Signs of spring: Flora, fauna, fur

Signs of spring: Flora, fauna, fur

by Lisa Smith Molinari
Stripes Okinawa

What does the month of April represent to you? For those of us north of the equator, we’re watching new bees buzzing among the spring daffodils.

April is the also the month that I begin shaving my legs above the ankle. It’s the time of year that seasonal allergies render my eyes baggy and swollen, and the month that I gain five pounds from sneaking Easter candy and gorging on leftover scalloped potatoes.

But the April event that has the most significant impact on our household each year is when our dog Moby sheds his winter coat.

I didn't believe our base neighbors who warned us.

"You're getting a lab?" they said in disbelief. "You know labs shed, right?"

But six years ago, when I first set eyes on our then-eight-week-old yellow Labrador retriever puppy we named Moby, people could've warned me that he would grow up to have poisonous tentacles, razor-sharp claws and skunk-like scent sacs. I simply didn't care. Moby was the cutest bundle of velvety fuzz, loose flub and puppy breath I’d ever seen. He looked just like one of those impossibly adorable L.L. Bean catalog puppies, and nothing, including zoological fact, scientific evidence and common sense, was going to stop us from taking him home.

Throughout that first year of puppy-rearing, Moby shed hairs here and there, but we were too busy dealing with potty training, shoe chewing and needle teeth wound care to notice. But when Moby turned 1 and was officially an adult, his follicles decided to  celebrate by taking a vacation. Accordingly, his stiff yellow hairs were granted their freedom to explore every nook and cranny of our household.

It all happened quite suddenly. One day, to praise Moby for returning the pair of underwear he’d stolen from our daughter's room, I reached down to stroke his back. He gave me several licks to the face before I noticed. I had a catcher's mitt of dog fur covering my hand.

Ever since then, April has become the month that dog fur permeates every aspect of our lives.

First thing in the morning, my scratchy throat is the sure sign that I've inhaled several hairs in the middle of the night, triggering sudden coughing fits. Moby sleeps in a crate in the corner of our bedroom, but when I lift the quilt to make our bed, puffs of his fur take flight and become airborne, creating a cyclone of dog hairs that glows visibly in the morning light, before gently drifting back down to resettle on our bedspread, ready to be inhaled another night.

When I dress for the day, I’m hard-pressed to find an article of clothing that is free of Moby’s fur, even if it’s been freshly laundered. I often find a hair floating in my morning coffee and have to fish it out with a finger. If I miss, it ends up on my tongue. Strangely, I can feel it, but somehow can't seem to find it. Eventually, I swallow and hope that dog fur doesn't have too many carbs.

The rest of the day, I find mats of fur in the lint trap, tumbleweeds of fur drifting down the hallway, tufts of fur on the upholstery, balls of fur on the bathroom rug, blankets of fur in the vacuum filter, tangles of fur on the fan blades, and a generous sprinkling of fur on carpets, furniture and fixtures.

Also, thanks to my unfortunate mistake of allowing Moby to ride along in my car, anyone who enters my vehicle gets out looking like Chewbacca.

I didn't think it was canine-ly possible for a dog to shed so much fur, much less for it to end up on top of our refrigerator, baked into the meatloaf or woven into my toothbrush bristles. In a strange and incredibly annoying sort of way, dog shedding is quite miraculous.

In fact, it will be a miracle if I survive April without hacking up a hairball myself.

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