The Journey of Phillip, the Forgotten, to Phillip, The Fabulous in 30 Days
Seventeenth in a Series
January 1, 2016
Splish, Splash, I Was Takin’ a Bath
On this long awaited day of back to back football entertainment, Paul shared the chair with Cindy Lou listening to the announcer’s voice as he watched yet another action filled game on the wide screen TV. Selected chips were saturated with some sort of dip as Paul absentmindedly filled his need for high caloric intake ensuring the extra expendable energy required if he were part of the lineup. While Paul watched the endless activity, the boys were stationed around his chair fixated on the hand that held the snack. As Paul’s eyes remained fixated on the tube, the boys gaze followed the chip from the bag to the mouth of this man repeatedly hoping that this time the ending would be different. My thoughts were interrupted with the words,” TOUCHDOWN!” shouted by an excited man who hopped to his feet with his watch party to do doing the happy dance as the fight song rambled in the back ground. Jeff Smith, Loki, and Stanley wailed and wagged as Gracie Bird punctuated the performance with an ear splitting, “Woo Hoo!, Woo, Hoo!”
Phillip noticed the chance to enact his own play by play amidst the commotion. He dove for the unguarded chip bag and headed out of bounds. Stan-the-Man opened the door as the pack ran interference into the yard to share the spoils of this hard won taste of victory. As the chips fell, a bewildered Paul cut to instant replay wondering if this warranted a foul and searched the pantry for a replacement. “It’s cold outside!” Gracie Bird said shaking her feathers. “Yes Gracie, it’s cold outside.” I parroted shutting the door. Stan-the-Man knew how to open doors, but had not yet learned to close a door after him. Cindy Lou shifted her position in the chair opening one eye slightly as her sleep had been disrupted.
“That little counter grazer! Did you see that?” he asked motioning to the boys tackling and tearing the bag of crumbs that were once chips. Loki had intercepted the torn bag and raced through the yard with “the brothers” in close pursuit. Phillip rolled joyously in the salted, greasy grass. “He is going to need a bath,’’ I pointed out as the mix stuck to his skin. “Tonight, my dear, we will give him a shower, but now I need snacks,” he said closing the refrigerator that did not produce the desired delicacy. Pointing a celery stick in my direction Paul continued, “I’ve been thinking about my New Year’s resolution. Perhaps, I should start the year off eating healthier. “Maybe the lost snacks pushed Paul into this official press release,” I thought wondering how long this resolution would last. Paul muttered under his breath, “Are you cooking the black eyed peas… without ham? Of course, you are! Why would I expect ham from a vegetarian?” The celery crunched in his mouth accentuating his self-imposed punishment. “You will never miss the ham when these are finished,” I replied as he settled back for more football. “After all, these were special black eyed peas grown in our own garden for this very day. What could be more meaningful?”
The bowls of beans sat steaming on the table for the traditional New Year’s good luck ritual. “Yummy!” Paul exclaimed with unexpected zeal. “Pass the salt, please.” I rose to get the salt that was missing from the table. “Of course, they taste good!” I thought rationalizing his praise. “If you eat enough celery, anything tastes good!” Turning to approach the table, I caught sight of all four dog’s heads sharing the last remnants from Paul’s “yummy” meal. The bowl was quickly returned to its lineup before I could call “off sides.” “Need seconds?” I asked pretending not to notice the offense. “No, I’m full,” he said patting his stomach and returning to the chair. Phillip burped. “At least some of us will have a good luck for the new year,” I smiled silently.
First baths are usually eventful for any dog and Phillip was no exception. “Phillip…. Bath?” Paul said attaching the leash and directing the dog to the shower. “Gracie Bird bath?” Gracie Bird begged while throwing water onto her feathers from her dish. “Later, Gracie Bird,” Paul promised. “It’s Phillip’s turn.” Phillip planted his feet and like a defensive lineman would not budge in the direction of the small room with warm running water. He did not like water since it reminded him of all those rain storms endured in a past life. “Ellen, I don’t want to stress him out or force him. Do you have any ideas to make this a more enjoyable experience?” Paul asked. Phillip had excelled at so many new situations and we wanted him to associate “bath time” with “fun time.”
I thought for a moment and remembered a frightened baby Stanley terrorized by everything new. He conquered stair climbing with the help of kibble scattered along the steps. Car rides became a joy when he got to sit in my lap and eat treats from my hand. We fed him meals in the shower to give the enclosed space a positive association. It is hard to even imagine a confident Stanley having those problems so long ago. “There is that Christmas ham loaf still in the refrigerator. I’ll be back in a moment with a plan,” I announced running down the stairs.
The fears of a once frightened Phillip were replaced with the excitement of having a plate of “people” food all to himself. The plate was carried into the shower followed without hesitation by a suddenly hungry Phillip. He never noticed the shower door closing or the warm water washing over him as we calmly rewarded him with praises and ham loaf. Phillip even offered to assist with his scrub by lifting a leg for better access. Paul beamed proudly at the cooperation. Phillip closed his eyes and leaned into the man and relished the touch of his first bath.
I opened the door to the tiny room to allow Phillip an exit as I followed with towels to finish the process. Bone-it-a burst through the door demanding her turn and nosed intently for any overlooked ham loaf on the shower floor. The others lined up awaiting their turn as if thinking,” NEXT!”
Phillip rolled onto his back to allow me to dry his tummy. Previously unnoticed scars were now sickeningly visible. They appeared to be the result of cigarette burns. “How could anyone use this sweet trusting tummy to put out their cigarettes? Can you believe this, Paul? How much evidence of his suffering will we uncover?” I asked a wet Paul who exited the small steam filled room followed by an entourage of clean dogs. “Can you fix it?” he asked looking down with renewed concern at the dog that had just excelled in one more new task. “Yep, I can fix it,” I said without looking up as I mentally inventoried my homemade herbal concoctions.
From that day forth, the bathroom became Phillip’s personal locker room. It had memories of post-game warm rub downs, praises, and ham loaf. The shower stall was revisited often in hopes of finding overlooked ham loaf leavings. He considered the toilet bowl his personal fresh water dispenser as the rest of the dogs lined up awaiting rehydration. And best of all, Paul and I never needed to worry about being lonely in this small room… for if we were to only wait… for a very few seconds…the door would burst open heralding a happy Phillip followed by a parade of pouches intent on ear scratches from their intimate audience.