Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Weather-Averse Life Of The Southern California Dog

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light,, published February 19, 2024] ©2024

The recent rains have highlighted the unique habits of a breed of canine known as The Southern California Dog.  Our bichon-poodle mix, Lily, is in this category.

The Southern California Dog is characterized by a total aversion to getting his or her tiny paws wet. Forget their actual fur.

“Averse” is actually too mild a term.  Lily, for example, is absolutely offended by wet grass or pavement. If it is so much as sprinkling, she will walk out to the end of the front porch, sniff the air, and go back inside with a “Sorry, don’t need to go that badly” look.

The problem, of course, is when it gets to the point that she does need to go out that badly. 

With rain in the forecast, Olof and I study the radar maps with the express mission of scheduling Lily walks.  On more than one occasion, I have gotten up at 5 a.m. to wake up the dog and haul her fluffy reluctant bum outside for a stroll around our front yard in advance of a morning storm.  In addition to hating rain, the Southern California Dog does not wish to be woken from slumber.

Lily does have a doggie raincoat, the mere sight of which causes her to hide under the most inaccessible place in the house she can find.  Extracting her from under there is a two-person chore, never mind wrassling her resistant self into the raincoat.  If she could use a cell phone, she’d be calling the SPCA to report us for infliction of sartorial cruelty. 

I can’t even imagine what we’d do if we lived in a climate that might require booties.

If it’s actually raining without a break in sight, as happened recently, and it’s clear we are going to have to take Lily out against her will, I do my best to stick Olof with this chore.  Unlike me, he doesn’t have a coif or wear glasses.  I would, of course, be happy to use an umbrella but both Lily and our previous dog, English bulldog Winston, had a puzzling but abiding fear of them.  Maybe because they don’t see them that often. I’m guessing the Pacific Northwest Dog overcomes its fear of umbrellas pretty quickly.

But taking The Southern California Dog out while you’re holding an umbrella simply results in the animal pulling away in fear so hard on its leash that you can’t get them to focus on the task at hand. 

We really do our best to keep Lily from getting wet.  Her bichon-poodle fur seems to be a non-dryable water-absorbent sponge, especially the fur on her head.  Seriously, if anyone needs to invent a product that will never, ever dry, start with poodle hair.  If we try to blow her dry, she’s not having that either, even with the hair dryer on the lowest barely-warm setting.  To her, there’s a time and place for everything, and the place to her for a blow dry is at the groomers.  She will let them blow dry her.  Must be all in the wrist. 

A further compelling reason to keep Lily from getting wet is that her preferred drying method is to race around the house at warp speed, stopping for a quick wet-dog-smell-dispensing roll on every bed, upholstered chair, and sofa, before tucking herself in for a final dry and nap on Olof’s pillow.

Which brings us to an important question.  Even people who don’t own pets will recognize “wet dog smell,” a highly distinctive odor that can make the trip back from an excursion to Fiesta Island with your wet dog in the car seem like several lifetimes.

Inquiring minds want to know: what exactly makes a wet dog smell so, well, miasmic?

It turns out that eau de chien mouillé isn’t actually the fault of the dog at all. 

The culprits are microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria that take up residence on your pet, leaving behind "micro excreta" in the form of organic compounds.  The signature scent comes from moisture evaporation that carries some of these compounds with it.  

The odor of wet dog has been characterized as "a mixture of scents, including almond, fruit, honey, and mushroom, with hints of sulfur and feces."  Sounds like a diner lunch special gone waaaay wrong. 

Obviously dogs in other climates, which is to say pretty much everywhere in the U.S. except Southern California, have to adapt to weather. Here's my theory as to why The Southern California Dog is so reluctant to do so. 

People move to Southern California with the expectation that it will never be too hot or too cold, that rain will occur at night while they're sleeping and have dried up by the time they awaken, and that climatological elements should not be an inconvenience to their non-weather-afflicted existence.  I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that our dogs think so too.  

