2011-08-24 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Hair of the Dog- please don’t look for hangover cures here. The “hair of the dog” rules my life. When you choose to own Afghan Hounds, their hair takes precedence over your own. You can always go around with a paper bag over your head, but you become plagued with guilt if you neglect your dog’s grooming. Furthermore, you pay dearly if you skip a daily brushing. The next day new tangles rear their ugly knots with a vengeance.
Because of their luxurious hair and sleek silhouettes, Afghans create quite a stir in public. The reaction of passersby is often comical. Two youths walked by our canine caravan in the woods last week. One remarked Edgar Afghan Poe looked like an “eighties rock star” and that his sister Halle resembled “Alf.” Oh, really? When people would tell my late male Alan that he was a dead ringer for Howard Stern. Alan usually snubbed them. He knew he was more refined and far better looking than the shock jock.
I’ve been an Afghan “guardian” over 30 years, first mesmerized with the exotic breed as a kindergartener. I realized from the start that their care would be a huge commitment. Over the years we have owned six Afghans, usually two at a time. I put them on the table for maintenance brushings each day but bring them to the groomer for their baths because you really need a shop set-up at home to wash and dry them correctly. In between appointments the gang is rough and tumble. They dig in the yard, zoom through the bushes, and become Velcro to mud, sticks and leaves.
A pin brush and towel are permanent fixtures on the stoop. No dog gets in without a four-legged inspection. It is a constant battle to keep the dirt outdoors rather than hitchhiking on Afghans and, consequently, into the house. Morning is the worst mud-tracking time of the day; especially when the grass is wet and the goons decide to run loops. Sometimes we tiptoe through sprinkler puddles in gutters as a paw bath before breakfast. Since Halle has trained herself to leap over puddles, this ritual is futile.
Actually pet Afghans like mine can have more hair than show dogs, making them harder to brush. Once an Afghan is spayed or neutered, the hormone changes alter the coat pattern. Many sprout more coat. Even smooth faces can turn into whiskered Civil War generals. Mature representatives of the breed are supposed to have a saddle which means the hair on the back should be naturally short, (not shaved short). The long, silky hair flows down from the shoulder blades and hip bones, giving the regal pantaloon profile. Whether an Afghan has a saddle or is full-coated is also dependent on their lines. Both my dogs have extra hair instead of a saddle.
Show Afghans are often banded in between competitions, meaning their long ear and leg tresses are gently held in rubber bands that look like long braids. This coif stops the hair from matting and also keeps males clean when lifting their legs for nature’s call. The bands are removed before the dog enters the ring, and put back after judging is over.
Show dogs wear snoods while eating and drinking to protect their long ear fringes. Sequined, brocade, or satin snoods add to the Afghan allure. My dogs will pose in a snood for a photo, but after that, they refuse to humor me. There are custom boots and raincoats for Afghans traveling on an inclement show day. I tried knee-hi panty-hose once when the stringy oak seeds (catkins) were driving me crazy but my late show line Afghan, Trevor, shredded them instantly as he raced around the yard.
Despite what many people think, clipping an Afghan in the summer does little to make the dog cooler. These dogs were first bred as hunters in both mountain and desert areas of the Middle East, so their long coats insulate them during extreme heat and cold. Afghans are stripped down when their coats are severely matted, and seniors or infirm dogs that can no longer withstand sessions on the grooming table are more comfy in shorter hairdos.
Afghan hair grows slowly. It can take years before a mature Afghan has long ear fringes that extend inches beyond the natural ear. I still steam when I recall the time I picked up Alan at the grooming shop only to discover an assistant had snipped off his ear fringes. How do you spell the word “strangle”?
An Afghan’s glorious coat blowing in the wind is a sight to behold. Though tempted, I never put the dogs in my old Mustang with the top down because I was so afraid they would see something they wanted and bolt, but sometimes now I let Edgar stick his head out the sunroof. He looks like a cross between Fabio and a camel as we drive. Heads turn. Jaws drop. The goof ball has no idea what anyone is staring at. He only knows he is enjoying the breeze.
All this chatter about Afghan Hound hair brings me to a question. Last Hope is hosting a Zumbathon sponsored by Yogasize on Saturday September 17 from 1 to 3 pm at the Last Hope Wantagh Adoption Center, 3300 Beltagh Avenue. Tickets are $10 a person. During the fundraiser there will also be a table with Hair by Victoria doing feather hair extensions for humans and canines. Hmm…Edgar Afghan Poe and his sister want to ask you something. Should they get hair extensions?
For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Our poster pups this week would love fancy feathers, but first they need homes. “Roscoe” #94307 is a delightful 8-year-old Dachshund who gets along with cats and other dogs. “Mona Lisa” #93957, with her painted on half smile, has been waiting at the shelter since March. She can be timid around new people but then warms up. Last weekend we discovered how much fun “Mona” has playing with “May”, a Pit pup with a horrific background. Someone dumped “May” outside a business in a plastic bag. At the time her skin was bleeding from demodex. She shows her appreciation for shelter TLC by being an absolute sweetheart.
Cats: “Dusty” #20804- white and wonderful; “Princess Calico” #20859- purring machine.
Dogs: “LeRoy Chestnut” #94237- mature Shepherd mix; “Sheba” #94256- Husky mix; “Foxy”, May’s other playmate.