Years ago, they discovered I had a food allergy to chicken eggs. Weirdly, after I had Covid in March of 2020 it doesn’t seem to affect me like it did before. But, back then it was not good. Rashes and stomach issues. My lips would swell. To help me, Jeff got the kids ducklings for Easter. Then, he built a pen near our house in the mountains, to house them. Our Golden Retriever, Mr Perkins, was very interested in the ducks, too. Jeff did all this so that I would have a ready supply of duck eggs – which were very difficult to come by where we lived at that time. Until we found a duck guy on a mountain top an hour away, and Jeff would drive to buy me eggs from this guy twice a month.
Our ducks got bigger, quick! and I was excited that in just a few months I would finally have the eggs I needed. That May, Jeff took me away for a weekend up to Victoria on beautiful Vancouver Island. My parents came to take care of the kids, and Jeff gave my Mom strict instructions.
‘Do no let Perkins out of the house, except on a leash, if you can’t watch him. Perkins will head straight for the duck pen.’
When we got home on Sunday evening, Jeff walked up to feed the ducks. There was a large hole under the fence where they were housed. Perkins was sitting next to the hole, proudly wagging his tail. The ducks were gone. How were we going to explain this to the kids, whose Easter ducks were nowhere to be found? We did what all parents do and we lied. They flew away to find their family. I mean, what did we know? They were gone.
June arrived. Jeff was mowing the tall grass in the meadow and I was making lunch in the kitchen, when suddenly the sliding door opened. Jeff entered smelling awful.
‘I found the ducks.’ He said, matter-of-factly. Then, he went straight upstairs to take a shower.
I heard the shower going, and later, Jeff heading out to the garage. It was about that time that there was pawing at the slider. I opened the door and Perkins ran inside. And with him came the stench of the century. It was so bad, it stung the eyes and the throat. I thought my eyelashes would fall out! And it spread quickly throughout the house, like nuclear fallout. The kids came out of their rooms down the hall.
‘What’s that smell?!’ They asked, covering their mouths.
‘It’s Perkins! You have to help me catch him!’
We chased the dog all over the house. Fanning out, but he thought it was a game and evaded all our attempts. Finally, he made a break for the stairs. We followed. Upstairs was Jeff’s office and our master bedroom and master bath. The master bath in that house was the size of our entire upstairs in our house here on the farm. Perkins went into the bathroom and I promptly shut the door.
‘Go downstairs and open all the windows and doors.’ I told the kids. They happily ran off, away from the stench factory. Then, I took off my shirt and covered my nose and mouth, then opened the door.
Perkins was inside, wagging his tail, completely oblivious as to why we were chasing him but happy for the game. Seemingly unaware of the rank stench of Eau de Duck he was carrying with him. He came towards me and another cloud of toxicity hit me through the t-shirt I had over my face. The bathroom had a wall of windows looking down over the pool – a poor design for privacy – and I headed for those, opening all of them. My mind reeled. Getting an emergency appointment with the groomer was not going to be possible on a busy Saturday. And besides, if I loaded the dog up in the SUV, the smell would permanently embed itself into every soft surface. My options were narrowing. It was time for drastic measures.
I turned on the shower and stepped inside. Perkins happily came when called and I grabbed his collar and brought him inside with me. Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands like water. Those were our two preferred dog breeds. And Perkins loved water, too. He would swim with the kids all summer. Requiring little invitation to jump into the pool. I had no dog shampoo in our shower, so that day Perkins got my $40 a bottle salon shampoo. When I finished with that I thought What the hell , in for a penny… and used some nice smelling conditioner on him, as well. Perkins was reveling in the attention and his impromptu spa treatment, when Jeff came in.
‘You’re showering with the dog?!’
I was in no mood for his critique. ‘I had no choice. You can still smell it. He ran all over the house after rolling in dead duck when you ran over them with the lawn mower and stirred it up. The kids and I trapped him in here. Anyway, you’re already clean. You should go. I’ll clean this up.’
