Fur is Flying

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He might not act it, but this is one unruly dog.

Today is Haircut Day for Oz, but he’s not looking forward to this as much as everyone else is.

Actually, he doesn’t even know yet that it’s haircut day, and once he finds out, he won’t be happy. Ultimately, we’d like to think he will be a happier dog, or at least a cooler one, but there’s no great way to tell.

I mean, he drops some clues. The first summer I had him and we walked home from work at lunch, he got so hot he threw up shortly before we made it home. So now as the temperature ramps up, we call for his personal taxi (it’s even yellow), and Lynn picks him up as she finishes work at 1 p.m. (Before you get too jealous about her end time, she starts a lot sooner than you want to.)

Some Day this pattern will change, and we will have to do a walk closer to home and then drive to and from work. Or we’ll have to leave the house at least 20 minutes earlier than we do now — who are we kidding? We’ll be driving. But no matter how we get to work, there’s still the part where he’s a very hairy dog in a thick black coat.

I used to have a border collie named Reprieve, and every summer I would have her coat shaved clear down so that she looked like a little shorn sheep. I had that done for Oz his first summer with us (after he got sick just walking home), and our co-workers loved his new look, even if he hated it.

He looked so different that a neighbor thought I’d gotten another dog, and everyone who had been dropping hints, both overt and vert, about how fat I was letting him get, immediately shut their mouths. He wasn’t fat; it was all hair — just like I’d told them.

But last year, three black herding dogs into this (Ashoka, between Reprieve and Oz, had a shorter coat and overly sensitive skin, so no shaving), I started wondering about Nature.

Oz is an Australian shepherd, presumably because his forebears originated on a continent known for its fierce heat. Surely there must be some reason, other than as a cruel joke, that Oz inherited this long, thick black coat.

First I turned to the internet, where lots of places agreed with this notion of natural selection, and discussed how the hair acts as a cooling agent. These sites counseled against shaving. But this doesn’t explain why he gets so hot that he can’t walk home on summer afternoons. So then I asked his vet. She agreed that the topcoat can serve a protective function, but she recommended I ask for a “de-shed” and have his undercoats combed out.

So that’s what we tried last summer. Oz, while traumatized by his many hours at Hair of the Dawg, seemed happier with his look (he really disliked his shorn appearance, even if it got him extra attention at work). But whether one was more effective in keeping him cooler, I’m not sure. John, his groomer, did say he blew about 10 dogs’-worth of hair out from under Oz, but he didn’t look nearly as svelte as did with a full shave.

He’s extra woolly these days, and once I decided it might finally be summer, I went down the street and made an appointment without committing to any certain coiffure. But I think, to the dismay of the Pat’s crew, we’re going to opt for another de-shed with a good trim. As Lynn pointed out, so far it’s not stacking up to be the hottest summer on record.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that brushing Marrakesh is a full-contact sport.

We would never use the word “cuddly” to describe the highly-independent Kesh. He always wants his head scratched, but he hates being held and frequently gets put out when your hand strays off his neck. But he’s a big hairy cat with a lot of excess fur, so I keep trying to snag him, or at least some of his hair, whenever I get a chance.

It’s a moving process, although maybe not emotionally: I start brushing and he walks around in circles in front of me until he gets tired of the whole thing and walks away completely. Even the few brushfuls I manage to snag are enough to knit a full-size cat, so who knows what would happen if he ever held still for a complete grooming.

Na Ki’o, with his short sleek coat, doesn’t get much grooming any time of the year, although of the three, he’s the one who likes it best. isn’t that the way the universe works?

Because it’s summer, more or less, I even alter my own grooming habits, and switch from morning showers to evening cleansing. This is because it gets extremely hot at Pat’s in the summer, and I go home every evening feeling sweaty and gross.

We don’t have a lot of great ventilation options. The production side, which produces all the heat, comes without a back door, because a three-story office building was allowed to wrap behind our building. I had a solar attic fan installed many years ago, but like every device I try for either heat or cold, it didn’t live up to its billing regarding how much air it would move. A large evaporative cooler helps some, and a battalion of fans gets pressed into service, but it’s still just a darn hot place, fit neither for man nor beast — even if the beast will look a lot less beastly later today.

Doesn’t this face just say, Don’t touch me? Unless you’re going to scratch my head in the manner I find pleasing.

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