This Side Up

Dog’s hair: A sure way to make conversation


“What kind of dog do you own?”

I found the question out of left field as I and a lineup of reporters and TV cameramen stood in the shadow of a mountain of road salt, waiting for the governor to arrive and tell us how the state was geared up to fight the winter. The question came from a representative from the Department of Transportation who I had not met.

My surprise must have registered.

“You’ve got dog hairs on your coat,” he said.

“I know what it’s like, I’ve got a dog, too.”

He told me about his dog and showed off a few hairs on his coat to verify it.

The exchange in the fall of 2015 came to mind Saturday when I decided it was time to clean our cars. When you start looking for things to clean, you find them. It became quickly apparent that Ollie spends a lot of time in the car. Or, maybe, he loses a lot of hair while either of us is driving. That’s scary.

Whatever the cause, hair was everywhere. It matted the rugs in the back passenger seats and stuck out from the seat fabric like a coat of needles. Hair lined the mug holders and even a couple of stands, filled with static electricity, were glued to the dash. The vacuum did little to deter their tenacity.

Naturally, the car isn’t the only place where Ollie leaves his hairy calling cards. After a spin through the house, the vacuum canister is matted with hair and I don’t think it’s mine. It’s not white enough. On occasion I’ve lifted the vacuum to Ollie’s favorite couch in an attempt to rid it of hair. It does a mediocre job, better than nothing.

There’s an irony to Ollie and his hair. When we decided it was time to adopt another dog after having to put down our former companion of nearly 17 years, Carol had one condition. She wanted a short-haired dog.

The size of the dog didn’t matter as long as it was bigger than a bread box. That made sense, for the longhaired dogs that had been family members were seemingly in need of perpetual combing that left softball-sized wads of hair. Baths were also part of the regular care, a process that left the tub streaked and revealed the dog’s true size. After soaking them to the skin, they looked two-thirds of their size.

Ollie is sleek in comparison. When drenched he can look bedraggled and even pathetic but he hasn’t shrunk.

When we first spotted Ollie he was in a crate when the East Greenwich Animal Protection League was still based in East Greenwich. It now has found a permanent home in Cranston and yes, it is still called the East Greenwich Animal Protection League.

He was sitting hunched over and looking through the bars. He looked us straight in the eyes and we knew that had to be him. Tammy Flanagan took us to a room and soon thereafter appeared with Ollie. He was quite indifferent to us, a trait that fortunately has diminished over the years. Winning him has been a long process. Nonetheless, we had decided this was the one. And he met the shorthair requirement.

On a visit to the supermarket Sunday, with Ollie standing watch from between the front two seats, a fellow shopper asked Carol if she might meet him. She admired him, a sure way to win the hearts of dog owners and proclaimed every house should have a dog. It turned out she didn’t own a dog and inquired how to contact EGAPL. I’m anticipating that call.

But I must say if you can’t bring your dog with you, hair is the best opener to a conversation. Try it when you meet someone for a first time, assuming you’ve spotted a few hairs. You’re likely to be trading dog stories. If they’re put off, even offended by your detection, then you’ll know they aren’t true dog lovers and not worth talking to anyway.


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