The recent death of Neo, our 14-year-old boxer mix, has sent our other two dogs reeling, so trying to keep their lives to the normal routine, we decided not to cancel their previously scheduled grooming appointment.  

“You want to help me take Buddy and Dingo to PetSmart?” I plead. “Not really,” my husband frowns, “But I will.”

We get leashes off the wall hook which immediately starts a cacophony of barking, Dingo's aging vocal chords sounding like a sea lion.

“Who wants to go in the car?” I ask as wagging tails beat a happy rhythm on my calves.

Buddy, our large terrier mix, typically saturated with dust and stickers, has his annual spring haircut and Dingo needs a bath. This is the first time Dingo, our German shepherd mix, is going to PetSmart and I have high hopes that it goes smoothly. 

We never know when he is going to act quirkysince, as a puppy, he was dumped on the street and has a few trauma-related issues. 

My husband says that if Dingo was a human at a party, he would be the weird guy in the corner.

We get the dogs situated on their canvas seat-cover—Buddy looking out the window smiling; ears forward, tongue lolling while Dingo hunkers down in the floorboard, instincts telling him a bath is coming.

A late arrival sends my husband scurrying ahead with Buddy while I am still working with Dingo on exiting the car. Finally coaxing him from his floorboard cocoon, we double-time it through the wide automatic doors, and stepping onto a “Welcome" mat the size of Texas; glimpse Buddy just rounding a distant corner. 

Stepping off the mat and feeling dead-weight at the end of the leash, I turn to see Dingo, back feet still on the rug, splayed out while toenails dig for purchase on the floor…the slippery floor.

“Who wants bacon?” falls on deaf ears as I struggle to get him up and moving while a semi-circle of shoppers gawk. 

“What’s the matter with your dog?”  a loud voice surges from somewhere in the growing crowd. 

“He is afraid of slippery floors,” I answer stretching for a just-out-of-reach shopping cart. 

Planting my feet with both hands on the leash now, I gently tug bringing Dingo upright and hear a smattering of applause from our audience. Increasing the pressure, his body moves forward, off the mat and his toenails scrape the floor; a piercing “nails on a chalkboard" sound emanating.

Finally able to grip the cart, I drag it closer, spin and lift my 60-pound trembling bundle of fear, lowering him only to have legs and toenails latch on to the sides as the cart begins to roll away. An elderly woman, the only watcher without a cell phone recording, steps up to assist, holding the cart stable as I unhinge paws from the cart’s top edge and situate my big baby in the center of the basket. A bead of sweat drips off my forehead and we start to roll, now very late for his appointment.

Two preteen girls inject “Isn't he a little big for the cart?” as we pass, Dingo and I not even dignifying that with a response.

We arrive at the grooming area of the store, seemingly miles from the entrance, to find my husband seated comfortably on a bench. Expression puzzled at the sight of Dingo panting in the back of a shopping cart and sweat glistening on my forehead, he inquires “What took you so long?”

Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at iam.mad.art@gmail.com.