Lickity spit

Drooly dog

Photo by Antony***/ Flickr 

Sometimes I think the decision to live with kids sentences you to a lifetime of tears — best case scenario, theirs, not yours. But the decision to live with dogs sentences you to a lifetime of drool. Even if you don't live with one of the spectacularly salivating breeds, there's a lot of gob.

It took me a while to get used to, partly because of my traumatic, extensive personal history with spit, non-dog related. My older brother was a hork specialist. He could hit targets, aka his siblings, from forty paces, from balconies, from school bus windows, from behind a bush. Sometimes he did it after eating tuna fish. Sometimes he would pin me down and urge our three year old brother, giggling and pink-faced, to do his drooly work for him: surrogate sibling spitting. I usually thumped my baby bro immediately afterwards.  I hoped a hard blow would outweigh the spit-thrill the next time he was recruited. It never did.

So sputum, for me, was associated with surprise, humiliation, grossed-outedness, and laughter. It was both disgusting and entertaining. In the days when I disliked dogs — before I got one — I was particularly put off by their drool. So obvious. So Pavlovian. So unsanitary.

By this point in my life, I've been slobbered on by far more dogs than siblings. Since I now love the species, every saliva stain brings a reflexive rush of affection. And attracts more licks and sniffs from other dogs, spreading the joy.

Amongst the dogs I walk, some are what I call "self-sliming models": when they shake their heads, they create an elaborate pattern of drool criss-crossing their foreheads and muzzle that would be the envy of any barista. Very creative. They are artists, really.

I'm also impressed by how slippery dog drool is. More than once, it's taken me down, when I've failed to see it puddled on the linoleum. I haven't sued the dogs for damages, either for personal injury or shattered china. That's because I'm planning on making money by patenting their drool. Surely such a viscous, soap-resistant, oleaginous substance has amazing scientific applications. I just have to do more research...

So far my research into the chemistry of dog drool has revealed less about its magical ingredients and more about human aversion. What money there is to be made is in "de-drooling." Apparently unless dog drool is removed as soon as possible, the stains are "stubborn as cement" — stubborn as a basset hound would be more a propos.  Unnamed proteins, oils, minerals and enzymes in dog saliva are blamed. People are desperate to remove drool stains from their windows, ceilings, sofas, silk ties, rugs, car dashboards, and, surprisingly, their swimming pools. Much scraping, soaking, washing and rinsing are required — with alcohol, ammonia, dish soap, vinegar, windex, unflavoured seltzer, or oxygen bleach, or some combination thereof.

My research made me wonder if suffering from spit-trauma was more common than I had assumed, and to speculate that many were not as far along in their recovery as I. Years of therapy do pay off, especially when you get to take your dog with you.

Notley, inspired by graffiti, licks her lips

Notley is the least licky member of the current home pack

None of my own dogs have been super-drooly, except Mim, when she had reached an ancient age and found closing her mouth took too much effort. Two of my dogs have been exceptionally licky, though. Hillary licked my face so often and enthusiastically that I developed a face fungus, which I tried and failed to combat (the fungus, not the licking) with tea tree oil. And McCracken; he gave a false first impression when I first met him at  age 8 weeks, galloping up to me, licking me just once, and running off to play. Perfect, I thought. Affectionate and autonomous. My kind of guy.

I should have paid more attention to the fact that his mother, Xena, was a non-stop licking machine. McCracken speaks his mother's tongue. I keep bottles of "Dr. Mist," an alcohol-free, super-drying agent, in every room, and have anti-bacterial wipes available for guests. On the bright side, I have not had to lick my wounds since Mack Crack moved in.

Should I die prematurely, McCracken must go to someone who can handle a reactive, unneutered male, and more importantly,  someone who's really into licking. Not someone who just tolerates it —  I worry he will sense any repressed revulsion. I myself have none. None at all.


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