Entry from 7 January
a five minute read
Friday afternoons are, and have always been, a sacred time in our household. For as long as I’ve been a parent, Friday afternoons have been important – to say nothing of life pre-children, when Friday afternoons often meant celebratory drinks to mark the end of the long working week.
When I was at home with babies, it signalled the start of a whole 48 hours of adult company! (Something most parents take for granted during life pre-children.) When my kids were older, but still little, I introduced the concept of Happy Hour. They got to have chips and soft drinks, so it was an easy sell. Bonus for me: it meant that I had a captive audience for my crappy singing and guitar playing. This was great, especially during that tiny, tiny window before they figured out just how crappy I was (kids are smart, amiright?).
It also meant I could open a wine or beer and not feel I was ‘drinking alone’ as often Happy Hour began at 5pm ON THE DOT, well before my husband would usually be home from work. (As an aside, the 5pm thing is an interesting one. While clearly a flow-on from the concept of the white collar nine-to-five workday, it is one of those ‘rules’ we often establish for ourselves to ensure that we’re not drinking too much, eg, ‘I never drink before 5pm!’ or ‘I never drink alone!’ Whatever the self-imposed rules dictate, we take them as definitive proof that we don’t have anything to worry about, so there’s not a problem. Well, I did anyway. My problem became that eventually, I had too many of those rules. One of the signs for me that maybe it was time to just take a leeeeeetle break.)
Day 8 is my first Friday being alcohol-free. So, suffice it to say, I needed a major distraction. Nothing too extreme, like say, throwing a loveseat into the pool. Just a manageable diversion. Something achievable. Enter: our shaggy dog, Dolly.
Backstory: getting the dog to the groomer was one of the jobs on my ‘Before Christmas To Do List’. This list is always stupidly, impossibly, unrealistically long. I usually start it in early December when Christmas seems as far away as old age, and I assure myself I have ‘plenty of time’. Said list often includes stupid projects that could be done at literally any other time of year (‘re-pack Halloween decorations into storage box with lid’), and includes tasks that have no consequence or importance to anyone bar me. Things like: ‘Complete draft of novel’ or ‘Sort 23 kilos of Lego in boys’ room by colour and size’ or ‘Wallpaper garage while wearing a blindfold’.
It’s a list that I look at, cringe, and immediately want to put through an industrial-sized paper shredder. Or rip into tiny pieces before throwing them into an open fireplace while downing a tumbler of Scotch, neat, and sobbing dramatically – like they do in American daytime soaps and Lifetime movies. Instead, I put the list in my bag, then put my head in the bag to breathe deeply and ward off hyperventilation. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, no?
Anyway, by those standards, getting the dog groomed was totes achievable. (I love a list, and I love ticking things off of a list even more.) So, grooming the dog? That’s a drop-and-run job! Tick. I call the groomer in what I think is ‘plenty of time’ before Christmas:
Me: Hi, I’d like to make an appointment for Dolly?
Groomer: When would you like it for?
Me: Do you have anything before Christmas?
Groomer: [mirthless laughter] Ah…only if we get a cancellation…
Me: Erm, okay. Can I put my name on a list?
Groomer: Sure. Otherwise, we can book something for…[looking]…How’s early March?
March!?! Apparently ‘Let’s get the dog groomed for Lent!’ is a thing now? But I don’t say this.
Me: Um, I’ll just chance it on a cancellation coming up, but thanks. Would you be able to tell me how much will it be, roughly? [I describe Dolly.]
Groomer: Medium sized, shaggy coat…you’re looking at $90.
Me: Is that for a cut AND colour? Foils? A KERATIN treatment?!?
I also don’t really say this last bit either. But seriously, NINETY dollars? I don’t even pay that much for my own haircut! The groomer never called back, so I thankfully averted that financial crisis.
Back to Day 8. It’s now January. The dog has not had a bath in…? Best not answer that one. So I decide what better way to spend my first alcohol-free Happy Hour than grooming the dog! That is certainly the mother of all diversions. Clever me! Why read, or do something somewhat enjoyable, when I can wash a dog so reluctant to be clean? Sure, it will be a little bit stressful for all involved, but it needs to be done. And I’ll feel like I’ve been so productive. TICK! (Side note for another blog: I do feel like there are more hours in the week when I am alcohol-free.)
My 15-year-old daughter willingly agrees to help me, bless her. I will need all the help I can get. Even though Dolly is technically a medium sized dog, she has the dog-body equivalent of a 1970s Yugoslavian gymnast. She has a low centre of gravity. She is stocky, solid and oh-so-strong. Scarily strong. (In fact, I think she could bench-press me.) She is quite possibly part wombat.
When she hears the water running, she immediately pulls the old ‘dead weight’ trick. This bit of canine magic has the power to transform a 15 kilo dog feel into what feels like 55. She is like trying to lift a lumpy wet bag of sand into the laundry sink.
Once she’s in, we clip her on to the tap with a tiny lead so she can’t escape. As we shampoo her (she is secretly enjoying this part, just a little, although she won’t admit it), she seems to accept defeat at the hands of her alpha. Things seem to be going okay.
Until she hears the clippers turn on. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz….
Then, her look of defeat turns to fear and she gets that glazed faraway look like David Banner does right before he turns into the Hulk. She tries to jump out of the sink, but we somehow manage to keep her in place. Thankfully, by employing an old Jedi mind trick. And cheese.
After endless rounds of wresting, cajoling, and bribing/distracting with food, we somehow manage to get her washed, conditioned, rinsed and clipped. Water and fur clippings are everywhere. It looks like a Wookie has been slaughtered. I am slick with water or sweat. Where one ends and the other begins, I do not know. Dolly has singed my eyebrows by panting her stressed-out dog breath in my face for the better part of an hour. I can see why people outsource this job to the professionals.
By the time we finish, we probably could have all benefited from a sleeve of Valium. There may even be some PTSD involved, but I won’t know for sure until next time. But the upside – other than a sparking-clean dog, free of charge – was that I didn’t think about Happy Hour. Not once!
I guess the take-home from this experience for me was: do whatever it takes to keep yourself distracted. Maybe next time, I’ll pick something more traditionally relaxing and outsource. Dolly would look great with foils.