Potter is a bit sensitive. It goes back to when he was about four months old. He was in the back of our pickup truck, which we’ve fitted out with a cap to contain our dogs. We put some dog beds back there, we even laid down some plywood on the bed of the truck so that their paws would have an even floor to walk on. In other words, our dogs ride in doggie luxury in the bed of the pickup, while the interior where the people like to sit won’t get all dogged up.

But when he was four months old, he was trying to get out of the truck. The tailgate slammed down, and the toes on his right paw were caught in between the tailgate and the bed of the truck. His two middle toes, which I’d learned were the load bearing toes, snapped. He howled in pain, I thought he was just being dramatic, but he wasn’t. We took him to the emergency vet and learned he’d cleanly broken his two toes. He was in a cast for two months. His first summer, when he was supposed to be learning how to swim, instead he hobbled around on three legs and thumped along in a cast.

Since then, understandably so, he’s a bit sensitive to things like going to the vet. We don’t take him to get groomed because we’re afraid of how he’ll react to a groomer touching him in the wrong spot. He freaks out when we try to trim his nails. He bares his teeth at me when I brush him.

Being a water loving dog, he occasionally develops an ear infection. As a result I have to douse a cotton ball and swipe the yeast out of his ear. It takes a few days, or twice daily cleanings, for him to semi-tolerate my cleaning his ears. The part of the treatment he will not tolerate is squirting the medication into the ear. I pin him down, his pee flies and usually splatters my legs, and I squirt the medicine in the ear and rub it in while he howls like I’ve injected boiling water into his ear.

Today we took him to a pet store called PetValu. They have this awesome dog washing station at this store. For ten bucks you can bring your dog into the dog washing area. They have tubs set up so you don’t have to kneel at your bathtub, or chase the dog in the yard with a hose. They have a sprayer, so you don’t have to endlessly refill a pitcher to rinse the soap away. They have different kinds of shampoo, so you don’t have to argue with your husband about why your fancy Paul Mitchell shampoo shouldn’t be used and instead his less fancy Head and Shoulders should be used. They have towels, so you don’t have to go through your own, half to mop up the pee off the bathroom floor and the other half to dry the actual dog. They have dog hair dryers. And it’s all only 10 bucks.

We brought Nemo last week. Nemo’s not much for baths. When he hears the bathtub water running and me calling to him he hides. Then I drag him into the bathroom, I take his collar off, and then he pees everywhere. I mop it up with the bathmat with my foot. Then I have to take off my socks. And after I have to put the bathmats into the washer.

But Nemo actually tolerated the bath at PetValu last week. We shampooed, sprayed, rubbed him dry and then used the dryer on him. Then he pooped on the floor by the cash register. It was almost a perfect experience.

Today we took Potter. And we expected the worst. Last month Todd brought Potter to the vet to get him checked out. Potter is absolutely terrible at the vet. He howls, he runs, he tosses chairs. Todd left him in the room, figuring that he might do better if he wasn’t in the exam room with him. From the waiting room he heard Potter’s ear splitting screams, the crash of chairs, the rattle of the metal tray that the vet uses to keep their tools on it. He screamed and screamed and screamed.

“I am so sorry,” a woman in the waiting room approached Todd. “Was your dog hit by a car? That is devastating. I hope he’ll be OK.”

“Hit by a car?” Todd asked. “Oh no, that’s not it at all. The vet just stuck the thermometer in his ass.”

So, given his reaction to clinical environments, and people doing things to him that he doesn’t like, we were expecting a 73 pound furry nuclear meltdown in the dog washing station at PetValu. Todd led him into the dog washing area. They have steps built in between the tubs. He guided Potter up the steps and into the tub. There is a strap hooked to the wall that Todd looped around Potter’s neck to keep him in the tub. We selected our shampoo, anti-shedding formula, and then the most extraordinary thing happened.

He did great. No howling. No bitching. No snarling. No baring of the teeth.

And the best part? No dog pee on my bathroom floor. No soaking towels. No coaxing him to stay in my tub. No howling when I close the shower door on him so he can shake off the excess water.

The best 10 bucks I’ve spent on my dogs to date.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.