After Perkins bath, and twenty wet towels, I blow dried him like the groomer – it turned out he loved a blow dryer – then let him out. Standing up, I surveyed the extent of the bathroom carnage as I caught the first glimpse of myself in the mirror. No wonder Jeff was taken aback. I was stood there in wet Converse tennis shoes, soaking wet jeans, just my bra, with dripping wet hair and mascara running down my face. I looked like The Joker in Batman. Or a Superhero Ha! All I could do was I laugh. Utterly ridiculous. But the job was done. I threw all the we towels into the laundry room. Finally, it was my turn to shower myself clean from the remainder of the ducks.
After that, every time I would take a shower, if the bedroom door was left open, Perkins would find me and sit and watch me. Sometimes he would bark and wag his tail. Let me in. I want a bath, too! Worn down by his whining, I did something I never thought I would do. I bought flea and tick shampoo and once a month I would let him in with me and I would give him a warm shower. No more fancy dog grooming appointments in Bellevue. I did his monthly shampoo and blowout. And he loved every minute of it. At first, Jeff thought it was strange, but then he would be waiting outside the shower with a towel to corral him, and after I showered myself of dog hair, I would fire up the blow dryer. Perkins was always happiest on those days. He died of stomach cancer in Spring of 2014. Even now, I miss him and think of him all the time.
Today is the one month-iversay of bringing home our new little pup. I can’t believe it’s only been a month. Puppies are A LOT of work. And I’m twenty years older. But, I know it’s good for me. Fergus keeps me on my toes. Even when I’m begging for a nap!
After the first week, Fergus had that puppy stank. Jeff and I agreed he needed to experience his first bath. And when I say that Jeff and I agreed I mean Jeff suggested I give him his first bath. So, I took Fergus upstairs to the big bathtub and commenced his cleaning with his newly acquired organic hypoallergenic coconut oil puppy shampoo. Only the best for our young prince. Luckily, like Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands, Labradors like water, too. And Fergus likes water. Perhaps we need to put in a pool. By the end, after multiple full body shakes, I was covered in water and so was the entire bathroom. Jeff took him from me in a bath sheet so that I could mop up, then have a shower of my own. We needed a new solution.
The next week I decided to go Full Perkins.
‘You’re going bring him in the shower with you?’ Jeff asked.
‘It worked before. And it’s less of a mess. Besides, after giving him a bath I have to shower myself, anyway.’
So, I turned on the shower, popped Sir Fergus into the tub – he’s grown three times bigger in a month – and hopped in after him. He gets all the attention up front. Then Jeff takes him away to dry him, wiggling like a piglet, while I get my shower. No wet bathroom to mop up. And a lot less wet towels. But, something strange happened as I was shampooing Fergus that first morning. I started to tear up. I had just gotten off the phone with the Patrimonio in Santiago. It’s odd, but last time I showered with a dog it was with Perkins. Back when I knew what I was doing, sort of. Back when I didn’t know anything about a Patrimonio for the Camino de Santiago. Probably, before I knew what the Camino de Santiago was. When I could answer the telephone and not struggle for words to communicate what I needed. Or to answer their questions. That’s always when I get the most flustered. It feels like an exam, every time. Perhaps you’re saying to yourself right about now, She was showering with her dog years ago in the US and she thinks she knew what she was doing back then?! But in that moment, I thought back to when I took the ease of things for granted. Even when I had to chase down a whiley Golden Retriever covered in duck guts.
Jeff frowned, concerned as I handed him our new little bundle of joy. ‘Are you OK?’ he asked.
I nodded. Then, stood under the water remembering simpler times, wishing my Spanish was better and things were easier, and missing good old Perkins. Oddly, this soup of emotions was triggered by showering with Fergus. Is it strange? Probably. Would our neighbors think the Americana had lost her mind? For sure. But, after our visit from the Swingers of Melide, I figure the town is already talking about us. So, showering with my dog is tame by comparison. And, after living on the farm for nearly two years, I’m pretty sure they’d expect nothing less.