This I Believe

Elizabeth - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on November 1, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

Cleaning out my garage last summer, I came across a fine example veterianarian persuasion: a red plastic basket I’d bought when Pilou, my Australian Shepherd, was just a puppy. It once held her brush, some treats, pooper bags, shampoo and a toothbrush and toothpaste. By the time I found it, two years later, all that was left was the dental hygeine items.

We are good dog parents; Pilou enjoys daily walks, regular baths and brushings, frisbee at the park, cuddles on the couch…but we’ve never brushed her teeth. And I will tell you, frankly that I don’t have canine dental guilt. Even when I bought the twenty-dollar chicken-flavored toothpaste, I knew that I was being bullied.

“If you don’t start early, your dog will fight you every time,” Dr. Stenner explained. I nodded and wrinkled my brow, hoping he saw that I understood the gravity of the situation. ( I am a geeky straight-A student who wants people to think I am the best at everything– dog ownership included.) “My dogs line up every evening right before I feed them. They look forward to it.” I held Pilou as he examined her puppy teeth, trying to remember if my mom and dad had ever stuck a toothbrush in Brandy’s mouth. I knew they hadn’t. Was he lying?

I love Pilou. When she was a pudgy puppy with a white fuzzy chest and soft pink belly, I’d whisper, “Someday, baby-girl Pilou, I’ll be dillusional and think that my human child is the cutest baby ever, but you’re the fluffiest, smartest, fastest, funniest puppy and no bald furless baby will ever compare.” I meant every word. We spent mornings watching the traffic zoom by on our busy street, and at night, I’d wake up to her puppy whimperings and comfort her with warm snuggles. There was nothing I wouldn’t have done for my new baby.

Almost nothing. Though I bought the tube of toothpaste and the patented “visi-plaque blotter” brush, I have never stuck a toothbrush in my beloved Pilou’s mouth. Yes, I am lazy. I’m surprised I brush my own teeth twice daily and sometimes even remember to floss. But it’s not just my sloth that prevents me from forcing a plastic chicken-frothed brush into Pilou’s elegantly pointed snout.

I’d like to think I am somehow respecting her dogness– wild and smelly canine mouths are part of the species. When did the alpha wolf start popping breathmints and checking for tartar build-up on the pack? After picking the bones of a deliciously juicy bunny, does he offer toothpicks to his comrades? Although Pilou is part of our family, she is still more closely related to the wolves. I think she would lose some self-respect if I started prying inside her mouth with my human dental tools.

I threw out Pilou’s toothbrush and toothpaste that July morning, wishing I had spent that twenty bucks on a good frisbee and some treats.