Bath Time for Izzy

First published in L.A. Times Magazine, May 10, 2009

What’s it take to get a top dog ready for his close-up? Scrub in!

Izzy is a standard poodle, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He doesn’t have one of those fancy ’dos— just your average puppy cut (though that’s the only thing average about Izzy). And he may not be a star, but in my opinion that’s only because the right opportunities haven’t presented themselves. Not that I would necessarily want fame for him—I mean, how happy were Lassie and Rin Tin Tin? But since Izzy is my star, and I enjoy having him near, he needs to stay as clean as possible.

One sunny Tuesday, I took Izzy to the dog park—lots of green grass and happy dogs. Then off in a corner I noticed a mud puddle left by a recent rain. Most of the dogs easily avoided it but not Izzy. He went right up to the puddle, looked back from what felt like miles away, and as I hollered “Nooooo!” he leaped right in. By the time I got there, he was rolling on his back, paws up. To Izzy, this was a spa treatment.

Which brings me to the ever popular process of prettying one’s pooch. There are basically three choices: Go to a groomer, use a mobile service or do it yourself. Because I know Izzy best and because there has been no federal bailout for dog owners, the best plan for me right now is to groom him at home. I thought maybe I could save a few bucks by buying my own equipment, except once it arrived, I realized I didn’t know how to use any of it. So I asked my friend Trudy, who works at a vet’s office, if she could show me how.

Trudy came to our house and spoke lovingly to Izzy as she shaved his hair, cleaned his ears and clipped his nails in our yard. After that, we went off to bathe him in the house. Watching Trudy taught me a lot. Now when it’s time for Izzy’s bath, I roll up my jeans and sing to him while I scrub away. In fact, he loves it so much he even jumped into my bath once. Of course, I had to let him know there are just some things we can’t do together.

Without a doubt, there are lots of great groomers in Los Angeles. But if I were to send Izzy anywhere, I’d want to make sure he—and I—are comfortable with the situation. Will the water be too hot? Will soap get in his eyes? How will he be dried? These are just some of the things I think about. I’m sure some dogs don’t mind the wind-tunnel experience of cages that blow-dry them from all sides, but those automatic blowers would scare the crap out of me. I also like a setup with a window into the work area, so I can watch my boy. (Wouldn’t you want to see what’s being done to your baby?) Does Izzy really care about all of this, or am I overthinking it? Maybe a little of both.

For those who need to go the DIY route, there’s a wonderful DVD called Doggie Cuts, hosted by Dick Van Patten, who has become quite the canine impresario. There are also books to help you wade into canine cleaning: The Simple Guide to Grooming Your Dog, by Eve Adamson and Sandy Roth; and Ultimate Dog Grooming, by Eileen Geeson, which gives unique tips for 170 specific breeds. And if you’re unsure how to do something, most vet techs would be happy to show you.

And no bath would be complete without Soggy Dog towels, designed with pockets to hold and wipe your dog.

Have to go now. I don’t know how, but Izzy seems to have gotten the water running in the bathtub.

P.S.: Please adopt or rescue a dog.

illustration by jessie hartland

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