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Sometimes it all comes out in the wash


When a woman reaches a certain age without a canine companion, she finds herself in the unsavory position of having to rely on the kindness of nonstrangers to wash a dog at the local Wag N’ Wash.

I would never have been able to bring my dog Hank on assignment to the dog wash and bakery in Eagan, Minnesota, and not just because he’s no longer alive. Hank was a biter. This always made me envious of friends with dogs who knew how to keep their teeth to themselves.

Dixie Larson

Dixie Larson expressing her unbridled joy at being a canine guinea pig at the Wag N’ Wash in Eagan, Minnesota.

Which is how Publisher Mary Jo Larson came to entrust me with her dog, Dixie. Perhaps “entrust” is a bit strong, since Mary Jo insisted on coming along because Dixie can be a bit wild when out of her element. Dixie was used to her “father” giving her a bath in the privacy of the basement and was a bit confused that her Aunt Nancy wanted to bathe her in public. I tried explaining the concept of first-person journalism to Dixie, but I’m afraid she’s not the brightest bulb in the litter. I only hope Mary Jo will read this to her when it’s published so Dixie will understand she was just a bit player in my First Amendment rights.

Clark Kerndt, a corporate America refugee who has been a franchisee for five-plus months, greeted us at the door and gave us a tour of the 4,200-square-foot brightly lit store. The dry and frozen dog food are the bottom-line makers, he said, but the do-it-yourself dog wash, professional groomer and onsite bakery are what elevates the chain a cut above the competition. Plus a well-timed batch of apple-spice cookies can mask the odor of wet dog.

Tuesday mornings are typically quiet, so we had the place almost to ourselves. The first thing Dixie did when she made her entrance was to graze along the merchandise bins at nose level. Fortunately, she didn’t grab anything and refuse to give it back. Sniffing at the store-baked cookies and odors of previous dogs passing through, Dixie was lulled into the false belief that she was here to have fun. As Clark explained the wash system, Dixie licked herself. “That’s not necessary, Dixie,” I assured her. “That’s one area on my soapy water’s radar.”

We chose the basic wash—not that Dixie wasn’t worth the $20 fur-buster wash with the option of Shiny Hiney shampoo or one with honey and almond oil additives. “Aunt Nancy’s not made of money,” I had to tell a disappointed pooch. Out of the goodness of his heart, Clark threw in free canine cologne. We could have used the deluxe sink with a device to mix the shampoo and conditioner with water to eliminate the juggling act, but we wanted a bigger challenge.

Dixie jumped right up into the steel tank, and Clark secured a collar to keep her inside. This was timely because as soon as the door closed, Dixie wanted out—badly. To calm her down, Clark offered her a  homemade cookie. Not every dog will take the treat, he said, but Dixie is big-boned and never refuses food, even at stressful times. (I bought her a small people-quality meatloaf as a thank you gift.)

After donning an apron, I sprayed water on Dixie and the floor where Mary Jo was standing snapping pictures. It wasn’t totally my fault because Dixie had her head and shoulders outside the tank pleading with Mary Jo to rescue her. I shampooed the shaking canine, conditioned her and talked to her in a cloying voice that dogs love—or so humans think.

Nancy washing Dixie

Nancy Weingartner
Executive Editor
Nancy can be reached at
612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner

Now that she was clean, I attempted to towel dry her. I then took her to the area in the back where the blow dryers are set up. Once again she naively jumped up on a bench. Dixie should have been tethered again, but because she would rather choke to death than stand still, I graciously held the leash in one hand while I ran the drier hose up and down her fur. I particularly enjoyed drying her face because the air made her mouth flop around in a comical way.

Once Dixie was semi-dry (I rarely have the patience to dry my own hair, so Dixie’s full-body hairdo was pushing my limits), I sprayed her with leave-in conditioner and a misting of the canine cologne. Later, back at the office, I regretted not spraying myself as well, because unlike Dixie, I smelled like a wet dog. As I mopped up the floor around the tank, I was glad I hadn’t attempted to do this at home—although I wouldn’t have minded doing it at Mary Jo’s house.

Years ago I tested myself to see if I had the temperament to be a doggy day-care provider. I’m afraid this experiment ended much the same way the previous adventure did. An hour was my shift limit. Plus, since the treats offered bathing dogs are human-grade food, I would gain weight polishing off the ones timid dogs declined. And even more relevant, Clark didn’t offer me the job.

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