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We've spent the last three weeks giving our dog a haircut.

It’s not a full time job, you understand - the dog’s not that big - but fairly often, we look at each other, sigh, grab a comb and scissors, and head outside to grapple with Frances.

Here's the problem. Frances is a Newfoundland, a breed developed to swim without care in the ocean waters off the coast of, you guessed it, Newfoundland.

Those waters are cold. Like, really cold.

So, in addition to webbed feet, she has a lot of hair. A double coat is great for Minnesota winters, but kind of a thing in summertime.

This wasn't a problem with our previous Newfoundlands. They'd just go swimming three or four times a day and sit in the shade, pant, and evaporate. But Frances is scared of water.

Hey, don't judge. We all have our quirks. Granted, a Newfoundland that won't swim is a little like a hawk that tries to catch a rabbit by sneaking up on tiptoe, but we live in an imperfect world.

In other years, we set aside about half of our retirement money and made an appointment with a dog groomer for a summer haircut. Since it takes about half a day to give Frances a thorough grooming, we had to book the date three months in advance. The problem is that warm weather arriving in Minnesota is a little variable. Frances needs her haircut sometime between March and June, and there's no way to predict the best day. So either she's sweltering, or I’m contemplating wrestling her into one of my tee shirts so she won't freeze. This process is less fun than it sounds, and humiliating for all concerned.

As it turns out, we didn't get a haircut booked this year. Instead, I decided I'd just whack off the excess hair and let the passage of time disguise my incompetence as a barber. We all know that time can fix a bad haircut.

We got out the electric dog clipping set in its nifty metal case, complete with about a dozen attachments.

Not one worked.

Really. It was like trying to chop down a redwood with a hedge clipper.

Frances is a rescue dog, with a tough upbringing. We've only had her for ten years, so she's still suspicious that anytime we approach her with a collar and leash, we're preparing to dump her alone onto the mean streets of Big Stone County, wherever they might be. She goes to the vet once a year, so I usually surprise her, wrestle her into her collar and leash, and lift her into the pickup. Once a year worked, but when I started putting her collar on a couple times a week, tying her leash to a post and futilely buzzing away with an electric clipper, she caught on pretty quickly, and pretty quickly became uncatchable. No growling or biting – when she saw me carrying her collar, she'd just turn and saunter off over the horizon. As summer wore on, we started to worry about heat stroke, so we bought a child's wading pool, coaxed her into it and had her sit. This worked, sometimes, but everyone's dignity suffered.

One day when we went to a farm where they were shearing sheep, I thought we had a solution. It was just lousy luck that while we were watching, the sheep shearer snipped a little close and drew blood, which drew a veto on sheep clippers from my wife.

As her hair grew more matted and disreputable, we were determined to succeed. We discovered that if I laid next to her and locked her in a wrestling hold while scratching her ears, she saw it as an unorthodox form of cuddling, which she loves. As my wife wielded the scissors and approached the sensitive bits, I'd lie on my back and Frances laid on me, all four legs waving in the air while my wife snipped. I've never been so glad about having a driveway a quarter of a mile long. We can’t afford any witnesses and I like all my neighbors.

We're almost done. Another week or so and I'm going to call it a win. But just to be safe, it might be best if no one visits for a couple weeks. Being a witness can be dangerous.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson


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