Those dog books you read–if you are the kind of responsible person who reads books about responsible dog ownership before rushing out to get a dog–warn that dealing with dog excreta, dog hair, dog nails, dog ear dirt and dog tears is part and parcel of being a dog owner. But they don\’t tell you about dog slobber.
Yet dog slobber, or drool–saliva, if you prefer–is a fact of life if you own a dog. Very large breeds, especially those with proportionately short muzzles, such as mastiffs, are the most prolific slobbers, decorating the walls of their dwellings with soaring arcs of droplets worthy of Jackson Pollock.
But even Wolfie, who has a long German Shepherd muzzle and only weighs around ninety pounds, slobbers. As he sits and stays while I set out his food, long strings of drool issue from under his upper lip. That same lip, when he takes a drink of water, collects an extra cup or so of fluid that he then sprinkles over the rug or up the sides of the pine chest that stands near his bowl. True, it\’s not 100% slobber, but it\’s not pure water, either.
Whenever I open my laptop, he is there in a flash, wondering what I\’m up to, ears back and tail wagging, sniffing and salivating all over the keyboard. It\’s a miracle the laptop works at all. Like a villain in a melodrama, he drools over the objects of his affections. Let me put on a black outfit preparatory to going out, and he immediately decorates it with a smear of saliva that shines iridescent in the lamplight. When Bisou went through her (first and only) heat, he drooled so copiously that for three solid weeks she went around with her hair all in gelled spikes, like a rock star.
Lexi, whose muzzle is much narrower, and who has been ever dainty in her indoor habits, also causes drool dramas. Our windowsills are less than two feet from the floor. Whenever a deer, a squirrel, a chickadee or even a mosquito passes in front of them, Lexi–followed by the rest of the pack–tries to crash through to get at the intruder, leaving the imprint of her moist nose and tongue on the glass. The sliding door leading to the back yard is doubly afflicted. The dogs slobber on one side of it when they want to go out, and on the other when they want to come back in.
Once upon a time, there was one window in the house that was free of slobber. It was the window behind the living room sofa, whose sill is just above the back cushions. Since the big dogs were never allowed on the furniture, at least we had one window through which guests could see the view. But that came to an end when we got Bisou, whose breed has been fiddled with by humans for five hundred years to produce the perfect lap dog.
If your lap happens to be occupied by a book or a plate of food, your lap dog has to sit on the sofa next to you. From there, it is but a short hop to the top of the back cushions and thence to the window sill, where Bisou, nose and tongue glued to the glass, alternately celebrates and mourns the arrivals and departures of our guests.
A few times a year, the slobber gets cleaned off the windows. For two or three days I rejoice in the light streaming through. Then the clouds return.
I moan about the slobber clouds as I moan about the clouds of hair–white, gray, black, tan, red–that waft over our floors and under our furniture. I can sense the non-pet owners among you thinking, \”Why does she have dogs if she doesn\’t like their mess? Why doesn\’t she keep them outdoors, or just get rid of the lot?\”
That, of course, is the sensible solution. But I don\’t want a solution. I just want to complain.