

* Two Upcoming Events: Last Hope Wine Tasting Fundraiser at the Walt Whitman birthplace in Huntington on Fri. June 18 from 6 to 9 pm- Blue Grass entertainment. Tickets $40 in advance.

Also Last Hope’s Free Dog/Cat Rabies Shot Clinic to be held at Babylon Town Shelter on Sun. June 27 from 11 am to 3 pm. Rain or shine. No appt. necessary. See www. lasthopeanimalrescue.org for more information about both events or the full list of Dog Center dogs.

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