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

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