Until Happy came along, I never gave much thought to animals preference for physical cleanliness. I had learned with my dog Natasha, who whimpered every time we drove through a messy or run down neighborhood and would not smile until we were securely in a neat and clean area, that some dogs at least have a preference for clean homes. Maybe it was because most of the time we had her she had to be bathed outside in the hot or cold, she should no particular attachment to bathing.
It was not until a few months before her death, after having moved into a new house where she was bathed in a tub with warm water, that she indicated a slight preference for cleanliness. As every so often she would guide us towards the master bath and lead us to the tub where she would look longingly at it until we understood that she wanted a bath. And as soon as she was asked if she wanted a bath she would jump in and relax as the warm water soaked her achy bones. My family and I smiled at the new interest that Tasha had in bathing. We realized after a few such occurrences that she liked being clean, but her request for bathing were so infrequent that it could hardly be considered a love of being clean.
Then Happy came along, and our appreciation for animals preferences and desires increased immensely. Unlike Tasha with her short hair and lady like manners, Happy was the quintessential rough and tumble little boy who loved to run around the yard, dig up gopher holes, and role around in an expression of complete bliss until his almost human like hair was full of dirt, weeds, pollen, and any other stray particle of the back yard he could carry in with him. Letting him go months, weeks, and sometimes even days without a bath was not an option as his hair was a perfect carrier of dirt and allergens, not to mention the times he came in drenched in a peculiar and rather offensive odor.
So soon after getting him we began the practice of giving him a weekly Friday afternoon bath. At first Happy was less than thrilled with his new routine. He never ran and hid from bath time, but his anxiety at getting a bath was clear. So to ease his pain we hit upon the idea of reserving one of his favorite bones for bath time and very special occasions. We hoped that he would soon associate bath time with this special treat and the rare occasions such as birthdays and holidays, and would soon look upon bath time as something to be enjoyed.
While some might frown upon this idea, it was the best solution we had at the time. And it quickly worked. Within a few weeks he was much calmer when we picked him up. His willingness to be in the tub or have his hair dried afterwards improved dramatically. Still, in spite of his new calmness, I would not have thought it to be a preference for cleanliness, but a love of the attention and his after bath treat; that was until he began to actively beg for baths.
Since starting the tradition of giving Happy a Friday bath, we have done our best to remain consistent. But sometimes we had no choice but to spend the day out making a bath impossible or some Fridays I was too sick to give him one. At first Happy had not minded missing a week here and there, but as Happy noticed how much better he smelled, how nice it was to remove the summer sweat, or how much more comfortable it was to move once the dusty tangles were washed away, that changed. If something prevented him from getting a Friday bath, on Sundays he would pace the floor and jump on our laps until we realized he wanted a bath. Then he would smile, jump down on the floor, and prance about until we got his towel and gave him a bath.
If his missed bath was do to being out or sickness, he would patiently wait until Sunday or a less hectic moment to beg. But if Friday afternoon found me tired and busy and he sensed that I had only forgotten his bath, he would nudge my memory along by pacing the floor and giving me a funny look that would catch my attention and make me wonder what was bothering him. Then it would dawn on me that it was bath Friday. Sometimes I was too involved in my computer to recognize what he wanted, so Happy moved to plan B which involved jumping on my lap and finally sitting on my chest and putting his head between me and my computer and refusing to let me do anything until I got up and got his bath towel. Then he would trot around and do a little victory dance because he knew that I understood he wanted to be clean.
The first time or two this happened I did not think much of it. But when it happened consistently on bath days, my family and I began to realize that dogs, just like humans, can and do learn to love being clean. We began to realize how little we understand and appreciate this wonderful gifts from God who has given them a great capacity for desiring and appreciating cleanliness, good tasting food, and a loving home.