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Haircut puts Opie the dog into a tailspin

January 17, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

We didn't realize Opie was largely white. Opie didn't realize he was equipped with a tail.

You can learn so much from a haircut.

The bouvier des Flandres is now 9 months old, so in theory, he ought to be about fully grown. The fact that the animal kept expanding nonetheless was finally explained when we figured out that the inner dog may have maxed out, but the outer coat had not.

His sheepdog tendencies didn't bother me all that much, but then I don't clean the house. A desirable quality of the BDF is that he does not shed. An undesirable quality is that he counts among his hobbies the frequent roll in straw, dead leaves and sticks, all of which stick to his Velcro-like coat. When he would come in, all the compost would fall off through some freak of indoor humidity or something.

After Beth swept the kitchen floor to the point that the hardwood floorboards were wearing thin, she announced it was time for the dog to receive his first "big boy" haircut.


I looked at Opie. Opie looked at me.

For both of us, "big boy haircut" smacked of euphemism. Like when your boss tells you that you are to receive an "enhanced separation package" instead of directly saying you're fired.

But since Beth still had the broom in her hand, we both reckoned it was a good time to keep quiet, so we trundled off to Dogs R Us in Williamsport ("If your dog's not becoming to you, you should be coming to us"), where we placed Opie in Stephanie's able care.

It fell to me to retrieve the animal later that day, and for a split second I didn't recognize him. Stephanie is an artist, there is no other way to put it.

Opie looked so - so ...

I hate to use this word in the same sentence as "Opie" for fear the computer may crash, but he looked so dignified. Curiously, while his outer fur had been nearly all black, the undercoat was salt and pepper, like a mariner's beard. The shag had entirely camouflaged this fact. It had also camouflaged his stubby tail, which had never been introduced into evidence before.

Back home, Beth, Opie and I reverently reviewed the results. The old Opie was a big, shaggy goof. The new Opie appeared neat and trim and seemed a bit more serious. It was as if he realized he had passed into doghood. With this haircut, he knew, came responsibility. No more little boy. He looked the part, now he had to act it.

And that's when Opie first noticed the tail.

Because of all the fur, he had never known of its existence. Now, there was some foreign object affixed to his hindquarters that he didn't exactly like the looks of. And it was following him.

First, he tried to trot away from it, glancing back at his rump to see if it had been left behind. When it hadn't, he ran, then sprinted. But it was still there. Frantically, he called on evasive tactics, trying to ditch it. But after tearing multiple zig-zag paths though the yard in an effort to lose it, he was gassed and the tail had lost no ground whatsoever.

Fear crept into his eyes: "Yikes, it's as fast as me."

Unable to outrun it, he decided it had to be killed. To kill something, it must first be caught. But the cur was as agile as it was speedy. If you chased it to the left, it ran off to the right. Reversing the tactic reversed the result.

And the tail proved hard to sneak up on. The BDF would stand there for a while, casually enough, and then make one tremendous, mid-air 180-degree leap, hoping to catch it off-guard. But somehow, it always seemed to know what Opie had in mind. The spin would conclude with a mighty chomp, as the animal tried to bite the intruder in two. But by the time the teeth were where the tail had been, the tail was gone. A more puzzled, frustrated dog, you have never seen.

They exist under an uneasy truce at this time. Opie is still pretty sure that one day the tail will get overconfident and that's when he'll make his move. I'm pretty sure that once his hair grows back, he's likely to forget all about it. Opie is that kind of dog.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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