When I was still living at home in my mid-twenties, I bought a furry, life-like puppet that was 24 inches from ear-tips to back feet and named him “Bigwig” to honor “Watership Down,” my favorite book at the time. It was a ridiculous and costly purchase given my circumstances, but I found that I was a decent puppeteer and could keep family members mesmerized by Bigwig’s antics.
After years of eager, sticky little fingers reaching for Bigwig, he got dirty. I took him to a dry cleaners to see what they could do, but they were concerned that his eyes might dim if he went through the process, and I couldn’t have that. So I left Bigwig as he was until the day after our traditional Thanksgiving skits when my sister’s Shih Tzu dry-humped him under an end table. It was time.
I decided to try a gentle hand-washing, so I put Bigwig on my left hand and stuck him under the sink in the laundry room. He didn’t’ squeal or attempt to flee, and indeed, seemed to enjoy it. Then I took a bar of soap and began soaping him up, especially in the white belly area. Again, he seemed to enjoy it, and when I worked on his back, we both looked into the mirror above the sink and laughed. I scrubbed and rinsed and scrubbed, and when he was done, I sat him over a beer growler to air dry. And so he spent his night, quiet and uncomplaining.
The next day I was dismayed that there were still stains on his white belly, so I took Isopropyl Alcohol to him – again, not a whisper of complaint – and rubbed vigorously until the stains went away. Then I hung him by his ears on a towel bar above a heating vent. I used the hair dryer on him for a while, and he seemed to enjoy the wind in his fur.
Every time I went into the bathroom, I stopped short and laughed. And somehow, he retained his dignity.