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That annoying Siamese cat song from “Lady and the Tramp” is stuck in my head. It’s probably stuck in yours now, too. Sorry about that.

January 6, 2011

One of Jenn’s coworkers wants me to groom her two cocker spaniels, so this morning I asked Jaque if I could groom a cocker within the next week or so. No sooner had the question left my mouth, Rhonda, one of the receptionists, poked her head into the grooming room and asked if we could fit Harrison, her six-year-old cocker spaniel, into the day’s line-up. “Ask and you shall receive,” Jaque said. “I could also use a million dollars,” I told her. “You know, to help with start-up expenses for my imaginary grooming salon.” I’m still waiting for that money, Jaque.

As you may recall from my last attempt at grooming a cocker, they’re not the easiest breed to groom. Their coats are extremely thick and curly, they’re prone to warts, eye and ear infections, and oily skin, and–for someone who’s new to grooming–the cocker pattern is pretty complicated. Nonetheless, I was determined to approach grooming Harrison with a clear head and a positive attitude. He’s a sweet boy, and Rhonda typically lets us get creative with him. One time the girls even gave him a green mohawk.

Peace out, dudes. Now get me the bleep off this table.

Despite his young age, Harrison has had a number of health issues, which sadly isn’t uncommon among cocker spaniels. According to registration statistics provided by the American Kennel Club, they were the number one breed in America from 1936 to 1952 and again from 1983 through 1990. As is typically the case, their popularity resulted in excessive and irresponsible overbreeding, which in turn led to a myriad of health and behavioral problems. As a result, cockers have earned a reputation for being “difficult,” which is a shame because they’re truly beautiful dogs.

Before I bathed him, Susan demonstrated how to properly clipper a cocker’s face. Because Harrison recently had surgery to remove some abscesses on his eyes, she didn’t want me to clipper around his cheeks or muzzle. But she did allow me to clipper V’s on his inner and outer ears. Trimming his ears is rather tricky because his face is slightly lopsided–the result of a stroke and palsy–so we trimmed one ear slightly higher than the other in an attempt to make him appear better balanced.

Unlike Nola, Harrison barely has any skirt, and his coat isn’t nearly as thick as hers, which makes it easier to brush and clipper. And because Rhonda has him groomed about every three weeks, he rarely has any nits or mats, which makes for speedy prep work.

My family robbed me of the chance to name my grandparent's dog after Lady, a Disney icon who may or may not have contributed to the overbreeding of the cocker spaniel during the second half of the 20th century.

With one eye on my Notes from the Grooming Table book–dutifully turned to the cocker spaniel page–and the other on Harrison, I began to clipper his back with my 7F blade, mindful not to nick any of his warts. It was at about this time that my mind wandered to Lady and the Tramp, which happened to be one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. I remember when my grandparents got this dachshund/beagle mix, and I begged them to name her Lady, which my entire family protested. Instead, they let my aunt name her Biscuit, a decision my grandmother severely regretted five years later when she inherited my mother’s border collie/Australian shepherd mix, whom I’d christened Muffin when I was four. This is why you should never allow children to pick out your pets’ names.

How I loathed those stupid cats.

Before long, that song from the Italian restaurant scene–you know, the one where the dogs eat opposite ends of a single strand of spaghetti until meeting in the middle–was stuck in my head. (I always thought it was super romantic when Tramp rolls the last meatball over to Lady with his nose. Then again, I really like food, and it thrills me when Jenn offers me the last of anything, particularly if it involves chocolate, ice cream, or bacon.) Pretty soon it was replaced by “He’s a Tramp,” the tune that Peggy Lee sings when poor Lady is trapped at the pound, and before I could stop myself, I thought about those damn Siamese cats. “We are Si-a-mese if you plee-eeze–ba dum dum dum…” That’s right. Now the song will be going through your head all day, too. You’re welcome.

By the time I finished grooming Harrison, I’d reviewed the entire film in my head, from Lady’s Christmas Eve arrival at Jim Dear’s and Darling’s house to the heart-wrenching climax when Jock and Trusty chase down the dogcatcher’s wagon and rescue Tramp. (To this day–even though I know all he has is a broken leg–I still tear up when the wagon falls on Trusty and Jock howls mournfully into the night.)

And that, dear readers, is the beauty of my new profession. Because unlike writing–which requires one to remain focused on the subject at hand at all times–dog grooming gives my mind the freedom to wander and think about important things, such as whether or not the Siamese cat song can be construed as racist. (Given their obviously slanted eyes, buck teeth, and horribly misconstrued use of the English language, I think maybe it is. Great, now I’m worried that I’m a racist because I happen to really like that movie.)

Sadly, Harrison doesn’t look a thing like Lady. Nevertheless, I plan to Netflix Lady and the Tramp this weekend. For research purposes, of course.

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