 Lily, absolutely miserable in her raincoat

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Suffering For The Sake Of Beauty

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 12, 2024] ©2024

As much as I enjoy the late-19th century show The Gilded Age, I can’t help but be preoccupied by what had to be the sheer discomfort of those corset- and bustle-afflicted dresses. Taking a deep breath seems like it would be problematical, using a restroom even more so.  In fact, when you think of bathroom stalls now, you’d need two to even get the whole dress in there, never mind actually, er, perform.

It was probably not too surprising, then, that in 1913 when 19-year-old Mary Phelps Jacob patented the first modern bra (short for brassière) composed of two handkerchiefs and some ribbon, the idea was an instant success. 

Well, not quite instant.  After attempting to manufacture her design in what amounted to a two-woman sweatshop in Boston, she sold her patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company who were already manufacturing “comfort corsets” (an oxymoron if there ever was one).  Dr. Lucien Warner, the physician-founder of the company, had been concerned about the ill effects on a woman’s health of having her internal organs essentially relocated to parts of her body where they were not intended. 

Warner Brothers Corset Company apparently made $12.8 million off Mary Phelps Jacob’s patent. (Why is there not a commemorative coin with Mary’s picture on it?).  During the flapper movement and Jazz Age in the 1920’s, however, women largely lost interest in both corsets and their partner-in-undergarments, pantaloons. 

But ways to sartorially torture women were simply morphing.  The corset was replaced by the panty girdle, a garment I remember way too well from my teenage years.  Girdles often had garters on which to attach one’s nylon stockings in the pre-pantyhose era.  Panty hose were one of the greatest inventions ever, in my view, in times when going bare-legged in a dress or skirt was simply not done.  Once there were pantyhose, it was also a great excuse to jettison the girdle too.  And best yet, being bare legged in a dress is now perfectly acceptable, unless you’re in the British Royal Family.  The late Queen apparently had a strict rule against it.

Of course, there are plenty of “shape wear” brands still out there, often alleging to be “comfortable” (ha!) while re-distributing one’s unwanted adipose into a more flattering configuration.  I remember shopping for a mother-of-the-groom outfit for my younger son’s wedding and the sales lady opining, “Of course, you’ll want shape wear with this.”  And I looked at her and said, “Hell no!  I plan to enjoy this event in full comfort!” 

Right as I was starting college, the other biggest boon to my life besides pantyhose was just making its debut.  We’re talking hot rollers.  I had spent my entire teenage life being crucified nightly on brush rollers, hair curlers with brush spikes (like a bottle brush) that you rolled up your entire head of hair in so that it would become curly while you theoretically slept but actually didn’t because you were in too much pain. 

My voluminous quantities of hair, alas, if left un-abused by brush rollers, looked like I had a mattress on my head.

With hot rollers, you could actually get a good night’s sleep and then wake up, plug in the set, roll up your hair, wait ten minutes, and voilà!  Seriously, it revolutionized my college life.   And decades thereafter. 

I should mention that there are still salons somewhere out there who do what is called a “wet set” where they roll your wet hair up with curlers, and fry you under a bonnet hair dryer for an hour after which your coif is combed out and lacquered into what is called “helmet hair.” Move your head and your hair moves in a single unit with it.   

Now, of course, there’s an even better option avoiding rollers altogether, the “blow out.” I hope to have seen my last hot (or even cold) hair roller. 

While bras were intended to be a much more comfortable option to corsets, fashion dictates that that whatever item of apparel is designed for women has to have a version that is pure pain.  We’re talking push-up bras, stiletto heels, skin-tight jeans, false eye lashes, and new versions of “shape wear” that probably aren’t any more comfortable than girdles or corsets. 

I don’t know what it is about aging, but bras just keep getting more and more uncomfortable as you get older.  I was telling a friend that the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra.  She said she usually takes hers off in the car. 

Back when I was in college, I didn’t mind being tortured by apparel.  At this point in my life, I just want to be comfortable. I feel like I’ve done my time. 

Advice columnists in women’s magazines will implore their older readers not to “let yourself go.”  Sorry, advice lady, but I’m already gone.